January 19, 2009

 Quality Time with Our Children

I am writing this to share what I felt last week during the Pangaea Activity held in Shibuya, Tokyo. The Shibuya activity site is a bit unique. We use a traditional Japanese-style room for our activity. To sit on the floor around the table, we combine three small low desks into one large table. Participants are also diverse. Some are elementary school students, while others are in junior high school. The youngest ones are in the third grade. We have girls and boys. Some are shy. Some love to play pranks. We have little ones who still enjoy their childhood. And some are adolescents who feel insecure about themselves.

Anyway, the activity day went like this… All participants showed up in a relaxed mood before our activity began. In the first 30 minutes of the activity, every kid was spontaneously working on his/her tasks, such as leftovers from the previous activity or new assignments he/she picked up. And then, the participants were told that they had 5 more minutes to come and sit down in a circle. Within 5 minutes, the participants, as well as facilitators, gathered in one room and sat down in a circle. When the participants are asked to sit down in a circle, they now know it’s time to listen. That rule has helped me a lot in getting children’s attention easily.

I started talking with the participants by showing the postcards I had bought and the pictures I had taken when I had visited Thailand and Malaysia at the end of last year. The participants got thrilled with our big announcement that the Pangaea Project would take off in Malaysia within three weeks. When our 2009 calendars, which had been created with hospitalized children under the support from USB, were handed out to the participants, they got more excited. Moreover, they exclaimed as they found their drawings featured in the calendar. By watching their smiles, I strongly felt that they were spending quality time with Pangaea, as well as their peers. And I thought every kid might need such precious moments for his/her healthy emotional development.

Actually we had a new participant on that day. She appeared to be having a bit hard time initiating conversations with other participants. However, she was getting adjusted to the new world by sharing the same space and her stories with her new friends.

When I looked into our PC room, I saw a 5th grade boy helping third and fourth grade girls. They are good friends, even though they go to different schools. Those girls had drawn pictures and asked the boy to create the animated game using their drawings and the Viscuit, an effective tool to animate drawings.

It was one of our ordinary activity days. But, somehow, I realized Pangaea is needed not only for our children, but also for us, our staff and me, to spend quality time or “therapeutic time” during our activity.

Posted by: yumi | 8. General | Permalink

January 16, 2009

 Jan 2009 Newsletter: Yumi's Monthly Note

A Happy New Year to All!

Well, today is Christmas. I am writing this newsletter at Incheon International Airport in South Korea. Toshi and I were staying in Malaysia from December 22 to 25 in order to prepare for the Pangaea Project to be launched at Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (UNIMAS), located in the state of Sarawak on the island of Borneo. We discussed many details, and then set the start day for the initial activity: The Pangaea Activity debuts in Malaysia on February 7, 2009.

I visited the UNIMAS campus which was funded and built by Japan's official development assistance. When I took a campus tour, I was amazed by the size of the campus. Huge ponds and many buildings..., everything on the campus is incomparably large! I enjoyed the tour under the sunshine. Actually, I had been worried about the weather because of the rainy season in Malaysia. When I had checked the weather report before heading off to Malaysia, I had been frightened with the terrible forecast: continuous rain with thunderstorms and high humidity (up to 95%). Anyway we flew to Malaysia via South Korea and Kuala Lumpur, and arrived in Malaysia at 10 AM. The UNIMAS staffers picked us up at the airport, and then we were taken to the place where our meeting was held. They told that it had been raining all week. Thanks to Toshi who has a "Magic Wand" and can change the weather, unexpectedly we were blessed with a sunny day.

During the meeting, we presented the specifics of the Pangaea Project. In return, we were explained the e-Bario Project being implemented by UNIMAS in order for people living in remote areas of Borneo Island to bring computers and the internet. I was fascinated by the project. I know our new journey which we'd embarked on in Malaysia is quite challenging. Nevertheless, I have been excited with the opportunity to work with our multi-disciplinary team, consisting of professors of information technology, sociology, and education. The team is superb and we've got a strong backbone.

Although Malaysia is bordered by Thailand, where I visited last month, they seem to have considerably different characters. I assume that Malaysian people are generally more talkative and light-hearted than Thai people because our Malaysian staffers are unstoppable talkers and "laughing machines." "We don't prefer formal approaches and attitudes, but there is no doubt that we are very hard workers," said one of the staffers. So I replied, "It sounds like you are talking about very practical 'strategies' of NPOs." And then, everyone busted out laughing (again). I saw many good qualities of the staffers. What struck me were their work attitudes. During our discussion, they were taking notes very seriously. Plus, their team-oriented approach kept the ideas, regarding "who does what" and "how to complete each task," flowing. Therefore, we had very productive and smooth sessions.

