The Nippon Foundation is using this blog to indroduce its many activities such as Leprosy Elimination, Public Health, Education, Social Welfare and Maritime Development. Our YouTube Channel has been launched.
In March, a stakeholders' conference was held at Hanoi National Institute of Ophthalmology, where representatives of Juntendo University, HKI, and The Nippon Foundation met to discuss the training to be conducted this coming July. Stakeholders' roles were decided upon, and the schedule was confirmed, moving the project from the planning to the operational stage. (Photo: Stakeholders' conference at Hanoi National Institute of Ophthalmology)
The goal is to train 15 ophthalmologists and 415 local medical workers and treat 1,500 cataract patients over the three years from 2008 to 2010. Training will be flexible and will range from the technical skills involved in cataract surgery to basic public health training. The course is expected to advance the skills of medical workers and significantly reduce the number of people who lose their sight to cataracts. (Photo: A cataract operation)
National statistics issued in 2002 show that some 523,000 Vietnamese suffer from blindness. Around 71% of these cases are attributable to cataracts. While the Vietnamese government has provided treatment in cities like Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh, the nationwide medical system remains relatively undeveloped, and the skills of rural nurses and medical workers are inadequate. Many treatable patients go un treated and are forced to live lives of hardship.
Many patients also have no understanding of cataracts and accept the loss of sight as a natural result of aging. Experts point out that this problem is largely attributable to the lack of knowledge among medical workers. The Nippon Foundation intends to improve the overall public health system in Vietnam by providing appropriate training for medical workers in the provinces, districts, and villages. (Photo: Cataract patients waiting to see a doctor)
Emergency Relief Supplies for Victims of the Myanmar Cyclone [2008/05/19]
Elementary School in Myanmar
On May 8, the Nippon Foundation decided to provide 10 million yen in emergency supplies to Myanmar, following the catastrophic damage it sustained in the Cyclone Nargis. This aid is part of a joint project with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Secretariat. Supplies will be sent to Myanmar via Royal Thai Air Force aircraft. The emergency aid is being provided in response to a request from ASEAN Secretary General Dr. Surin Pitsuwan (former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Thailand). (Photo: Emergency aid to Sri Lanka)
On May 6, the Myanmar government announced that cyclone Nargis had directly landed on the Irawaddy river delta May 2-3, killing 22,000 people and leaving more than 41,000 unaccounted for. With thousands of homes destroyed, the ultimate damage could prove to be considerably worse.
Relief efforts by the military and NGOs have just begun. Food and medical supplies remain in short supply, leading to concerns about the spread of infectious disease. The Nippon Foundation determined the content of the relief supplies it would provide after consulting with ASEAN. The supplies will be procured as quickly as possible in Thailand, then transported to Myanmar on Royal Thai Air Force aircraft for distribution by the Myanmar government.
In related activities, in F2006, The Nippon Foundation launched a three-year plan to provide three hundred thousand dollars per year of emergency food and medical supplies to Sri Lankan refugees who lost their homes due to civil war and earthquake.
Preparation of Sign Language Dictionaries in Six Asian Nations [2008/04/23]
Hearing-disabled people from Indonesia and Sri Lanka in the training program
With the goal of disseminating sign language throughout Asia and facilitating the social participation of hearing-disabled people, The Nippon Foundation has since 2002 supported the development and publication of sign language dictionaries in Hong Kong, the Philippines, Cambodia, and Vietnam. Partial sign language dictionaries and textbooks have already been published in these four countries, and are expected to be complete by 2009. Launched in October 2007, the second phase of this project marked the start of participation by Sri Lanka and Indonesia.
The Nippon Foundation first announced its sign language dictionary project to the media in Cambodia on February 23, 2008. On March 6, the Foundation held a ceremony to celebrate the start of the project’s second phase at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. At this ceremony, representatives from the four countries that had participated from the first phase presented the results of six years’ of work, while researchers from Sri Lanka and Indonesia reported their own activities.(Photo: Sign Language Interpreters from Vietnam, Cambodia and Indonesia)
The project differs radically from traditional approaches to developing sign language dictionaries, in that in each country the teams working on the dictionaries include both linguists and hearing-disabled people. Dr. James Woodward, a world-renowned linguist from the United States, serves as the overall project director. The hearing-disabled people chosen to participate in the project are required to attend classes in sign language linguistics and to deepen their knowledge and understanding of language in general before beginning work. Information on local sign languages collected through studies of hearing-disabled people is analyzed and edited for inclusion in dictionaries, resulting in works that faithfully reflect the language used in local communities of hearing-disabled people.
