Carry Over the Bond

              Reiko Kato, President of Meguro UNESCO Association
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Was it the Indian Ocean? I was having dinner in the dining room on the upper deck, when I found the sky dyed with dark grayish purple through a round window. I immediately put down my chopsticks to clatter onto the deck with some other members, holding an orange slice served for dessert in one hand. “I shall remember how I feel now for the rest of my life” said a member at my side to herself. As the sun set below the horizon, the sky and the ocean changed their colors from moment to moment. I saw myself transfixed before the vast extent of the sky, the deep blue sea, and a white boat floating in between. I felt myself tiny. I felt something sublime. I felt the harshness as well as the richness of nature….

I was on the ocean in the early spring 40 years ago on the 4th Japanese Youth Goodwill Cruise organized by the Cabinet Office. The previous paragraph is an excerpt from the report I wrote on the ship. The ship was the Sakura Maru (12,600 tons), which used to be a trade fair ship. We visited 6 countries including the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, India, and Taiwan over 51 days. More than 350 people joined the program and young people from various countries were on board. We forged close relationships with each other while discussing a topic entitled “What should we do together with young people from other Asian countries?”, learned many things, and experienced the strict discipline required to live as a group. Thanks to sincere efforts by the leader, we still try to learn from each other, and keep the strong bond.

In January this year, some 50 people who used to participate in Meguro UNESCO’s youth activities had a reunion. The former youth members are now mothers and fathers. Most of them have left the Association since they moved to other areas for work or set up their own organizations. Nevertheless, we had a wonderful time seeing smiling faces of former fellow members. Mr. Nutt was also there. He studied in Japan and returned to his home country Myanmar. He came to Japan after a 15 year absence to join the gathering. He told that he is ardently engaged in volunteer activities in education, motivated by the encounter with UNESCO activities. However far away, the bond has not been broken. What people learn from experiences in their youth can enrich and guide their lives.

On a Sunday in March during the last cold snap accompanied by cherry blossoms, young people’s voices on the street calling for donations are still ringing in my ears. (Please refer to the picture) I sincerely hope that the UNESCO movement will resonate with as many people as possible to carry over the bond into the future.

Postscript: Recently, the International Exchange Programs of the Cabinet Office has been diversified. In FY2010, the National Federation of UNESCO Associations in Japan started to recommend young members of UNESCO Associations in Japan for candidates for the programs. I would like many young people to try it.
I myself came to seriously work on UNESCO activities after I experienced “The 4th Japanese Youth Goodwill Cruise”.
                              - translated by Hiroko Minowa

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