In Malaysia, UNIMAS is to be our activity site on which we train our staff members, as well as to play an essential role in reaching out to remote communities, such as Bario. I learned that Bario is one of the extremely remote villages in Malaysia. The following is how to access Bario. Take a 2-day boat trip, and then walk through the jungle for 8 hours. Or, take a drive and walk two-and-a-half days. To set up the telecommunication system in Bario, students at UNIMAS had to walk across the chest-high river in the jungle, besides carrying equipment and other necessities on their heads. When they stepped out of the water, they found a lot of leeches covering their bodies. EEK! The scary story gave me a sense of urgency: we need to develop and deploy our e-Traning system as quickly as possible. Good news is that Bario already has an electricity generation system and solar power generation system. What's more, internet access via satellite is available. Who did all the work? Yup, our Malaysian staff! Bario is home to many spectacular and unusual wild animals and plants, which we can only see on TV. So I think our participant who is a bug lover might be interested in and thrilled about interaction with children in Bario.

I believe the year 2009 will mark another milestone for Pangaea. Please help us to continue to grow.

Mr. Takashi Togami, called Spike, is the Pangaea Writer for this month. He had completed the Pangaea Facilitator Leader Training in November and made his debut as a facilitator leader (FL) on December 13, 2008. He is a responsible and dependable FL in Mie. His enthusiasm is contagious. Both participants and staff members love working with him.

Wish you the best for 2009!


Posted by: kumakinoko | 3. Newsletter | Permalink

 Jan 2009 Newsletter: Pangaea ring - Mr. Takashi Togami

Mr. Takashi Togami, called Spike, is the Pangaea Writer for this month. He had completed the Pangaea Facilitator Leader Training in November and made his debut as a facilitator leader (FL) on December 13, 2008. He is a responsible and dependable FL in Mie. His enthusiasm is contagious. Both participants and staff members love working with him.

Hello. My name is Takashi Togami ("spike" is my nickname). I was a FL at the Pangaea activity held at Mie University in December. It's been almost two years since I first got involved with Pangaea activities.

I was introduced to Pangaea through professor Takaharu Kameoka, Division of Sustainable Resource Sciences, Graduate School of Bioresources, Mie University, where I myself belong to. Ever since my first participation in Pangaea activities, I try to join in Pangaea activities as much as possible because I retain a strong sympathy toward Pangaea activities which "aim to create a 'Universal Playground' for the children all around the world in order for them to create bond with each other regardless of the barriers of the languages, time and space" and that roots to my personal experience of living overseas for many years, where I have gained bitter experiences caused by people's bias, prejudice and racial discrimination.

I was the FL for the Pangaea activity held at Mie University on December 13, 2008. We had no Pangaea core staff at the activity then. If I were to give my feedback from that experience in one word, it would be "difficult". I realized, after the activity, that to take the role of a FL required holding so much broader panoramic view as well as much more capability to make sound decisions than just participate in the activities and dealt with the children as a facilitator. We had ran simulation of the activity a number of times during the course of preparation, yet, we had unexpected happenings at the actual activity. However, I do believe that the activity was quite successful thanks to the suggestions and pieces of advice on my ideas of how to organize the activity given by Mr. Hanada, the Pangaea Office manager, as well as the support and cooperation given from all the facilitators in Mie.

As for the children, they seemed to find it odd at first that I was in the middle of the circle as a leader as I had been standing just by them until the last activity in November. As the activity went along, however, the children soon adjusted to the change and some of them even volunteered to support me. I was very happy.

I believe the role of FL is a tough one which requires facing with a lot of challenges from the stage of preparation until the activity. It is, however, a rewarding role at the same time. You can be creative and innovative in organizing the activities and when you see the activities going successful, you get a feeling of joy that you are actually creating something together with all the children and the facilitators who are participating. I am a 'beginner' as a FL and I do have much more to learn, but I hope to move forward together with the children and the facilitators.

Division of Sustainable Resource Sciences,
Graduate School of Bioresources, Mie University
Takashi Togami

Posted by: kumakinoko | 3. Newsletter , 4. Pangaea Ring | Permalink