In the dictionaries, each word is accompanied by an illustration of the sign representing it, allowing users to look up signs for a particular word or a word for a particular sign. A sign language textbook will be produced and distributed with the dictionary to allow those with normal hearing to learn sign language.
“The number of hearing people who want to learn Vietnamese sign language grows year by year,” said Mr. Van Ho, who made presentations at the ceremony on behalf of the team producing the dictionary in Vietnam. “That makes this dictionary and textbook especially helpful.” This practical sign language dictionary appears to have already proven useful in communications between the hearing-disabled and people who can hear.(Photo: The venue of the ceremony)
Almost one and half years have passed since the UN General Assembly adopted the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which recognizes sign languages as valid languages. In reality, however, very few Asian countries regard sign languages as full languages. The Nippon Foundation intends to expand this project gradually in the hopes that sign languages will begin to be recognized as languages throughout Asia and that increasing numbers of hearing-disabled people will begin to participate as full members of society.
Japanese nationality granted to three second-generation Japanese-Filipinos [2008/04/21]
Three siblings who have been granted Japanese nationality
On March 26, the Tokyo Family Court recognized the Japanese citizenship of three second-generation Japanese-Filipino siblings left behind in the Philippines during the war. The brother and two sisters, who had applied for Japanese citizenship in spite of an inability to officially confirm their father’s Japanese identity, were informed of the ruling on March 28. They will be registered as Japanese citizens in Tokyo’s Chiyoda Ward, making a total of seven second-generation Japanese-Filipinos who have been granted Japanese nationality to date.
The new Japanese citizens, who live in Mindanao, the Philippines, are Laurencia (85), Salud (79) and Andres (82) Kamiyama. Their father, Kosuke Kamiyama, was from Nago, Okinawa Prefecture, but emigrated to Mindanao Island before World War II, where he sold salt, rice, and sugar. He married a local woman in 1915, and fathered a total of nine children. (Photo: A street in Mindanao Island)
Kosuke died of malaria in 1930, and during World War II, his wife and children were required to aid the Imperial Japanese Army in various ways, including providing their house for the Army’s use. At the end of the war, the siblings remained in the Philippines, in part because more than 10 years had passed since Kosuke’s death. Of his five sons and four daughters, six had already died at the time of March’s ruling. The remaining three applied for Japanese citizenship in August 2006, but in October of that same year during a visit to Okinawa, their father’s hometown, they were unable to confirm their father’s family register. Luckily, they did meet their cousins, and this meeting eventually led to the court ruling. (Photo: Kamiyama siblings visiting Okinawa)
In addition to the verification of their cousins, a record of “Kosuke Kamiyama from Okinawa Prefecture, Japan” was found in a church in the Philippines. Based on this evidence, the Tokyo Family Court recognized their Japanese citizenship. The siblings were informed of the court ruling by the members of the Philippine Nikkei-jin Legal Support Center (PNLSC), which, with support from the Nippon Foundation, is active in helping second-generation Japanese-Filipinos in the Philippines. Salud commented, “This recognition that I am the child of a Japanese citizen helps solve so many problems.”
The three siblings are married to Filipinos, have eight to thirteen children each, and currently live with their families. Their recognition as Japanese citizens is expected to help pave the way to employment in Japan for third- and fourth-generation Japanese-Filipinos.
This past February, Yohei Sasakawa, Chairman of the Nippon Foundation, lead a fact-finding mission in Cambodia to observe the removal of landmines and unexploded ordnance by the nonprofit Japan Mine Action Service (JMAS).
