News: Children, servicemembers exchange cultural difference
Story by Cpl. Kenneth Trotter
IWAKUNI, Japan - Station service members visited and spent time with the Higashi Hoikuen Preschool children in Iwakuni as part of a community relations event June 15, 2012.
Volunteers spent the day learning about Japanese culture and teaching their own in return.
“We went up there to teach English by reading books and had recess with the kids,” said Maurene Comers, Headquarters and Headquarters Squadron community relations coordinator. “In a way, it helps us learn more of their culture and they learn about us as well. It’s a great interaction between us and the Japanese.”
Approximately 26 individuals spent time with the children. The volunteers arrived amid a torrent of excitement and anticipation as the children quickly greeted them with warm smiles and waves.
The number of volunteers who attended the event was somewhat surprising to those who had taken part in prior community relation events.
“Last time we had seven people,” said Shatryce Hill, community relations volunteer.
For Hill, this was not her first foray in interacting with children.
“I love kids,” Hill said. “I always try to volunteer to do something. This is my second time, but this is a different school.”
The volunteers broke into several groups. Some taught 5 and 6-year-old children, helping them understand different letters in the alphabet.
“We played around with the kids, taught them English and got to know them a little better,” said Hill.
After volunteers finished teaching the children, they went outside to take part in a relay. Children and volunteers broke into different teams. The groups rotated out several times as they raced against each other, all the while laughing and smiling.
After performing the relay once more, the children grabbed many volunteers by hand and went to various places on the playground.
The volunteers spent the remainder of the day playing with the children on ropes, monkey bars and having fun together. The children sent the volunteers off by saying they hoped to see them again in Japanese. The volunteers responded back in Japanese by saying they will come again.
Hill said being able to participate in the relay and cheer on the kids was a unique and important opportunity to interact with the children, as it shows the children there is more to U.S. service members than just the military. That sentiment is one Comers said she hopes other service members have the opportunity to experience here in Japan.
“I don’t believe you should do this to get an award.” said Comers. “We need to give back to them as they give back to us. We’re in their country, we owe it to them.”