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Tokyo Metoroporitan Koishikawa Secondary Education school


What I want to tell you through joining “Take Off! Study-abroad Japan”... (Interview to Ms. Y)

Ms. Y participated care & community activities in Ghana for 2 weeks from July to August in 2015. She mainly took care of children in day care and repaired an elementary school.

She is now writing her experiences from notes of about 10,000 characters written in activities.

She applied for this program after she had known the national scholarship system “Take Off! Study-abroad Japan”. It supports students’ voluntary study-abroad and it has a course for high school students who do international volunteer. She looked for a suitable volunteer company. She talked as follows.

Accepting applications for it started in February last year. I found “Projects Abroad”, which gave us full information from that early time, which had a program for high school students and which seemed to be reassuring to join. I decided to use this at once.

I got along with my preparation with staff’s kind support. I got in airplane alone with only hope at the day of departure. Honestly speaking, the 2 weeks after the day was not “perfectly ideal” and I felt hard many times.

Communication at Ghana was especially hard. I was in a group of only 6 girls.

All members except me was from the UK and Ireland, which were near. Besides, three girls had known one another, and the other 2 girls came by the same airplane by promising with e-mail. Girls who came alone was only me. What was worse, I was only non-native from Asia. I was too isolated.

Ghanaian staff, who I wanted to rely on, was very kind, but they spoke English with a strong accent, so I often got tired of communication. Life at the developing country, taking shower with a bucket, meals of many carbohydrates and hard work. It was hard to do them with loneliness. I cried alone many times.

Ms. Y (I) wrote hard experiences until here, thinking the case that students who is going to join it does activities under the same situation as me. However when I am asked “Do you want to recommend this program?” “Do you want to join it again?” , I will answer “Yes” without hesitation. I got much bigger things there than the hard experiences.

Courage to jump into an unknown environment, knowledge which can be got only there, experiences, landscape and memories I can never get in Japan. Maybe this is contradictory to my story, but precious friends. I thought I couldn’t make friends with them, but through doing many activities together, I fit in with the other members in the 2nd week. I made so good friends with them that we said good-bye with tears in our eyes at the last day. After all, I couldn’t follow their fast conversation and I was just smiling holding my tongue in the circle of conversation as ever. However it was my first experience that I have communicated with someone without words.


I keep in touch with them also after coming back to Japan. I am looking forward to realizing the promise that I will go to London and everyone will gather again, which is said by a group member at the time of parting.

Of course the contact with people there got an experiences that I will never forget. The time when I spent with children is especially a precious memory. Communication with them, who could speak English little yet, was impatient because I couldn’t make myself understood. However they ran to me calling me “Anti” innocently and smiled to me unconditionally. I miss them and their smile now.


Ms. Y (I) have been interested in international cooperation for a long time. I spent very meaningful days in that point. I am sure that there are the actual state we can only know if we go to the place and people’s real voices we understand when we listen to directly. For example, because I lived under the inconvenience electrical and water situation, I got more interested in development of developing country.

Besides, Ms. Y (I) had chances to attend a lecture about Ghana and to go to an exhibition about developing countries after coming back to Japan, and I could  sympathize and absorb them well because I had been there. I think I have my own opinion and interpretation although I have little when I only knew knowledge from books and internet. I think it was very precious to get those treasures when I was a high school student before entering university.

This summer was the most substantial one in my life of about 16 years. Looking back pictures and records now, the days were so stimulating that they seem to have been a dream. I cannot write everything here.

I want to tell students who is going to join it that you should communicate with friend in your group positively from early time. It is important having attitude that shows your feeling that you want to make friends with them than words after all. The stronger bonds with your friends get, the more exciting activities will get. I hope that many high school students have excellent experiences.


Talk in school festival

Republic of Ghana, as seen from one high school student


I did volunteer activities stayed with a Ghanaian family for 2 weeks at Ghana through a national scholarship system called “Take Off! Study-abroad Japan”. I would like to talk about the details that I decided to go to Ghana and about activities there.

Take Off! Study-abroad Japan is a campaign for promoting study-abroad by the Ministry of Education. It is a cooperative scholarship system by a public and private sector for educating global person. It has courses for high school students and for university students. A unique point is that students don’t join a study-abroad plan provided by Take Off but they plan by themselves. If you are elected, you can get financial help. I looked for a volunteer program by myself, and found a company “Projects abroad”, and decided to join there program. The prior training and posterior training is substantial and you can make many friends through Take Off.

 I am interested in international society and international volunteering.

In the last year, leaflets for member recruitment of Tobitate Japan program were passed out. I found the international volunteering section in my leaflet, and I was excited.

 In the autumn 2014, I joined a program which was held by Republic of South Africa Embassy in Japan and Embassy of the Republic of Haiti in Japan, and I visited Embassy of Burkina Faso in Japan during this program. I am interested in West Africa from this time, so I wanted to go to a country in West Africa for volunteering.


PROJECTS ABROAD has many plans for volunteering in various countries.

 These are the reasons why I decided to go to Ghana.

1 To watch the state of a developing country

 This is the biggest reason. I heard the lecture by an officer from Embassy of Burkina Faso in Japan when I visited there. There were some difference between the lecture and my knowledge about developing countries. From that time, to watch the state of a developing country is one of my aims.

2 To improve my English skill

 When I had stayed in Australia for two weeks as a program of my high school, I could take almost communication by using just “YES” and “OK”. I wanted to try my English skill and improve it in Ghana.

