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Take Your Hands and Let’s Go for a Walk

20070822_sudan_jpf_lainya_nyangele_ I visited a school called Nyengele in the Lainya county the other day.

To reach Lainya, it takes approximately 3 hours by car from Juba, the capital of Southern Sudan.  The school is located about 1.5 hours from Lainya following winding roads in the mountain.

Since we are seeing much rain these days because of the wet season, the car I was riding in actually got stuck, and I had to walk the last thirty minutes to school.

The local staff I went with stayed together to free the car, so I went to the school by myself.

After some struggles, I reached the school.  Everyone was so surprised to see a foreigner like me walking alone to the school, and they welcomed me with loud voices and songs.

20070822_sudan_jpf_lainya_nyangel_2 After I finished what I had to do at the school, and was about to return to the car by foot, the teacher said to the students “Let’s walk and sing together and send him off!”.  Thereafter, the students were kind enough to walk along with me singing for twenty minutes.

It was a very happy moment for me to be surrounded by the songs of the students.

August 30, 2007 in South Sudan |

An insight into local culture from a receipt!

As we conduct our activities overseas, we encounter a variety of people crucial to the daily processes of our projects besides those who are direct participants to our projects.  Just to name a few: for example, a local government agent, or the various vendors that we use for our projects.  We experience particular local culture through daily interaction with these people.

Afghanistan is not an exception; indeed, local culture in Afghanistan has an outstanding uniqueness.

Afghanistan_receiptYou know this from looking at a receipt brought back by our local staff (we cannot go out to buy the products, due to security reasons); it can show you an insight into the uniqueness of life here.  First of all, almost all the receipts are handwritten in the local language, Dari.  Secondly, we cannot figure out the dates, since they are dated using the Afghanistan calendar, which is different from ours  Finally, the numbers are written in Arabic script, which we can barely recognize.  Even processing a single payment is a difficult task, as everything needs to be translated by our local staff.  Moreover, you can encounter “loose” receipts time to time when you take a closer look.  Dates are missing, there are incorrect calculations, so on and so on and then we have to ask again to get the correct one.  All this is necessary, as we need to be accountable to the supporters for our activities and make appropriate reports.

I have often thought that it is necessary for us, who support the people, to learn further a sense of delicate balance between respecting local cultures and maintaining the policies and standards for our activities.

August 30, 2007 in Afghanistan |

Project Launch in Eastern Sri Lanka

Photo_3 With financial assistance by Japan Platform, JEN will launch a project in support of conflict-affected peoples in the Batticaloa District of the Eastern Province of Sri Lanka. Batticaloa is infamous for the region in which the Army of Sri Lanka and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), a militant Tamil organization, had severe fights since last summer, resulting in over 160,000 people displaced.

Since spring, 100,000 people have so far returned to their own villages when the tension between the two sides mitigated. However, the areas to which they returned were also affected by the Indian Ocean tsunami, which hit Sri Lanka at the end of 2004. Two immense disasters, the domestic conflict and the tsunami, deprived people of their basis of living and income generating sources.

This project will target the fishermen in Vakarai, which is in the Northern part of the Batticaloa District. JEN will distribute new fishing boats lost in the conflict, provide vocational trainings for fish-net making, conduct organizational capacity development of the Fishery Cooperative Society, and deliver psychosocial care. 

JEN will begin by establishing a district office, employing national staff, and concluding the MOU with the district government. It will take time to set up the working environment, but we expect the project activities to get on track sometime in mid-October.

August 30, 2007 in Sri Lanka |


The day JEN’s support reached Bedhi

Photo Supported by The World Conference for Religions for Peace Japan Committee and all of you, we are conducting educational support projects for the child victims of the earthquake in Bedhi, Haveri.

Bedhi is one of the most severely destroyed areas by the earthquake. However, due to the difficult accessibility, no organization other than JEN provided educational support to this area.

