News: Marines welcome Oshima children
Story by Lance Cpl. Daniel Valle
CAMP FOSTER, OKINAWA, Japan – Twenty-four children and six chaperones from Oshima District, Kesennuma City, Miyagi prefecture, arrived Jan. 11 at the Camp Foster Youth Center to take part in the second annual youth cultural exchange and homestay program.
The program was created following the devastating earthquake and tsunami that occurred in March 2011 and was designed to allow the children of Oshima to enjoy their summer holiday in a stress-free environment.
“Today is the first of a four-day homestay youth cultural exchange program,” said Robert D. Eldridge, the deputy assistant chief of staff, G-7, government and external affairs, Marine Corps Installations Pacific. “It’s the second annual homestay that we have conducted for the children of the island of Oshima to spend a few days with the Marines and their families in Okinawa.”
The children are fourth through eighth-grade students at Oshima elementary and middle schools.
“We were invited by the Marine Corps to come to Okinawa the year after the disaster,” said Hironobu Sugawara, homestay program manager and Oshima City Assembly member. “Last time, we had 25 children visit, and we want to keep the ties between us and the Marines strong. This year, the children will have the opportunity to attend school with the American children to learn from each other.”
The children of Oshima are excited to be on Okinawa and look forward to their stay, according to Daisuke Chiba, a 13-year-old seventh-grader participating in the exchange program.
“This is my first time coming to Okinawa,” said Chiba. “I look forward to seeing Okinawa and spending time with the (Marine) family I will be staying with.”
Throughout the children’s stay, they will participate in various events such as arts and crafts, playing games, a Sunday brunch, and visiting an American school before leaving Jan. 14.