News: Youth Cultural Exchange Program allows chances to make new friends
Story by Pfc. David Walters
IWAKUNI, Japan - Japanese children from the Minamigouchi and Kitagouchi Iwakuni city branches arrived aboard station with their parents to spend the day with American children at the School Age Care Center here, as part of a Youth Cultural Exchange Program July 30, 2013.
Joining the children were teens from Youth and Teen Center, and staff members from Camp Adventure and the School Age Care Center.
Station residents may travel to get out and see Japanese culture of the surrounding area, but what people may not see is Japanese locals coming aboard station to understand more about American culture.
Takashi Kawamoto, Iwakuni City Hall Minamigouchi branch director, accompanied the children on their field trip to observe the Japanese youths' interaction with the American children.
“In the beginning, the kids were a little bit shy, but in the end, they enjoyed it very much,” said Kawamoto. “With this, the kids now have the confidence to interact with children from other places if they decide to leave Japan.”
With every collaboration there is an impression made; whether that impression is influential, or something forgotten a few minutes later, it could affect someone later down the line.
Marcy R. Pearson, Marine Corps Community Services Family Programs school age director, said she hopes that through this social interaction experience children see even though there may be a language barrier, Japanese and Americans are the same.
“A lot of people sometimes think Americans are bossy, mean or we are not polite, but when they see we have the same characteristics, I’m hoping it impacts them to see we are not as aggressive as some people think Americans are,” said Pearson. “I think of Americans as being a melting pot; seeing where other people may come from, some from a strong Japanese culture, and understanding how to play with other kids, I’m hoping it helps them acknowledge another culture.”
According to Pearson, the overall goal of the Youth Services Program is to help the children experience the culture of Japan and take these experiences with them throughout their travels in life.