Volunteers help strengthen ties to local community through English
September 26, 2013
TOGUCHI, Okinawa - More than 15 Japanese elementary students gathered to learn English Aug. 27 at the Toguchi Community Center.
The English class is part of the United States Army Japan and 10th Regional Support Group community relations program to help bridge the gap between the military and local Japanese community in Okinawa.
Elena Takaho, a political adviser for the 10th RSG, explained the classes are offered during local Japanese student's summer vacation from school and the intent is to give students the basics of the English language.
"It's good to have programs like this because it fosters culture interaction between both Americans and Japanese," said Takaho "It's a great way to learn from each other."
Torii Station, home to USARJ-Torii Station and the 10th RSG, sits in the heart of Yomitan Village. Yomitan boosts 23 wards or districts and yields a population of nearly 40,000 citizens. To help facilitate the English classes throughout Yomitan USARJ seeks volunteers to help make the program a success.
Jennifer Toland, a volunteer from the 10th RSG who recently arrived to Okinawa from Fort Riley Kansas, said she wasted no time to lend a hand to teach English to enthusiastic Japanese students. Toland was given an opportunity to use her skills as a qualified English as a Second Language or ESL instructor for a few classes at Toguchi.
"My idea and approach to the curriculum was simple," explained Toland "I took the idea that if I was a kid going to a park to meet other kids, what could I do and say to get others to play with me so it was geared towards the things Kids would say and do."
During the class it appeared Toland's approach was on target as students responded to English phrases and writing assignments with no hesitation and motivation. Spirits were also high during an American song where students used their new found English to sing along and interact with volunteers.
Yoshihiko Ikehara, the ward chief for Tokuchi, said this is the first time Tokuchi ward has participated in the program and hopes the classes continue at his local community center.
"The students and parents really look forward to coming and learning English," explained Ikehara "I wish it was longer than summer break."