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Fighting Leprosy in Nepal [2008/03/31]

Leprosy elimination activities in Nepal (1:51)

Chairman Yohei Sasakawa of the Nippon Foundation visited Nepal for five days in February, delivering words of encouragement to health workers who promote leprosy elimination activities and leprosy patients in the Chitwan District. Along with Mozambique, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Brazil, Nepal remains one of the few nations in which leprosy persists in significant numbers. Its goal is to control the disease by the end of this year.

The Chitwan district has more leprosy patients than any other area in Nepal. While the prevalence of leprosy in Nepal is 1.2 cases per 10,000 people, that number rises to 1.9 in the Chitwan district. The district has six health centers, which together comprise 31 smaller subhealth centers. Based at these facilities, local health workers and volunteer groups work to diagnose and treat people affected by leprosy. (Photo: Chairman Sasakawa with female health workers)

Groups of female volunteers are particularly active in fighting the disease. Ms. Mina Giri, the representative of a group that has pursued these efforts for 19 years, explained their general approach to newly-diagnosed leprosy cases. “If we diagnose leprosy and immediately tell the patients, they may not seek out treatment for fear of discrimination. We usually take our time and try to communicate the diagnosis in the most delicate way possible so that their reaction isn’t just shock.” (Photo: Ms. Mina Giri, a female volunteer leader)

Their efforts have produced solid results, and Nepal appears to be on course to attain the World Health Organization (WHO) elimination target of less than one case of leprosy per 10,000 people. “We’re close to controlling the disease,” said Chairman Sasakawa in encouraging the workers. “Your efforts will eventually lead to the elimination of leprosy in Nepal.” (Photo: Chairman Sasakawa encouraging leprosy patients at a health center )

Chairman Sasakawa also met with King Gyanendra at the palace in Katmandu, the nation’s capital, for the first time since November 2006. The king demonstrated a deep understanding of the leprosy eradication activities. Said Chairman Sasakawa, “I want to continue visiting Nepal until leprosy has been controlled.”

The seven major political parties that comprise the interim government in Nepal have agreed to abolish the monarchy after the constituent assembly vote scheduled for April. Those opposed to the decision have carried out bombings and other actions, making the general atmosphere much less secure. Even during the brief time Chairman Sasakawa and his team stayed in Nepal, the national police clashed with extremists in Chitwan district.
Posted by TNF at 10:30 | Leprosy | URL
India--Individuals affected by leprosy gather from 24 countries [2008/03/26]

International Leprosy Conference (2:03)

This past January, over 1,200 people attended the 17th International Leprosy Congress in Hyderabad, India. Participants included representatives from leprosy-related NGOs, governments, and the World Health Organization (WHO). In addition, people from twenty-four countries, who have been affected by leprosy, also took part. Held every five years, this International Leprosy Congress was held from January 30 to February 4 and was divided into various sessions—current eradication efforts, human rights, education and enlightenment, psychology, pathology and medicine—all of which featured lively discussions.(Photo: Main venue where 1,200 participants gathered)

January 30, the first day of the congress, was the anniversary of the death of Mahatma Gandhi, and has been designated Leprosy Day in India to commemorate his efforts to control the disease. Special speeches were given on that day by Mr. Yohei Sasakawa, Chairman of the Nippon Foundation and WHO Special Ambassador for the Elimination of Leprosy, Dr. Klaus M. Leisinger, President and CEO of the Novartis Foundation for SustainableDevelopment , and Mr. Rigo Peeters, President of the International Federation of Anti-Leprosy Associations (ILEP). Since 2000, the Novartis Foundation has assumed oversight of various activities from the Nippon Foundation, including the provision of free multidrug therapy (MDT) for leprosy. The speakers discussed past activities and future plans. (Photo: Dr. Klaus M. Leisinger, President and CEO of the Novartis Foundation)