The way to Bedhi is very steep and it takes about 4-5 hours by car from JEN’s local field office. Between December and March, the route is blocked by snow so there is no access to Bedhi. It also rains hard throughout the year, which causes mudslides frequently. The steep road becomes very slippery and we can only approach Bedhi very slowly using a very experienced driver.

In Bedhi, so called “extremely remote area”, we aim to improve the educational environment for the earthquake victim children and provide:

  1. Mental care workshop 
  2. Educational / sports goods supply 
  3. Sports festival

Photo_2 The project comes with various difficulties. For example, during heavy rain we sometimes get stuck in the middle of the road on the way to Bedhi. However, due to the warm welcome by the local people, we are able to efficiently implement the project during the very short summer.  

August 23, 2007 in Pakistan |

The Sanitation Song

  For the sanitation education currently being employed, JEN is teaching the importance of sanitation to children using a ‘Sanitation Songs.’ 

Here, I shall introduce one song written by JEN’s sanitation promoter. 

“Let’s all use toilets!
Let’s all drink clean water!
For your health’s sake don’t ‘take care of your business’ in the fields!
Let’s wash our hands before we eat!
Let’s wash our hands after we use the toilet!
Let’s work together to keep our surroundings clean!” 

It is a pity that I cannot deliver the melody to you at this time, because the message gets through better when it’s sung!!   

Now it’s common to see children singing JEN’s original Sanitation Songs in villages where sanitation education has been implemented. 

August 23, 2007 in South Sudan |


Language through the history of civil war

240507_p1040357   JEN operates in Central Equatoria State where many languages are spoken. 

First, there is the local language, Bari.  Depending on the tribe, other languages such as Mundari, Kuku, and Kakuwa are also spoken in this state.  These languages are so similar that in Central Equatoria State, even tribes speaking different languages can communicate with each other. 

The second language is an Arabic language called Juba Arabic.  Because during the civil war, Juba used to be under control of the Sudan government military forces from Khartoum, many people speak this type of Arabic which has its origins in Juba.  However, there are very few people that can read and or write this language. 

The third language is English.  Many people speak English after having fled to Uganda as refugees during the civil war, and receiving education there. 

It is very useful for us that many people can speak English, but it also gives us strong mixed feelings to think that this results from the people of Southern Sudan been turned upside down through their histories of civil wars. 

August 16, 2007 in South Sudan |


The First Dialogue Friends have been sent!

From August 3rd to 5th we had carried out the first operation of the Dialogue Friends, which is part of our "Chuetso-oki earthquake volunteer program".

The nine people who took part of this operation began their activities in the community center of Betsuyama where many people are taking refuge. They helped with clearing and cleaning areas. They also visited individual homes to help with fixing the gardens and other places damaged by the quake.

After all that, they took some rest and shared tea with the people at the refuge center where they were welcomed warmly even by those who haven't had a sip of warm tea since the earthquake.

There are also some people who hesitate to have strangers like us, and some others who have hearing disabilities, living at the refuge center. Still, as soon as we began to serve tea and played some games with them, they approached and happily joined us.

The streets outside of the refuge center show how fast the restoration works are being conducted. That is typical Japan. But on the other hand, we can also see a welfare bus that serves as the legs for all of the elderly. In spite of all the portable gas stoves provided, the supplies bought, the medicine given, there is no way to get to the public baths away from the refuge center.

A 90 year old lady who was born, married and raised her children in Betsuyama, has lived alone since her husband died 20 years ago, until the earthquake happened. She lived here for her entire life, and to see buildings from as far back as the Edo Period fall down.

She mentions that she is now living at the refuge, but still goes to her vegetable farm everyday. She is worried about the possibility of moving into a temporary shelter within walking distance from the farm, but at the same time she reckons with a smile that hers are small worries if compared to a war situation.

We were supposed to go help these people, but were overwhelmed by their strength. We are thankful for all we learned together.

