Before embarking on my trip to Hiroshima, I worried that I would have too much free time. Three weeks into my stay, I no longer have this worry; my schedule is brimming with interviews, volunteer work, and intern responsibilities.
Most of my daytime hours are spent interning at the World Friendship Center. This inconspicuous, two-story Japanese home doubles as a guesthouse for travelers to Hiroshima and as a hub for peace promotion. Founded in 1965 by Barbara Reynolds, an American Quaker, the World Friendship Center provides a place where peoples of many nations can meet, build friendships, share experiences, and reflect on peace. Guests staying at the Center are offered free tours of the Hiroshima Peace Park, as well as the chance to meet one-on-one with a hibakusha (A-bomb survivor).
Additionally, the World Friendship Center sponsors many programs and events to spread Hiroshima’s message of peace. The PAX (Peace Ambassadors Exchange) Program brings groups of hibakusha and peace volunteers from Hiroshima to the United States, Korea, and Germany to tell the story of the Abomb. On alternate years, groups of Americans are flown to Hiroshima and to Nagasaki, where they learn about the necessity for peace. The Center holds free daily English classes, annual concerts and plays to promote peace, and even has a Peace Choir that meets on Thursdays. I enjoy listening to the choir’s melodious tunes as I type away in the room next door.
My experience interning at the World Friendship Center has been fantastic so far. My job here consists of
- assisting guests with information about the Center and about Hiroshima City
- helping out with the Center’s English classes and
- creating an Excel database for the Center’s fundraising and advertising efforts
While my official duties are both fun and informative, the general atmosphere of the Center has afforded me many opportunities to learn and grow. With a constant flow of travelers going in and out, I have met people from Australia, Vietnam, France, and Singapore. I am privileged to frequently sit in when hibakusha come to tell their stories. The staff here is incredibly friendly; many have voluteered to arrange research interviews, and have even taught me to cook traditional Japanese food! In the picture on the right, we are making okonomiyaki, a Hiroshima specialty. Also, I am crazy about the Center’s air conditioning and secret blend of cold tea, welcome respites from the brutal summer heat.
Aside from my internship, I fill my time by volunteering at theHiroshima YMCA. Signing up to volunteer was a bit tricky since few people on the staff speak English; however, I am happy to say that I will be helping to lead and organize the YMCA’s International Youth Peace Seminar in August. This seminar brings high school students from all over Asia to Hiroshima, where they will tour the Peace Park and Museum, discuss and reflect on current issues of war and peace, and build friendships that are the foundation of lasting international cooperation. 5-6 other leaders (Japanese college students) and I are in the process of finalizing the seminar schedule. My primary job is to proofread all English brochures, pamphlets, and worksheets, as most of the seminar will be held in English.
In other news, I just got a bike. Best day ever. Until next time!