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Japanese Student Volunteers Report on Their Activities in Poland to Help Ukrainian Evacuees (1) [2022/07/29]
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On July 7, 2022, representatives of the first two groups of Japanese university student volunteers report on their activities in Poland to assist Ukrainian evacuees. The Nippon Foundation and The Nippon Foundation Volunteer Center dispatched them each for two weeks from late May to June.


The first two 15-member groups of Japanese university student volunteers have returned to Japan after spending two weeks each in Poland assisting Ukrainians displaced by the continued Russian military attacks.

At a press conference on July 7, representatives of the two groups reported on their activities mainly at a temporary evacuation center in the city of Przemyśl in southeastern Poland on the border with Ukraine, including distributing food and drinks, sorting relief supplies, collecting garbage, cleaning facilities and interacting with displaced children.

Under a joint project launched by The Nippon Foundation and The Nippon Foundation Volunteer Center, the first group was dispatched to Poland between May 31 and June 16 and the second group from June 13 to 29.

Representing the first group, Ms. Rin Ueda of the University of Hyogo said: “My strongest memory from my volunteer activities is when I went to the temporary evacuation center on my last day there, and a young girl I had often played with took hold of my hand and would not let me go, and burst into tears.”

“I was happy to have been able to give her even a little strength, but at the same time I thought that I could have helped more people if I could speak their language and had specialist knowledge and skills,” she said.

Ms. Ueda, who is currently studying nursing and hopes to become a nurse in the future, also said: “I want to spend the rest of my time at university acquiring such specialist knowledge and skills, and improving my language proficiency as well. I hope to acquire many skills in order to be able to provide medical and nursing care to more people who need help.”

Also from the first group, Mr. Taisei Onda of Sophia University majoring in Russian said: “Being able to respond in Russian is what I remember in particular about my activities at the temporary evacuation center. In many cases, I used Russian more than English.”

“To be honest, there were times when I thought I could be of more help if my Russian was better. These situations have encouraged me to put more effort into my Russian language studies.”

Mr. Onda had earlier created a website for Ukrainian evacuees coming to Japan. Now I want to make more active use of the site. I also think it is important to use social media to promote this (volunteer) program, and to share the experiences of the participants after they return.”

From the second group, Mr. Ryusei Komatsu of Meiji University said: “At the temporary evacuation center, water, food, donated clothing, and other items were available, but this did not mean that all of the evacuees’ requests could be met. At times, we had to clearly say ‘No’,” as when some evacuees pressed for extra blankets, which they were obviously planning to sell.

“I learned that the most important thing in having an equal relationship with evacuees is for volunteers to have empathy, rather than sympathy, for the evacuees,” he said, adding: “I am convinced that to support the evacuees in the true sense, we must constantly strive to empathize from their perspective.”

(To be continued)


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From the first group, Ms. Rin Ueda, who is studying nursing at the University of Hyogo, said she hopes to acquire specialist medical and nursing skills and improve her language proficiency to help more people in need.


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Also from the first group, Mr. Taisei Onda, a Russian major at Sophia University, says he wants to make more active use of a website he created to help Ukrainians coming to Japan.


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From the second group, Mr. Ryusei Komatsu of Meiji University stresses that for volunteers to truly support evacuees, they must constantly strive to empathize with them from their perspective.
Posted by Y.Sasakawa at 10:02 | FORGING GLOBAL TIES | URL | comment(0)
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