BLUFFTON, JAPANESE CHILDREN GIVE TO EACH OTHER
Fourth graders from Bluffton Elementary School got a dose of Japanese culture on April 19. But they also gave in return—$570 that they raised in just over a week is being donated to Mennonite Central Committee for disaster relief in Japan.
Making the donation is Louise Matthews, director of Bluffton University’s Lion and Lamb Peace Arts Center, in honor of the "Children to Children" program that 22 Japanese children on spring break from Findlay (Ohio) City Schools brought to their Bluffton peers at a meeting on the university campus.
The cultural exchange program was planned before last month’s earthquake and tsunami in Japan. After the disaster struck, Matthews contacted Bluffton fourth-grade teacher Tami Hardy with a proposal: if the fourth graders could raise $50 for relief efforts, she would match it with a donation from the Lion and Lamb center.
But in only seven school days’ time, Hardy said, "our parents came through with $570"—an amount that Matthews announced to the gathering of Japanese children, many of whom were accompanied by parents, and the 70 Bluffton children.
She compared the occasion to a gift exchange, noting first the program that the Japanese youngsters had created and shared. Among other things, they gave musical demonstrations and taught their American counterparts a folk dance, how to use chopsticks and how to write their names in Japanese.
"The gift to you is helping your people in Japan," she continued, noting that it will total $620 with the Lion and Lamb’s $50 donation added.
The Bluffton fourth graders hadn’t talked a lot in class about the situation in Japan, but Hardy said she believed that meeting Japanese children would "make it more real to them."
None of the Japanese families represented at the program were directly affected by the earthquake and tsunami. The children told their American counterparts that most of them came to Findlay because of their fathers’ jobs, and will likely stay for three to five years. Working with the Japanese families was Natsue Yonekura, coordinator of the Japan Outreach Initiative at the University of Findlay.
Bluffton public relations, 4/21/11