The warmth of the Japanese people is still the same
Every year, OISCA conducts a unique project named “Children’s Goodwill Ambassadors” under the Children’s Forest Program (CFP) inviting to Japan a few children from the Asian and Pacific countries for visiting various places related to forest development and environmental conservation as well as for carrying out exchange activities with Japanese children.
In October 2018, Mr. Jan Lester Bisco, a Filipino who is now working as a financial analyst in a communications company in Manila, visited Japan for the first time in 18 years.
When he was 10-years old 6th grader at the local elementary school in Ilocos del Sur Province, the Northern Luzon Island, Mr. Bisco was selected as one of the CFP Children’s Goodwill Ambassadors to visit Japan. It was his first overseas trip and he was greatly excited over that experience.
While in Japan, together with other participants, he visited various places in Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka and Kagoshima and was exposed to the different culture and food. All those memories are still deeply engraved in his heart and mind.
What was the most memorable thing was the encounter with Japanese people. At that time, he was still a young country boy and was feeling quite nervous when he first arrived in Japan. He and the other participants were warmly welcomed by the OISCA staff, members and supporters everywhere.
The Japanese children at the school the Children’s Ambassadors visited tried their best to warmly receive the visitors in their class room. The children ate school lunch and played all together. The Japanese children tried to communicate by gesture in order to overcome the language barrier. Although it was the first meeting with the Japanese children, he felt as if they were long time close friends.
Another unforgettable memory was home stay with a Japanese family in Kagoshima. He was warmly treated there. He really felt as if he were a member of the family. They took him to hot springs and taught him manner at the public bathhouse. He learnt different Japanese culture and customs.
It’s no exaggeration to say that the experience in Japan has had a tremendous impact on his growth in the subsequent 18 years.
It was his strong desire to re-visit Japan for meeting the host family again. He saved money for that purpose. One day, he happened to get on line a discounted air ticket between Manila and Fukuoka. He thought Fukuoka was close to Kagoshima where his host family live. He wanted to get in touch with the host family, but he had not contacted them since the first visit 18 years ago.
So he contacted the OISCA staff in charge of CFP at the Headquarters by SNS explaining that he was once a CFP Children’s Goodwill Ambassador and he was coming back to Japan for having a reunion with his former host family and also sending the old photos taken during the program 18 years ago. The staff replied that they would help him realize his wish.
As his departure for Japan was approaching, however, there was no subsequent information as to the whereabouts of the host family, and he was almost losing hope. Then, he got informed by the OISCA staff that Ms. Lina Tiam, OISCA staff who accompanied the Children’s Ambassadors group to visit Kagoshima at that time, is now working at the OISCA Nishi-Nippon Training Center in Fukuoka Prefecture. So he immediately contacted her.
On October 1, 2018, he fulfilled his long standing dream of visiting Japan again. He was very delighted to be reunited with Ms. Lina Tiam at the Training Center in Fukuoka.
When he first met her there, he was a small boy, but now he was far taller than her in height. He was also warmly welcomed again by other staff of the Center.
Regrettably, however, he could not meet the host family again on the second visit. The OISCA members and other people in Kagoshima tried their best to locate the family. It was found out that the family had moved to some other place and it was not possible for him to go there.
Now, he has another big dream. That is to visit Japan one more time and to meet the host family for expressing his deep appreciation for the hospitality extended to him 18 years ago.
He feels that he is CFP Children’s Goodwill Ambassador forever. He is always thankful for the CFP activities and the unforgettable memories and experiences gained in Japan.