“As children rejuvenate, Tohoku revitalizes for a bright future.”
After arriving at the Honolulu International Airport and attending a welcome luncheon hosted by the Japanese Consulate in Honolulu, the 16 Tohoku kids went directly to Camp Erdman in Mokuleia on Oahu’s North Shore. For three days, the kids enjoyed the sunny, breezy outdoors on the shores of the Pacific Ocean. Hawaii student volunteers organized many team-building games and confidence strengthening activities. The Tohoku kids made new friends, worked together to solve problem exercises, challenged themselves to unimaginable levels, and realized new personal possibilities. For the students, it was a life-changing experience, as well as rest and recuperation.
After returning to Honolulu, the kids moved from beach cabins to University of Hawaii-Manoa where they toured the main campus, shopped at the UH Bookstore, and checked into a new student dormitory. While at UH Manoa, they sampled campus dormitory life and traveled by trolley to Waikiki for shopping. During this part of the RFJK visit, the Tohoku kids practiced conversational English in shops, bought souvenir to take home, and met many local people along the way.
The highlight of the RFJK visit was the first Student Summit held at the UH medical school in Kakaako. The Tohoku and Hawaii students gathered on the third floor of the Medical Education Building to prepare for the main program in the Auditorium. Organized into five teams, the students gave presentations to people from the Hawaii community about their hometowns and recovery efforts underway, as well as dreams for their future. For most of the Japan kids, this was their first time to give a speech before an audience.
Free time for the Japan kids offered a chance to race kayaks in the Hilton Hawaiian Village lagoon and swim with dolphins near Waianae on the Oahu’s Leeward Coast. The kids also swam at Waimea Bay on the North Shore. Water activities and experiencing Hawaii’s natural world were refreshing, relaxing, and rejuvenating for the kids.
Finally, the kids had many opportunities to experience Hawaii lifestyle. An overnight stay at a volunteer’s home in Makaha was highlighted with cooking in a professional kitchen, making laulau and preparing local-style meals, and trying local fruits and home-made pancakes. Ko Aloha Ukulele in Kapalama donated do-it-yourself ukulele kits and taught the kids how to make their own ukulele. Hilton Hawaiian Village hosted the kids at their evening hula show. Move4Japan, a local nonprofit group, hosted a yakisoba event at Waimea Bay. The kids also enjoyed wonderful dinners at Hatsuhana and Eggs ‘n Things. On the final day, Tendai Mission Hawaii in Nuuanu hosted a farewell party and overnight stay. At the party, the Tohoku kids sang and danced, ate local specialties, and thanked all the sponsors and volunteers for their special experiences in Hawaii.
The Tohoku kids tearfully departed Honolulu with many Hawaii volunteers waving “aloha.” For everyone involved, the 2014 RFJK visit will be remembered fondly for the new friendships and bridge-building between Tohoku and Hawaii. And there will be 16 kids from Tohoku who will return to their hometowns with new energy, inspiration, vision, and confidence to rebuild a better future for themselves and their communities.