During the 30-year civil war that started in 1970, some 6 million landmines were planted throughout the country, resulting in the world’s highest landmine density. In addition, the nation’s seemingly idyllic landscape hides large numbers of unexploded ordnance, left behind following the US bombing of the Ho Chi Minh trail during the Vietnam War. Even since 2000, some 700 to 800 of these bombs have exploded each year.
The disposal site is located in a rural area, about one-and-a-half-hours west of Phnom Penh, in a region featuring elevated houses surrounded by tall sugar palm trees. After arriving at the site before noon, the JMAS party buried about 20 landmines and unexploded bombs, including an anti-tank landmine, which had been collected from the surrounding area. JMAS members then evacuated spectators and cattle to a location 450 meters away and ignited a detonator by remote control. The explosion sent up a cloud of dust nearly 20 meters high and gave off a thunderous roar, creating a crater measuring 8 meters in diameter and 2 meters deep.(Photo: The explosion could be heard from 500 meters away.)
According to Mr. Tadamasa Yamamoto, representative of the JMAS Cambodia Office, since unexploded bombs have value as scrap metal, countless children continue to be injured by explosions. In addition to disposal of unexploded bombs, the JMAS also provides safety-training programs for residents, with a strong focus on children. (Photo: Children listening attentively to warnings)
People maimed by the civil war, landmines, and unexploded bombs account for nearly 5% of Cambodia’s population. The Nippon Foundation has helped train prosthetists and donated artificial limbs as part of relief efforts in this area, and plans to continue developing these efforts.
International Arts Festival for the Disabled in Cambodia [2008/04/07]
Asian Festival of Inclusive Arts in Cambodia
From February 23rd to March 1st, a group of performing artists with disabilities held an arts festival in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. 12 groups and individuals from seven Asian countries participated, delivering a dramatic testimony to their potential.
The opening ceremony was held in the National Theater of Cambodia. Some 800 people filled the 700-capacity theater to standing-room capacity. Cambodia’s crown princess, Buppha Devi, who once served as the Minister of Culture and Fine Arts, made an appearance as the guest of honor. (Photo: The princess is wearing an orange dress)
The festival was held, “First, to show society that prejudice and discrimination against people with disabilities are unwarranted. And second, to provide people with disabilities with an opportunity to build up their confidence and pride,” said Yohei Sasakawa, Chairman of the Nippon Foundation. He went on to express his hope that the arts would play a role in breaking down barriers between the disabled and the able-bodied.
In the subsequent special performance program for the ceremony, a visually impaired Cambodian, a hearing-impaired Singaporean, and several other individuals presented songs and pantomimes. Eight hearing- and speech-impaired drummers of the Koshu Roa Taiko from Japan appeared on stage in headbands and Japanese-style livery coats and played two songs in a 15-minute performance at the end of the ceremony. Their drumming elicited powerful applause from the audience. Princess Buppha expressed her admiration for the performance. “How did they give such a great performance without hearing the sounds and without a conductor?” Said leader Sasaki, “We tried to deliver the following message – we can do the things we want to do even without hearing the sounds.” (Photo: the Koshu Roa Taiko)
During the festival, participants mingled with disabled individuals and led several workshops. On February 25, the members of Koshu Roa Taiko participated in a concert performed by amateurs with disabilities at a welfare facility in Phnom Penh, then again at a ceremony hosted by the Japanese Embassy commemorating the 55th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Japan and Cambodia.
Although the Cambodian economy has made significant strides in recent years, up to 5% of the population is disabled, due to injuries from landmines and unexploded ordnance, as well as delays in medical care and a chronic shortage of pharmaceuticals.
Tsukuba University of Technology: Massage Course for Visually Impaired in Cambodia [2008/03/12]
Scene from a massage lesson
To improve the ability of visually impaired massage therapists in Cambodia, the Tsukuba University of Technology (Japan) dispatched instructors in December to Phnom Penh, with support from the Nippon Foundation. These individuals conducted training courses in cooperation with the Association of the Blind in Cambodia (ABC). The university held similar courses in Cambodia and Laos in March 2007. Work and educational opportunities are scarce for the visually impaired in Southeast Asia, and these courses are intended to help them achieve independence. Short-term courses are also being planned for Mongolia, Vietnam, and Laos in February and March of this year.