Chairman Sasakawa stressed the importance of both disease eradication and restoration of human rights, comparing these efforts to a motorcycle. “The front wheel symbolizes activities to eliminate the disease. The rear wheel symbolizes efforts to end social discrimination. Both wheels need to be the same size.” He also referred to Global Appeal 2008, (held in London on January 28 with the cooperation of international human rights NGOs, which aimed to help restore the dignity of people affected by leprosy) and reported on his appeals to the United Nations Human Rights Council. “Grassroots activities will change society,” said Chairman Sasakawa, seeking to inspire participants. “Those who have been cured of the disease must themselves play an important role.” (Photo: Chairman Sasakawa giving a speech)

Reports indicate that approximately 16 million leprosy patients were cured around the world during the period from 1985 to 2006. Although the number of new patients has declined year by year, around 260,000 new cases of leprosy were diagnosed in 2006. While leprosy has become less common, social discrimination against the disease remains strong. This state of affairs calls for those affected by leprosy to themselves speak out, and for countries to exchange information. (Photo: Chairman Sasakawa and individuals cured of leprosy attending the Congress)
Posted by TNF at 11:20 | Leprosy | URL
Winners of the quiz tournament for Chinese students visit Okinawa [2008/03/24]

Students visiting Himeyuri Lily Tower

Winners of a Chinese quiz tournament about Japan came to visit this country on January 24. After meeting with Japanese university students in Tokyo, they flew to Okinawa to visit the Himeyuri Peace Museum, which stands as a tragic reminder of the Battle for Okinawa. On January 31, when they went home, the participants expressed their wish to return to Japan.

The tournament, which is sponsored by the Japan Science Society with support from the Nippon Foundation, is an extension of a project to distribute Japanese educational and research books to Chinese universities. Last September, the fourth tournament was held in three regions, including Eastern China, Jilin Province, and Heilongjiang Province. The 22 students who won the contest, or who had served as emcees, were brought to Japan as part of the winners’ package, led by Ms. Zhang Fengjie, head of the party and Dean of the Foreign Language School at Jiamusi University.

On January 25, the party visited Chairman Yohei Sasakawa of the Nippon Foundation, to pay a courtesy call. Sasakawa greeted them with the words, “My hope is that you will maintain your curiosity and desire to learn about Japan. Please enjoy and make the best of your time here.” After meeting with students from Keio University, Hitotsubashi University, Senshu University, and Hosei University, the visitors flew to Okinawa on January 27. (Photo : Paying a courtesy call to Chairman Sasakawa of the Nippon Foundation)

At the Himeyuri Lily Tower and Himeyuri Peace Museum, built to commemorate a tragic incident in which large numbers of female students were killed or forced to kill themselves during a US attack, many of the surviving students reported that the incident came as a surprise to them. On looking through the photos, exhibitions, and videos and learning that so many young people had lost their lives, the Chinese delegation mourned the deaths of these students. Ms. Jin Meihua of Changchun Teachers College said, “I felt like crying, thinking of all those victimized by the war.” “War is sad and cruel,” said Ms. Park Meiling, a senior at Jiamusi University. “Even small children are killed.”


Ms. Park Meiling and Ms. Jin Meihua being interviewed for TV

Some among the party pointed out that the ruins of Shuri Castle resemble the Forbidden City in Beijing, feeling a certain of kinship in the atmosphere on the island. After touring Okinawa, Kobe, and Kyoto, the party returned to their home country on January 31. Many hope to study in Japan or to take jobs in which they can make use of their Japanese abilities. Their visit appears to have strengthened this determination. (Photo : Commemorative photo with the performers of the Ryukyu dance)

*Click here for the movie.

Posted by TNF at 10:01 | Human Resources Development | URL
10th Anniversary Symposium Series--Tokyo Foundation [2008/03/19]

The SYLFF 10th Anniversary Symposium

The Tokyo Foundation was established in 1997 with the mission of examining and proposing solutions on various themes, ranging from international politics and economy to the global environment. In addition to conducting policy research and devising proposals as a private think tank, the Tokyo Foundation is engaged in developing the next generation of human resources, through the Ryoichi Sasakawa Young Leaders Fellowship Fund (SYLFF), established at 68 universities in 44 countries. To mark the foundation's 10th anniversary, a series of symposiums was launched in January 2008, under the theme “Reconstructing Values for the Global Age.” A total of ten symposiums will be held before the series ends in June.

