Arigato gozaimasu! Japanese exchange students help local community
A party of students and trainee teachers from Meiji Gakuin University in Japan visited Leicester recently for a three-week exchange. Despite having busy schedules, the 21 students found time to get involved with four different volunteering events in the local community organised for them by our Volunteering Team.
The first activity was Origami and Japanese writing at two Age UK Day Care Centres. The volunteers were divided into two groups and went equipped with their own materials, pens and Japanese games. They instantly befriended the day care centre users, who were very appreciative of the students visiting and spending their time to teach them origami.
In return, some of the Japanese visitors were shown how to do basic writing in Punjabi and Gujarati by the centre users. The 12 trainee teachers and their tutors also spent a different afternoon playing Japanese games with the centre users and taught them Japanese songs.
The following week, more than 320 young children from Medway, Sparkenhoe and St Cuthberts Primary Schools were treated to a visit from the Japanese students, who spent an afternoon teaching them origami and Japanese fun facts and showing them how to writing their names in Japanese.
The youngsters were very patient and followed step by step instructions to make origami pandas, fish and some even managed the difficult task of creating a Japanese crane*. This educational and interactive session was a huge success with children even asking when the Japanese students will be visiting their school again.
Half of the students rounded off their visit getting their hands dirty by participating in rhododendron bashing: cutting and burning unwanted plants in a bonfire. This involved a lot of physical effort but the end result was worth it when a large area of Beacon Hill was cleared from rhododendron, which prevents native plants from growing. The group were trained by Chris Conway, Country Parks Volunteering Co-ordinator for Leicestershire County Council, with the help of his little dog John.
At the same time the other group of students were busy volunteering at Saffron Acres Allotments to learn horticultural skills and potato planting. Many of the Japanese students said they had never done gardening before and will be taking it up in Japan.
A great experience was had by all; the Japanese students and trainee teachers were able to engage with the community and bring smiles to people young and old. The exchange visit was organised by our International Office as part of the British Study Programme.
*The bird, not the engineering device.