This course was held from December 25 to 27, 2007, at the ABC’s Phnom Penh offices. The four instructors included two from the Tsukuba University of Technology and two instructors from public schools for the blind. The students were 10 visually impaired massage therapists (seven men and three women) from across Cambodia. Some of the instructors were also visually impaired, and they provided enthusiastic instruction through interpreters. (Photo : Students taking part in class)
While the course focused primarily on practical training, it also included lectures on theory and technique relating to medical massage therapy. Each of the participant brought four or more years of prior experience, with one student having worked for 12 years as a massage therapist. According to the instructors, Cambodian massage is extremely vigorous, causing pain at times. For this reason, the instructors stressed to participants the importance of adapting their technique to suit the patient. The course was warmly received by the students, who appeared to develop confidence in their work as massage therapists.
Reports suggest that Cambodia is home to approximately 140,000 visually impaired individuals. The country’s educational infrastructure is poor, and few of the visually impaired graduate from high school. With few opportunities for employment, they face considerable challenges in achieving economic independence. For this reason, many seek to earn a living through massage. Ten massage establishments in the country are currently run by the visually impaired, and over 70 such individuals currently work in these establishments as massage therapists. The students enrolled in these courses are expected to develop into the Cambodian massage instructors of the future. (Photo : Students enthusiastically tackle practical training)
The Tsukuba University of Technology is Japan’s only national university for those with hearing and visual impairments. Formerly a junior college, it became a four-year university on October 1, 2005. The university is home to the Research and Support Center on Higher Education for the Visually and Hearing Impaired, whose mission is to provide support to students and staff in each school of the university.
Assistance for visually impaired students in three Asian nations [2008/03/05]
Indonesian students learn with computers designed for the visually impaired
With the cooperation of local nongovernmental organizations, the Nippon Foundation is currently undertaking a full-fledged higher-education support project in the three nations of Indonesia, Vietnam, and the Philippines, with the goal of assisting students with limited educational opportunities due to their impaired vision. Based on its initial success in Indonesia in 2006, the project will expand to Vietnam and the Philippines with the ambitious goal of establishing environments in which visually-impaired students can learn like other students.
The assistance for visually impaired students provided at four Indonesian universities includes computer training, textbook conversion to Braille, reading services, and information access. Support centers for visually impaired students have also been established to give students access to computers with screen readers (software that converts words on a computer screen into speech) and services such as counseling and course assistance. These services have won high marks from students and their families. (Photo : Students at an Indonesian support center)
The project will be implemented in Vietnam and the Philippines in the 2007 school year. Plans call for the installation of support centers for visually impaired students at eight sites: two in Indonesia, five in Vietnam, and one in the Philippines. These centers will feature computers for the visually impaired and provide training in their use. In addition, the centers will provide orientation for students planning to enter universities, and training for university faculty and staff. (Photo : Students learning with computers)
Plans call for assistance to 25 eligible students in Indonesia, 50 in Vietnam, and 70 in the Philippines, for a total of 145 students. This support project is expected to make positive changes in the educational environment for visually-impaired students in these three countries, which currently face the following issues: (1) General lack of awareness of the needs of visually-impaired students; (2) the assumption that visually-impaired students are not as capable as other students; (3) the scarcity of teaching materials such as Braille books and books on tape; and (4) lack of other materials, such as computer software. In Asia, less than 10% of all visually impaired persons currently receive primary education, with this percentage falling below 1% at the level of higher education. The need for assistance for visually impaired students in this region is therefore both clear and urgent.
In the Philippines, visually impaired students face austere conditions [2008/02/11]
Visually impaired university student goes to school accompanied by his mother
Philippine university facilities for visually impaired students are inadequate, and those who have gained entrance face a lack of adequate teaching materials. These were the findings of a Nippon Foundation fact-finding mission regarding the state of visually impaired students in the Philippines. The mission was designed to help prepare for the expansion of a program for Indonesian students with visual impairments, to the Philippines and Vietnam. As in Indonesia, the need is high.
