June 13, 2009

 Facilitator Training Sessions and Pangaea Activity Held in Mie

Today, we got 11 new facilitators in Mie, Japan. They attended our two-day facilitator training session held at Mie University. Yesterday was our first day of the training session; and we started our second day at 9 AM this morning. It might be a tough schedule for the attendees, but they could complete the training session.

After the training session, the Pangaea Activity at Mie University took place for the first time in this school year, having started in April. During the activity, our volunteers, including the brand-new facilitators, and 24 energetic children enjoyed playing together. Some of the children were forth-year participants. I was amazed at their maturity gained by attending our program.

At the beginning of the activity, I was anxious about the new facilitators because they appeared to be a bit jumpy. There were a few reasons why they became nervous: new experience, new participants, and new term... However, I was really impressed by the new facilitators: they demonstrated their ability to effortlessly interact with children. After the activity, they were given a certificate of completion issued by Pangaea.

Over all, we had a good start to the 2009/2010 school year. I’d like to thank all of our supporters who have been working with Pangaea in Mie: Tsu City Board of Education, Mie University, local schools, private corporations, and our volunteers. The Pangaea Project in Mie had started with support from the Japanese Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology. By the end of the 2008/2009 school year, Tsu City decided to take over the Pangaea Project. Now our project is being run by Tsu City as a new city program. I deeply appreciate our supporters who contributed their energy, time, endorsement, resources, and passion to kick off our new term at the Mie University activity site.

I also want to thank Mr. Takashi Togami, aka Spike, for his hard work as a facilitator leader. He is a graduate student at Mie University and dependable volunteer for Pangaea. Today, he was assigned many tasks, such as introducing the Pangaea Project and PangaeaNet to new members, so as to assist in running our activity. Because some tasks were new to him, he might feel overwhelmed with responsibilities. Nevertheless, he successfully accomplished his tasks. I was very proud of his achievement.

We will continue to work with our supporters in order to provide our children with an environment where they can feel a sense of connection with others.

Takekazu Hanada a.k.a Hana-pooh
Chief Administrative Officer

Posted by: kumakinoko | 1. Activity Report | Permalink

June 05, 2009

 Jun 2009 Newsletter: Yumi's Monthly Note

Hello, everyone!

Swine flu reached Japan. Japanese authorities confirmed cases of swine flu in the Kansai Region, including the prefectures of Kyoto, Osaka, and Hyogo. Because our office is located in Kyoto, plus we have activity sites inside and outside Japan, we have been forced to change our plans in order to secure our safety. It was a very tough decision for us to make, but we canceled the May Webcam Activity connecting between Kyoto and Seoul. Additionally, we have voluntarily restricted our activities in Kyoto. The upcoming Webcam Activity, networking between Malaysia and Kyoto, was moved from June to July. Those critical decisions were made quickly with support from the Pangaea Emergency Management Committee. The committee consists of our board members and staff, as well as of individuals outside of our organization. It was formed at the end of last year with a sense of urgency. To determine the best course of action for Pangaea, Toshi and I have been excluded from the committee. This is because both of us have a very strong sense of mission, and it can impair our objectivity and judgment in terms of risk management.

I guess you might want to know what else we have done during the swine flu outbreak. Looking on the bright side, we have had plenty of time to review and assess our organization so as to improve our financial structure. Toshi and I have been discussing our midterm plan as many details as possible. That is a grueling task, but we know for sure that we can't move forward without completing the process. So, we will continue to strive.

As I mentioned in the last newsletter, our headquarters has moved. We officially opened our new office on May 1, 2009. In order to solve our space issues (more staff and more stuff), we had been looking for a large room to accommodate our 6 staffers. Then, we eventually got a spacious room, located next to our previous office, to move in.

To make our workspace more organized, we obviously needed to buy some furniture - ideally at IKEA. So, our staff and Mr. Okano, our board member, arranged our shopping tour to a local IKEA store. Mr. Okano drove his pick-up truck to the IKEA store, on the other hand, Pangaea staff traveled by a rental car to meet up with Mr. Okano at the store. While strolling through the store, we got 2 used office desks and some self-assembly shelf units to organize a large wall in our new office. In the outlet section, we found a conference table which seats up to 8 people. Surprisingly, it cost only 14,000 Japanese yen (roughly 140 US dollars). We learned that IKEA has its own strategies - self-service, self-transportation, and self-assembly - to keep prices low. We followed the "do-it-yourself" concept and put all furniture together by ourselves. All our books and materials were put on the brand-new shelf units. Happily, everything went according to plan, and we could create a functional workspace.

To tell the truth, it was the first time that we spent a huge amount of money(although it cost a little over 100,000 Japanese yen) on furnishing our office. "Wow, we did something we had never done before...," Toshi murmured. I know he has done so many favors toward Pangaea. To give him something as a reward, I want to meet more people to promote the Pangaea Project. Please back me up!

Well, do not forget to wash your hands and gargle!

This month Pangaea Ring writer is Alvin, from the Universiti Malaysia Sarawak. He is one of the main staff at the Malaysia site. I appreciate his understanding of Pangaea activity. I also love his three pretty children.


Posted by: kumakinoko | 3. Newsletter | Permalink

 Jun 2009 Newsletter: Pangaea ring - Mr. Alvin W. Yeo

This month Pangaea Ring writer is Alvin, from the Universiti Malaysia Sarawak. He is one of the main staff at the Malaysia site. I appreciate his understanding of Pangaea activity. I also love his three pretty children.


Good day all from Kuching, Sarawak, Malaysia! My name is Alvin Yeo, and I am the Director of the Centre of Excellence for Rural Informatics in Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (UNIMAS), within which the PANGAEA programme is run. In UNIMAS, 22 local school children, 34 facilitators and 4 technical support persons, are involved. Ably headed by Fitri Mohamad, we have now had four Pangaea activities since Feb 2009.

My first introduction to Pangaea was in December 2008 by co-founders Yumiko Mori and Toshiyuki Takasaki in UNIMAS. I have to admit that I was quite impressed by Yumi and Toshi's passion for their work. In addition, it was an eye opener to see how they used technology and typical activities (such as drawing) in engaging school children to not only forge friendships locally, but to create international bonds (through the messaging and also webcam activities).

In the four sessions held thus far in UNIMAS, it was obvious that the school children were enthusiastic in taking part in the various activities. There were also those that were initially timid, but who were ultimately coaxed out of their shyness by the facilitators involved. I was also pleased to see that the facilitators, comprising undergraduates and research assistants from different faculties, showed similar enthusiasm in going about the activities. The forging of bonds was occurring not only among the school children, but also among the facilitators, technical staffers, academics, and the staffers in Japan. I look forward to the Webcam activity in July, and to see how the school children in particular will respond and interact with school children from Japan.

At present, the Pangaea activity is held in UNIMAS, very much in an urban setting. All things going to plan, we are aiming to run the Pangaea activities in Bario, a remote and rural community, by the end of this year. While in the city, we enjoy facilities (which we sometimes take for granted), communities such as those in Bario have neither 24 hour power supply, nor fixed-line telephones. Thus, it will be an interesting challenge to run the Pangaea activity in a location where power is generated by solar panels and diesel generator sets, and where the Internet access available via a satellite telecommunication systems (VSAT). Would the school students in Bario respond to the activities as per their counterparts in the city? Stay tuned...

Alvin W. Yeo
Centre of Excellence for Rural Informatics,
Faculty of Computer Science and Information Technology
Universiti Malaysia Sarawak


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