For my community engagement I have participated in the snow club in YIS. The snow club is a club where we plan ski trips and raise money for the NPO Chill Japan. In the club I have participated in buying tickets, volunteering at the Burton sale and going to the Chill Japan weekend in Iwate. The Chill Japan weekend is an event done once per year where volunteers came to teach kids who come from the Tohoku region, which was affected by the 3/11 earthquake in Japan. And this was a big event because these children have had a rough time, some of them have lost parents or been displaced, and have seen traumatizing things. They also don’t have many opportunities to do things that many children would do. The whole point of this trip was to give this to these children and to make sure that they have fun, to make sure that they feel like a part of this world, which all adds to their mental wellbeing. And by teaching them to snowboard and participating in activities, I believe me and the other volunteers have achieved this goal.
I believe this trip has deepened my understanding and connection to this community. These kids have lost a lot and don’t live a childhood like everyone else, but they are still capable of being kids, we just need to give them that opportunity. And it’s important that we as volunteers give these kids that opportunity, that may mean giving up some private time. As long as these kids get that experience it’s a sacrifice me and others are willing to make because of this experience. I believe my progress report and reflection shows my understanding and connection to this community.
For the past seven years, I have gone to the same summer camp every year. The camp is for international school kids who speak Japanese, so they can be more part of the culture and learn some new things. It is located in Nagano Japan, in a village called Achimura. In this camp I have acquired many new skills.
Firstly this camp helped me develop my social skills. At heart, I am an introvert, I like to be on my own and I don’t really like meeting new people. This was very apparent when I was younger, but it improved because at this camp I needed to interact with more than 20 new people every year, and I think this is shown through my experiences last year as a new student at YIS. I had no trouble getting to know everybody and I easily fit in with this community.
The biggest impact this camp has had on me is that it taught me to appreciate nature and not waste. For example, every year at the camp we went out to cut trees down as the mountains become too crowded. This was done because the trees got crowded and grew thinner with weaker roots which means that mountain slides can occur and life at the forest floor dies. Once we had done that, instead of wasting the trees we had cut, we turned them into bridges or other structures. We also learned to fish for and gut fish, and we never wasted anything, every edible part of it was prepared and eaten. This concept is something that was nurtured into me from this camp and it is within me to this day, appreciate the things that were sacrificed just for you and don’t waste them. I try to waste as little as possible, one of the things I dislike the most is the waste of food. I make sure to take just about what I can eat and never leave any food behind.
To summarize this camp has had a big impact on my life. I have developed most of my social skills at this camp, and grown the appreciation I have for nature.
During the expedition we went on a three day hike, where we spent six hours each day with a group of 16 people, walking on routes in the mountains. Over the course of these three days I have gained a few things. The main thing I got out of this trip was, strengthened bonds between people. Because we spent three days hiking, there were many moments where people needed help to do something, or just general conversations to keep company. For example, every time we slipped or fell, there was always someone to support you, and even if no one fell, we would look out for each other on areas that seemed dangerous or hard to traverse. This changed me as I think of myself as an awkward person, someone hard to talk to. But it didn’t feel that way on the hike. In terms of nature, there wasn’t really anything new I learned, as bear bells urushi (Japanese poison ivy), and giant hornets were all things I have seen in the mountains before.
There were a few challenging parts in the hike, with muddy slippery terrain, and continuous ups and downs, and it did get very tiring towards the end of each day. I don’t think I challenged myself too much, and I found it hard to find challenges I could put myself up to, as I go hiking every year and spend a month in the mountains.
My role in the community was to be a positive spirit and be the reinforcer of the group. I have no idea wether I was actually doing my role correctly, but I feel like I did. Just having a positive fun attitude about everything, having some interesting conversations here and there, also encouraging people, and helping them go down challenging parts of the route. I hope I did achieve these roles, who knows.
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