“These symposiums,” said Hideki Kato, Chairman of the Tokyo Foundation, “are intended to strengthen cooperation with overseas research organizations and to help identify new systems and policies for the international community in the new millennium.” The series began on January 24, and three symposiums have already been held. They have been popular--all but filled to capacity by nearly 200 individuals. (Photo:Excitement Fills the Auditorium)

Their common theme has been reconciling and sustaining unique cultures and value systems, as the rapid development of globalization homogenizes lifestyles, values and products. The first four symposiums dealt with this theme under the titles:
- Dietary Culture in the Global Age (January 24)
- Challenges for Peace Building in Africa: the Case of the Democratic Republic of Congo (January 25)
- The Pathology of Contemporary Society (February 12)
- Humanitarian Support under Conflict Conditions: Perspectives on the Implementation of Universal Values (February 28)

The fifth symposium, to be held from 4:00-5:30 on April 3rd, will be entitled “The Market Economy in China,” and will be delivered by Professor Wu Jinglian, one of China's leading economists and a strong proponent of the shift to a market economy.

Further information about the series can be found at the Tokyo Foundation's 10th Anniversary website.
Posted by TNF at 11:58 | Human Resources Development | URL
12,000 Volunteers Support the 2nd Annual Tokyo Marathon [2008/03/17]

Tokyo Marathon 2008 with Volunteer

On February 17, around 32,000 runners took to the streets to compete in the second annual Tokyo Marathon. Along the course, 2.26 million spectators, significantly more than last year, cheered on the runners as they toiled through central Tokyo. Race setup and related activities were supported by the efforts of some 12,000 volunteers, who braved the cold weather to make the marathon a success. The stories of two of those volunteers follow: (Photo: Tokyo Marathon, 2008)

At the Tokyo Big Sight convention center, where the finish line for the full marathon was located, Ms. Mari Miyashita (30) lead a volunteer team distributing completion medals to runners. During the workweek, she is a management planner at a manufacturing company. She first discovered her fascination with international events during the Nagano Winter Olympics in 1998. At the first Tokyo Marathon, she applied for the volunteer leader-training program operated by the Sasakawa Sports Foundation. In charge of retrieving RC timing chips at the finish line, she was deeply impressed by all the runners who exhausted themselves to make it to the finish line. This year she volunteered once again to be a leader at the event. (Photo: Ms. Miyashita)

In the second annual Tokyo Marathon, Ms. Miyashita lead 120 volunteers who distributed medals and retrieved RC timing chips, congratulating runners that finished. This was the second year for many of the volunteers, and they worked efficiently. “Their smiles are great, aren’t they?” Miyashita remarked as she bustled about. This year, she has also volunteered to help out at PARACUP 2008 (a charity road race to help underprivileged children around the world), which is to be held on April 20. (Photo: Completion medals are distributed to runners by volunteers)

Mr. Masahiko Nakao (64), a former newspaper reporter, is fascinated by marathons, which he began training for to improve his health when he was 52 years old. He has participated in several to date, including three races overseas. He ran last year in the Tokyo Marathon and finished, cheered by spectators along the course. He was impressed by the volunteers, who he says worked without complaint in the snow and rain. After injuring his leg last year, he decided to give the injury time to heal this year, and volunteered instead. With 30 other volunteers, he managed spectators around an important Intersection, cheering runners with a broad smile on his dark-tanned face. “It’s cold, but I’m having fun,” he said about his volunteer work. Looking into the happy faces of the runners, he pledged to run once again next year. (Photo: Mr. Nakao)

According to the Sasakawa Sports Foundation, all volunteer positions were filled soon after recruitment began. Helped by good weather on February 17, cooperation between runners and volunteers helped make the event even more successful than the previous year. Mr. Hideyuki Sasaki, General Secretary of Tokyo Marathon Office, acknowledged the contribution of the volunteer leader-training program operated by the Sasakawa Sports Foundation. Volunteerism has apparently taken root. (Photo: Volunteers at a water supply point)
Posted by TNF at 10:20 | Human Resources Development | URL
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.
Posted by TNF at 11:25 | Basic Human Needs | URL
Award Ceremony Held for 300 Bangladeshi Scholars [2008/03/10]

Students at the awards ceremony

The Nippon Foundation provides scholarships to well-qualified students in Bangladesh, one of the poorest Asian nations. An award ceremony was recently held in the national capital, Dhaka, to recognize the 300 scholars selected for the 2007 school year. Launched in 1995, this project has now provided scholarships to a total of 2,750 students.

