15 Japanese Student Volunteers Leave for Poland to Assist Displaced Ukrainians (2) [2022/06/10]
Ms. Rinka Saito of Waseda University, who was born with a hearing impairment and is among the first group of volunteers, says she can imagine how anxious evacuees with disabilities must feel living in temporary shelters.
At the May 30 ceremony to send off Japanese student volunteers to provide humanitarian assistance to Ukrainian evacuees, Ms. Rinka Saito of Waseda University, representing the first group of volunteers, said that as a person born with a hearing impairment who uses a cochlear implant, she can imagine how anxious evacuees with disabilities must feel living in temporary shelters.
“I sincerely hope that through our activities there, we can lessen the anxiety and inconvenience they are experiencing and provide them with at least some relief,” she said.
From the second group, Mr. Koya Fujita of Doshisha University, said: “When I learned of the tense situation in Ukraine, where people who had been leading peaceful daily lives were losing their homes and livelihoods and being forced to flee their homeland, I wondered if there was anything I could do to help them, and decided to apply for this program.”
As an international politics major hoping to study abroad, he said he will strive to understand the evacuees’ situation as much as possible and keep in mind their feelings and point of view as he engages in his activities.
I spoke at the ceremony the day after I came back from a two-week four-nation tour, which took me to Malaysia, East Timor, Switzerland and Poland.
In Poland, I visited Kraków and Medyka, a village in south-eastern Poland on the border with Ukraine, to lay the groundwork for the dispatch of these volunteers by visiting humanitarian aid camps and meeting with representatives of international NGOs working there.
I want the Japanese student volunteers to work with students of Jagiellonian University in Kraków, the country’s oldest university established in 1364, in assisting displaced Ukrainians. The Nippon Foundation has supported the university under the Ryoichi Sasakawa Young Leaders Fellowship Fund (Sylff) program for its MA and doctoral candidates for the last 35 years.
If time permits, I suggested that they visit the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum in southern Poland, the site of the Nazi concentration and death camp−the largest mass murder site in history where more than one million people lost their lives during World War II.
Due to the constantly changing situation surrounding the war in Ukraine, we want to be flexible in pressing ahead with our aid plans. But I told the ceremony participants that The Nippon Foundation puts the safety of the student volunteers first and foremost, and will make every effort to ensure that these young people are able to engage in fulfilling activities.
Mr. Koya Fujita of Doshisha University, representing the second group of volunteers, said as an international politics major hoping to study abroad, he will try to understand the evacuees’ situation as much as possible and keep in mind their feelings and their point of view.