Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Japan Overseas Cooperation Volunteers: 2016 Ramon Magsaysay Awardee

The Ramon Magsaysay Award. (Source: http://rmaward.asia/)

We have not encountered Japanese Overseas Cooperation Volunteers (JOCVs) except through the cinema. In the recent Japanese Film Festival Eiga Sai 2016 in Metro Manila, one of the featured movies was about three young volunteers in the Philippines, two men and a woman: one of the men worked with the tourism department as a photographer and the other as an aquaculture worker in Mayoyao, Ifugao, and the woman as a midwife in a Baguio hospital.  This movie titled "Crossroads"  was released in 2015.

We tried to find out if the movie story line is based on actual experiences of JOCVs in the Philippines. 

There was indeed a volunteer who assisted the municipal agriculturist of Mayoyao in setting up a simpler and organic method of raising loach in 2013. This fish (dojo to the people) is abundant in the rice fields there but it is not an indigenous species; it is also eaten in Japan, Korea and China.

In "Crossroads", the aquaculture volunteer is a young man, The one who stayed in Mayoyao was a young woman. 

Available accounts of JOCV accomplishments in the Philippines do not mention any one involved with tourism, but they do mention those who did public health nursing in some parts of the country other than the Cordilleras.

The JOCV was established as a program of the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) in 1965 to assist developing countries,  Volunteers (aged 20 to 39) are assigned to host countries for two years. The first volunteers were dispatched to the Philippines in 1966. Their website says that 'the Philippines is one of the countries with the largest number of JOCV assignments.'

The fields of specialization of volunteers in the Philippines are listed as follows:
  • Agriculture, forestry, fisheries: animal husbandry, soils and fertilizer, aquatic products processing, animal hygiene, veterinary medicine, rural community development;
  • Manufacturing and maintenance:  ceramics/chinaware, product design, garments
  • Education and information services: science and math, computer technology, Japanese language instruction, youth activities;
  • Public health and medical service: nurse, physical therapy, social worker, nursing for disabled person.
The Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation says that the "[a]reas of volunteer work span 190 fields of specialization in education, social welfare, health care, environmental sustainability, agriculture, manufacturing, public works, sports, and governance. The work of JOCV volunteers improved lives, induced behavioral change, and transferred knowledge and skills to partners and communities in many countries."

Now on its 51st year, the JOCV has been chosen as one of the six recipients of the Ramon Magsaysay Award for 2016.  This is in recognition of the "idealism and spirit of service in advancing the lives of communities other than their own, demonstrating over five decades that it is indeed when people live, work, and think together that they lay the true foundation for peace and international solidarity.”

The citation capsulizes work done by the volunteers in several countries: "In Laos, Japanese volunteers assisted a provincial handicraft center in the design and marketing of products in a project aimed at reducing the villagers’ reliance on poppy farming. In Ghana, a volunteer who worked with Toyota in Japan helped locals with on-the-job training in automotive repair and a car assembly shop. In Bangladesh, a succession of a hundred volunteers over a ten-year period improved the preventive polio vaccination rate and eradicated polio and filariasis in the country. In the Philippines, volunteers teamed up with local teachers in developing teaching materials and organizing programs to foster interest in science among young Filipinos. These are a few of thousands of examples of the myriad arenas of interaction in which young Japanese men and women voluntarily immersed themselves in other cultures and helped people and communities."

The citation also mentions Hidekazu Kumano, a volunteer in the 1960s who has maintained his friendship with the people of Benguet. When he was assigned there, he worked with the farmers in growing thousands of mulberry trees.

In brief, the Magsaysay Award recognizes the JOCVs for "building a world of genuine solidarity/" 

Source: The Ramon Magsaysay Foundation at http://rmaward.asia/

There are two other organizations who will receive the Award: Dompet Dhuafa (Indonesia) for "expanding the transformative impact of zakat" and Vientiane Rescue (Laos) for "volunteering to save lives at risk".

Three individuals will also be honored with the Award:  Thodur Madabusi Krishna (India) for "ensuring social inclusiveness in culture," Bezwada Wilson (India) for "asserting the inalienable right to a life of human dignity," and Conchita Carpio Morales for "restoring faith in the rule of law."

The 2016 Ramon Magsaysay Award Presentation Ceremonies will be on 31 August 2016 at the Cultural Center of the Philippines. 

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