Tiyi Ayeva, [our first participant from France!] now studying at the International School of Asia, Karuizawa in Japan, shares a rundown of all the things she did and learned at ESI this summer. Thanks for bringing all your insights and ideas, Tiyi, and good luck with your future social change projects!
What's your dream? Where does it take you? Read about Kazuya Aoshima's story and his dream for motivating young people across Japan.
I’m Kazuya Aoshima, currently studying undergraduate degree in English literature at Rikkyo University, Japan. I was a participant of ESI 2015 and was inspired to come back as a coordinator of ESI 2016 July. After returning to Japan last year, I joined VIA Next Innovators Tokyo (NIT) alumni group, and this now I’m the president of the group.
In the future, I hope to make spaces for young people, especially aged 15~18, to talk about their dreams and motivate each other. This vision was one of the things that motivated me to return to ESI. In the past, I always wondered why students can’t talk about themselves with confidence. One of the main reasons is that adults don’t try to make adequate spaces, which then often leads to the students’ loss of identity and motivation. Then I noticed that ESI is an ideal place for this because every participant from various countries is capable of speaking and sharing their own story, which led to interesting interactions and strong friendships. I wanted to feel the growth of participants and learn how to encourage them to proceed to their next step.
Thanks to Fiona Zheng, ESI'15 for sharing her creative writing skills and taking us on this amazing journey of social innovation together. Can you handle what you'll discover in the dark? Keep reading to find out.
You will know it yourself after taking on this journey. Nervous? Don’t worry, let’s start first with some warm-up activities. I would suggest you do these activities in your dorm or in a controlled and safe environment alone since we need to turn off the lights and keep your eyes closed the whole time. Ready? Let’s begin! First, get a cup and sit at a table; and put your cup on it. Now please reach for the cup and hold it. Finished? Easy, right? Let’s add a few more steps. Grab your cup, go to your kitchen or pantry, pour some hot water in your cup (make sure it doesn’t spill), then come back to your original place. This time, was it still easy?
Either way, welcome to the dark.
With the warm-up, did you gain more confidence? Be ready, we are going for something real. Real in some way, from their perspectives. Now, we are entering a totally dark environment, without any looming lights. With only a walking stick on your hand, we are going to experience different situations in a blind person’s daily life for more than 1 hour. Don’t worry, we will have a tour guide in the dark, talking and giving us instructions.
Panicked? Excited? Or Curious? You can decide after you experience it.
First, let’s focus in the dark. Bet no one wants to miss a step under these circumstances. Now, take a deep breath, listen, our tour guide is greeting us in the dark. Oh, his name is Benny; and yes, from his voice, it is a ‘he’. He will guide us through the whole journey. All we need is to trust him, carefully listen and follow his instructions.
Great things grow from small seeds, and sometimes, the inspiration for a career can come from one conversation. We're excited that our 2007 alum Sayako Matsumura returned as a Social Innovation Education Fellow for our Social Innovation program this summer while she is completing her Masters at Columbia's School of International and Public Affairs. Read below to learn about the experience that inspired her to choose a career for social impact, and also what she learned about possibilities for governments to create social innovation in U.S. and Japan this summer.
Homelessness is one of San Francisco’s most stubborn problems. According to the most recent count in January 2015, 6,686 people were homeless in the city. During this July’s VIA Exploring Social Innovation Program, we had a chance to visit 13 different organizations, ranging from non-profit to technology companies. Their missions and services cover a lot of ground; some non-profits are working for people who are homeless by providing shelter, daily necessities, and advocating for the rights of the poorest people. Others are empowering underserved youth, young adults, and low-income immigrants, and yet others are using technology to lift the voices of all.
Having visited these organizations, I was inspired by their enthusiasm and success stories. Despite monumental financial difficulties and changing social issues, many remain completely mission-driven, committed to providing essential social services to society. Not only do they serve other people, but many of the founders of these organizations have their own personal stories if having overcome severe hardships in the past. Mr. Kevin Mccracken, a co-founder and chief operating officer at Social Imprints, which is a branding company that provides career opportunities and a living wage, said that he was also one of those people who were helped by “others” and completed a drug and alcohol rehabilitation program at Walden House in the past.
Some social issues are simply too complicated to solve. In spite of that, many policy makers have not given up trying to tackle them. For me, an important moment in my own commitment to this work was a short conversation I had with a homeless man when I participated in VIA’s 2007 program called “Serving American Community (SAC)”.
Meet Michio Kawai. He joined the VIA community through the Exploring Social Innovation program (ESI) 2014. Since then, he has taken time off to intern with an organization supporting education and reconstruction in Tohoku and has continued to create innovative educational opportunities for Japanese youth! One year later, VIA alum Charleen Tan interviews him on where he is now & his ESI reflections.
Har Khaw Dee, one of ESI's first participants from Myanmar shares her passion for education as a Warden at the Phaung Daw Oo Monastic School (PDO) where she supports 186 girls from different regions in Myanmar, some of them even coming from areas of civil war. Although many of these girls age 5-16 are struggling with poverty and loss of confidence, Khaw Dee sees their potential and is dedicated to seeing them grow fully into themselves and achieve all that they're capable of.
During ESI, Khaw Dee shared her own story of why she chose her career path to the group of changemakers across Asia during the ESI tradition event, V-talks--the V stands for VIA, and is originally inspired by the famed TED talks. Back in Myanmar, she is planning to reuse this V-Talk format to encourage her girls to share their stories with her and each other. She is calling this the "You & Me" program, which will start with her 9th grade girls, and be held every Sunday evening, where each girl will have a chance to share about their families, challenges, views and other aspects of themselves that they've been a bit shy to reveal so far.
Take a look at Khaw Dee's first V-talk below and look forward to future updates from her bright young girls and the You & Me program!
Follow our aspiring changemakers from across Asia as they travel through San Francisco visiting innovative social change organizations and learning how to harness their luck and embrace their failures!
Check out part 2: http://youtu.be/gzPdBmne1cg!
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