The mission interviewed 16 visually impaired students at 11 Manila universities, including the Manila Central University and the Philippine Christian University, asking about their concerns and problems in university life. Results showed that in the “soft” areas of administration and policy, universities hesitate to accept visually impaired students, and lack the expertise to do so. Similarly, infrastructure and materials—such as Braille textbooks and computers with sufficient processing power for these students’ special needs—are largely nonexistent. In discussing their life at the universities, students taking part in the interviews pointed out that the universities were “uncooperative” and that improvements were needed.(Photo: A student responds to an interview question)
Due to the lack of Braille textbooks, students say study is difficult because they need to rely on the assistance of family and friends and to resort to such measures as recording classes on cassette tapes. Christopher Tunbokon, a computer science major, said, “It’s difficult to get around campus and attend class on my own, because the university provides no support at all. I have to move around with my mother as my guide.” Del Rosario Mary Grace, a psychology student, said of studying in such a difficult environment, “I wasn’t interested in psychology originally but I had to major in it because there were no other choices.”
Since 2006, the Nippon Foundation has worked with local Indonesian NGOs, developing a range of activities to assist visually impaired students at four Indonesian universities. These include computer training, the conversion of textbooks to Braille, reading services, and information access. Support centers for visually impaired students have been established within these facilities, where computers are available with text-to-speech software and services, from counseling to course assistance, are tailored to suit students’ needs. At present, it is said that less than 10% of all visually impaired persons in Asia receive primary education, and less than 1% study at universities or other facilities. For this reason, the Nippon Foundation, in partnership with the International Council for Education of People with Visual Impairment (ICEVI) and local NGOs, is working to expand its assistance in this field to the Philippines and Vietnam as well.(Photo: A student studying in an assistance room)
Encouragement for second-generation Filipinos of Japanese descent [2008/01/16]
Davao, the Philippines
On November 25, Yohei Sasakawa, chairman of the Nippon Foundation visited two second-generation Filipinos of Japanese descent to offer encouragement in their bid to achieve Japanese citizenship. In the chaos that followed the end of World War II, people with Filipino mothers and Japanese fathers were often unable to attain Japanese citizenship, and today the Japanese government has yet to recognize many of them. The Nippon Foundation supports these individuals in their bids for citizenship and accordingly, during his visit Sasakawa called for Japan to recognize them as Japanese citizens during their lifetimes.
Sasakawa visited Hiroko Shinabara (age, 76; Filipino name: Francisca Maravilias) and Tomiko Sakagawa (estimated age, 71; Filipino name: Ilenia Ongei), who live in the Davao City district of Calinan. (Photo 2: Hiroko Shinabara)
According to the Tokyo-based Philippine Nikkei-jin Legal Support Center, which provides support to such people, Ms. Shinabara was born in 1931 in the Davao City district of Toril, as the first daughter of a Japanese father and a Filipina mother. Her father died of an illness when she was seven years old, and after the war her mother also died while fleeing through the mountains with her children. She lost all means of proving the identity of her Japanese father. Ms. Shinabara only remembers her father being called "Bara-san." However, recently her baptismal certificate was discovered in a church, showing her father's name as “Shinaba-Shinaisu,” from Nagasaki.
Two of Ms Shinabara’s three siblings have already passed away, and today she lives with her youngest brother, Eustacio (age, 70). A woman of few words, Ms. Shinabara said, "Although I used my Filipina name to hide the fact that I was Japanese, I have always thought of myself as Japanese because my father was from Japan. I would like to receive Japanese citizenship as soon as possible."
Tomiko Sasagawa was born in 1936, as the oldest of five siblings, to Mitsuhiro Sasagawa (a Japanese carpenter) and a Bagobo mother. Drafted to work on construction of an airfield during the war, her father died in bombing by the U.S. military. After marrying a Filipino man at age 19, Ms. Sasagawa has been blessed with eight children and lives today with her grandchildren and great-grandchildren. She can write her name in Japanese, and a number of acquaintances have testified that she is the daughter of a Japanese man. (Photo: Tomiko Sasagawa)