August 9, 2007 in Niigata |

Horns of Joy

2007aug09 The last Saturday of July in Anman was full of cheerful high school students leaning out of car windows.

The frenetic sound of horns announced that it was the last day of school exams, and that the grades had been released also.

The final exam scores not only serve as proof of the student's graduation, but they are also decisive for entering university.

Jordanians usually celebrate by ringing their car horn.In the beginning of July、the well known ruins of Petra were chosen as one of the "New Seven wonders of the world". The decision was announced at one o'clock in the morning, but the celebrating horns sounded until well past two a.m. and there was no sign of them stopping anytime soon.The same thing happens when Jordan's soccer team wins a match.

Last month the Asian cup was won by Iraq. Their team's winning brought the country a lot of happiness during difficult times.

However, 50 people who were celebrating the great result unfortunately fell victim to a suicide bombing attack, and others were killed by stray bullets from guns fired in celebration.

In Jordan, the once popular firing of guns in celebration seems to have been abolished by law.

I wish Iraq would also discontinue this tradition to prevent incidents occurring just when people are celebrating happy moments.

August 9, 2007 in Iraq |

Afghanistan Pride

One observation of Afghan people is their sense of pride; they will do anything to hide feelings of shame from others.  It is one of the important aspects that we need to pay attention to in relation to our staff management, as pride is an inevitable part of what motivates Afghans, including those who work at our office.

When we held a security workshop for the drivers, we were surprised to hear one of the drivers describe how it was the most unbearable shame to be asked not to resist and to obey the orders of the armed group when caught by them. 

Pride in Afghanistan has survived in the way that throughout their history, the Afghans have never surrendered during war or invasion. Through this they feel that they have never lost the respect of and for the individuals, families, and even their nation despite the suffering of everlasting war and poverty.  The driver’s statement symbolized their worry that by not resisting, their actions would betray Afghanistan’s sense of pride.

  Due to its geopolitical importance, Afghanistan has always been used and suffered interference from the stronger countries. Consequences of this include twenty-five years of long civil war coupled with internal conflicts from religious and political aspects that can be triggered at any time by external interference.

Pride in Afghanistan is crucial to rebuild the nation while co-operating with and integrating the religion of the country.  Outsiders like us should not impose the projects and interfere their life, and need to strongly support and unobtrusively co-operate to accomplish the rebuilding of Afghanistan together with them.

t that it is necessary for us, who support the people, to learn further a sense of delicate balance between respecting local cultures and maintaining the policies and standards for our activities.

Afghanistan2 Staff in JEN Afghanistan Office

August 9, 2007 in Afghanistan |



20070726_sudan_jpf_terekeka_kowori_ In Southern Sudan, I have learnt that some of the common items used in every day life for me are not so common, and are only available in the big cities.

"Toothbrushes" are just one example.

Away from the cities many people use branch sticks as their toothbrushes, just as shown in the picture.

By biting the tip of the branch stick, fibers like a brush come out and the natural toothbrush is ready for using.

Such is the wisdom of the local people.

August 2, 2007 in South Sudan |

History of Building Friendship between Japan and Sri Lanka

JEN often meets through activities government officers and members of development agencies who mention, “I have been to Japan”. I addition, “I have worked with Japanese people in my office before.” is also often heard.

This is due to the fact that Japan has received Sri Lankan people for trainings and dispatched Japanese of various professions to Sri Lanka through ODA programs for over half a century. Such people have great respect for Japan. Even if they have never heard of JEN, they show favorable attitudes towards JEN because it is a Japanese organization.

For example, people happily make time for us, when we make unexpected visits to locations where we plan to launch a program. They collect information, which they think we may need prior to our meeting, without our asking them to do so. Their cooperative is extremely helpful to the execution of JEN projects. JEN hopes to develop upon the long history of friendship between Japan and Sri Lanka. 

August 2, 2007 in Sri Lanka |