Held December 26, 2007, in a lecture hall at the Bangladesh National Museum, the award ceremony was attended by 300 students of the University of Dhaka and the University of Chittagong. Each recipient received 12,000 taka (approximately 20,000 yen), the annual tuition at national universities in Bangladesh. Undertaken in cooperation with the Bangladesh NGO, the Bangladesh Scholarship Council (BSC), this scholarship program received 5,000 applications this year. The 300 recipients were selected based on academic performance and economic need.(Photo:A student accepting her scholarship)

Attending the awards ceremony were the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, a professor from the University of Dhaka and the chief advisor to the BSC, representatives from the Embassy of Japan and members of the Nippon Foundation’s International Program Department. All offered their encouragement to the scholarship recipients. (Photo:The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court with scholars)

With its low annual national per capita income (USD 431 in 2005), Bangladesh faces numerous challenges in the area of education. According to UNESCO statistics, the literacy rate is 41.1%, and only 6% of the country has attended university.

In light of these circumstances, The Nippon Foundation began providing scholarships in 1995 to well-qualified students raised in economically disadvantaged homes, aiming to support national development through human resources development. The foundation plans to continue its support. Over the ten years since the program’s inception, reports indicate that former scholars are developing into a key part of the nation’s human resource foundation.
Posted by TNF at 14:22 | Education | URL
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.
Posted by TNF at 09:59 | Basic Human Needs | URL
Anthology of Japanese Essays written by Chinese Students [2008/03/03]

Over a hundred of the participants

The 2007 winners have been announced for the foundation-sponsored Japanese-language essay contest for Chinese contestants, launched in 2005 to inspire contestants to express their opinions in a second language. Sixty of the best of these essays have been collected in Beyond National Boundaries, published by the Duan Press. Plans call for presenting copies to Chinese universities and other educational institutions for use as supplementary materials in Japanese-language study. At the December 15 award ceremony at Jinan University, President Takeju Ogata of The Nippon Foundation announced the foundation’s intentions to continue the contest.

The 2007 contest – the third to date – netted approximately 1,450 entries from students at 99 universities in 23 Chinese provinces, in addition to 21 entries in a new section for working people. Entries were judged by an eight-person panel. The top prize in the students’ section went to Chen Xinxin, a senior at Jinan University. In addition to the prize awarded, Ms. Chen will be offered a one-week trip to Japan. (Photo: Ms. Chen, the winner of the top prize)

The contest is one of many Japan-China exchange projects sponsored by the Center of Sino-Japanese Studies with support from the Japanese embassy to China. The Nippon Foundation has provided whole-hearted support for the program since the second contest. The award ceremony featured 14 entrants from across China who won second prize or better. The winners were presented with award certificates and prizes by Kiyomizu Seno, Consul General for Japan in Guangzhou, Vice-President Lu Daxiang of Jinan University, and Mr. Ogata.

Entitled, “Thinking About Japanese-Chinese Cooperation in Environmental Protection from the Issue of Pollution from Electronic Waste,” the essay by Ms. Chen awarded first prize argued for the need to build cooperative ties between Japan and China based on the theme of environmental protection, in light of the severe environmental damage caused by electronic waste imported into China. (Photo: A book collecting the prizewinning essays)

In his speech, Mr. Ogata said, “Disagreements between individuals or between countries are part of the normal course of events, and we can expect various issues to continue to emerge between Japan and China. Easing tensions is crucial to minimizing or resolving such problems. This is why the Nippon Foundation has established various channels for communication between the two nations.” (Photo: Mr. Ogata, the President of The Nippon Foundation)
Posted by TNF at 10:41 | Education | URL