Children from Disaster-stricken Areas in Japan Return Home upon Receiving Much “Aloha” in Hawaii
“When I left school I saw that people had just disappeared into a huge black wave at the park nearby. (Text Omitted) I saw my mother get swept up, but I thought she was gonna be ok. However, I was wrong. About twenty days later, I had found her body. At that time, regrets came to mind, if only I had done this, or done that this never would’ve happened. I will never forget about this. I don’t want to let this experience go to waste.”
This is an essay written by one of the children who participated in this project before the time of his or her participation. On December 21, the twenty-five students that arrived in Hawaii from the prefectures of Fukushima and Iwate each came with “pain” concealed in their hearts. What can we do for those kids?–that was the proposition of the people involved with this project.
Rainbow for Japan Kids began with this thought, “We want to do something meaningful for the children who will bear the future, and we want to continue do to it from here on.” This time, all of the children that were invited as the second group to Hawaii held stern expressions in the beginning. We took them dolphin watching and to the YMCA Camp Erdman, and although they felt puzzled about meeting “people from Hawaii” for the first time, they actively tried to communicate with them.
At the camp, the students from Hawaii’s “Bridge Club Hawaii” also joined in and enjoyed the activities together with the children. This time, the Bridge Club made many preparations such as setting up games and practicing their Japanese before welcoming the children from Japan. If one of the children from Japan was alone, they would actively invite them to join in, and that Aloha spirit was also conveyed to the children. On the night they spent together, when everyone told of each others’ reflections, a child from Japan stumbled for words because of his tears as he tried to express his gratitude. The members of the Bridge Club went over and softly put their arms around his shoulders. It is the very warmth of these hands that will probably create the bond between Hawaii and Japan from here on.
On Christmas Eve, the children met with Santa at the Halekulani Hotel. We had a great time at the party. On Christmas Day, with the cooperation of the Nadeshiko Club, we had a homemade party at the Kahala Mansion. The children were nodding in agreement with landlord and chef Mr. Franky’s words, “This house is my dream. If you all continue to think about them as well, your dreams will surely come true.”
On the island of Hawaii, under culture coordinator Mr. Mana Hasegawa’s lead, the children experienced Hawaiian culture. Kumu Keala Chin also participated in hula lessons with the children, and lunch was a traditional Hawaiian meal prepared by volunteers who lived on the island.
On the last night of December 28 we had a farewell party at Halekoa Hotel. Starting with the Bridge Club, many people who have supported the children gathered there and sadly bid their final farewells. The children showed many expresions, and each one, whether they were smiling or in tears, was able to express it as who they were.
This time, the people of Hawaii provided everything for free “for the children” from the Ohana Waikiki West Hotel in which they stayed during their visit, to the “Sony Bloggie Touch” cameras which left memories during their stay, to the rice balls and bento box meals, and to the bags, T-shirts, and beach sandals that they used during their stay. Other businesses, groups and individuals offered various collaborations as well.
“I was taught that when you meet someone for the first time, if you talk about various things with a kind heart, things will become more and more interesting.”
“Before I was gloomy, and I had many worries, but now I was able to make friends and I believe that my worries have become fewer.”
“When I fall into hard times, I recall the people who have helped me when I went to Hawaii, and I am embracing my current life and doing my best to live on.”
The “Aloha” spirit of the people of Hawaii had surely been conveyed to the children.