NPO Regional Education Support, a Japan-based Non-profit organization, partnered with Grow Forward JP, Inc. to implement the virtual Culture-Exchange Program on July 31, August 1, 7 and 8, 2021. The 4-day program offered insightful experiences and fostered understanding among the 51 Japanese and 42 Filipino students of eleven Japanese and three Philippine secondary schools respectively. The latter being Hua Siong College of Iloilo, Ateneo de Iloilo, and Iloilo National High School.
To avoid the risks of the Covid-19 virus, the program was divided into morning and afternoon sessions. The exchange was made possible through Zoom video conferencing platform.
Not your typical program
Various speakers were invited in the duration of the activity. On the first day, Mr. Francis Conde, Data Engineer under IBM Japan and Ms. Hessel Anne Domingo, a recipient of Japan Exchange and Teaching Programme, gave the Filipino students a glimpse of working and living in Japan as well as the observed cultural differences.Meanwhile, on the second and third day, the special advisor of Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), Mr. Tetsuya Kuwata, and the coordinator of Save the Children Japan, Ms. Kozue Tabei shared how they were able to create impact overseas through their organizations.
Understanding beyond the language barrier
Filipinos were grouped with the Japanese students to create a presentation in English covering different topics such as food culture, daily routine, sustainable development goals, religious practices, and even adapting to the new normal or measures against the COVID-19 virus.
Aside from the time given, the students communicated even after the program through their social media platforms. As Charles Matthew Buenavides, one of the participants from Iloilo National High School, shared,
“Though having a hard time at first due to the language barrier, we managed to exchange information to finally be considered as each other’s acquaintances. The following days, we became literal friends where we managed to get their Instagram profile and Line. At first, this was mostly for professional purposes but then it became a platform where we can just share information about each other’s life.”
The organizers encouraged the Japanese students to speak and interact in English. To overcome the language barrier, Mr. Kiyota Watanabe and other NPO members were there to assist them.
Bringing lessons and meaningful memories
On the last day, each team gave their best to discuss their topics. Pictures and videos of the festivals, recipe of Filipino and Japanese dishes, and the like were shown. It was a good opportunity for the students not only to practice their English-speaking skills but also impart something about their countries.
As the program came to an end, the students positively signified their intent to join upcoming activities and waved their goodbyes to each other.
When asked, what is memorable in this year’s culture-exchange program? Andre Benedict Dorde of Ateneo de Iloilo said,
“The memorable thing about this year’s culture-exchange program, for me, is the communication and interaction I got with my Japanese group mates. It’s the difficulty, the challenge, as well as the enthusiasm and joy we had while conversing which really made it a memorable experience.”
The advocacy continues
The culture-exchange program is only one of the projects being implemented by the NPO Regional Education Support to improve learning not only in Japan but also around the world. They hope to implement more projects so that,
“People living in the REAL world can know, learn, think, and grow together by linking and connecting across ages and regions.”
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