3 To make friends who can be my rivals and work hard together

 Many high school students apply for the Tobitate Japan program. They have dreams to work around the world in the future. I wanted to communicate with them and become friends. The volunteering program which I joined is called “High school students special”, and many other students from various countries also joined this program. I wanted to talk with them.

Republic of Ghana,as seen from one high school student

 I used the program which is held by PROJECTS ABROAD. This company has various volunteering programs and gives good support both in Japan and Ghana.

Program: Ghana Care & Community Day: July 26th 2015~August 8th 2015 (I went to Haneda airport and left Japan in the night that I came back from my basketball club training camp. That was hard schedule.)

About Ghana ・Population: about 23 million ・Capital: Accra ・Religion: Most of citizens are Christian. ・Money: Cedi (3.5 cedi = 1$) ・Official language: English (But there are more than 250 languages in Ghana. People in there speak other language.) ・Climate: The tropics (But it is dry and where I stayed is cooler than other place, so Ghana is more comfortable to stay than Japan.) I stayed Aqua pem hills. It takes 40 minutes from Accra by car.

Talk in school festival

Republic of Ghana, as seen from one high school student

・Before going to Ghana
I decided to apply for Tobitate program in January. After that I had contacted PROJECTS ABROAD and made the application document. I joined a consultation meeting about study abroad. In May, I received the notification of passing the examination to join Tobitate program. I joined pre-training, got an yellow fever vaccination (this vaccination is necessary to go to Ghana), and go to the PROJECTS ABROAD office to consult personally in June. Then, I got a visa and a plane ticket in July.
I bought a mosquito net and a sleeping bag especially to prevent malaria, but a sleeping bag was not necessary and I could lend another mosquito net (my net did not fit). I was so busy to prepare for going to Ghana, prepare for my basketball club training camp, job of the committee, and job of my club in July.

Talk in school festival

Republic of Ghana, as seen from one high school student

・Activities in Ghana
In the first week, I did some works at a day-care center in morning and painted the school to repair it in afternoon. The works were switched in the second week, so I had gone to the day-care center in afternoon. I had various special events in each evening. I saw traditional foods in Ghana, practiced dancing and playing the drums, and had a quiz tournament. I visited a botanical garden on the first Thursday and the beads market on the second Thursday. I had a trip to Cape Coast on weekends. I visited Cape Coast Castle, National Park, and the beach.

Activity 1: Day-care Center
A day-care center is the place like a kindergarten in Japan.
My jobs were to change the children’s clothes, to play with them, to teach about colors and numbers, washing, etc… The children were so friendly. They called me “Auntie”, and always gathered around with me. They like to hug. Taking communication was hard because the children could not speak English well. They always scrambled for something because there is not enough goods.
They scrambled for color pencils in the small classroom, and ask me to draw a picture again and again. They were so cute, but I was so tired. I really hate washing. We washed all things in one bucket and rinsed in the same bucket. The water got dirty and dirty. My hands were so itchy. I thought it would never get clean.
I would like to tell them about Japanese culture as a Tobitate program student from Japan. I did Origami and Shodou (Japanese traditional calligraphy). When I did Shodou, I wrote names of them with Kanji.

Talk in school festival

Republic of Ghana, as seen from one high school student

Activity 2: Painting
Our job was just paint an elementary school. Where we painted was a part of the school, some classrooms gathered in one place. I went there during summer vacation. Preparing the school makes the students enjoy their school lives and study hard. It was fun the first time, but it made us tired and painting closely made us annoyed. We got sick of it for 2 weeks, but we had a sense of achievement so much when we finished it.

Trouble/Difference with Japan

①Water trouble
In Ghana, the house which can get water from faucets and a shower is rare. If we can, we cannot drink these water. When my hands were dirty because of painting, I wiped my hands with wet wipes. We drank packed water or bottled water. We used it to brush our teeth. The water which was used to take shower, wash our hands and flush the toilet was bought at a store. There was a big tank in a garden and we store water, and get it in a bucket from the tank, then put the bucket in each room. Please watch the video first. This is the room I stayed for 2 weeks. There is a big bucket at the corner of this room. The hardest trouble was taking shower. I brought water in a small bucket to the bath, and I had to wash all of my body and hair with the little water. My home could get some hot water for shower luckily, but usually people wash their body with cold water in Ghana. I did it on only the first day. I was freezing to death. There are also these troubles in hotels. When I stayed at a hotel in Cape Coast, I expected to take shower. But the shower was broken in the first room I was showed. In the second room, I could get water, but it just trickled. I also have a trouble about the toilet. When I went to the restroom in the hotel, the flusher of the toilet was broken. It never happen in Japan.

Talk in school festival

Republic of Ghana, as seen from one high school student

②Electric trouble
“It is really dark inside a house!”
This is what I thought when I arrived at home first. There was only one small light top of the wall in my room, so my room got really dark during the night. The other rooms are also dark. I was scared to be bitten by a mosquito in the night, so I went to bed earlier than usual inevitably.
Ghana is in a power crisis from last year. We often had blackouts. I was interested in the electricity and asked local people. They said “most of the electricity is made by hydraulic power.” I was surprised about that. They have much oil, but 70% of it is exported to other countries. They don’t use solar energy. I thought they should use other power generation method. I did not eat enough vegetables. Vegetables are really expensive in Ghana. People in some area are sick because of malnutrition. I thought they should use rainwater to make vegetables.

What I felt so hard is taking communication. First of all, I stayed with other five students in the same house. They came from England and Ireland.
I saw “You will stay with more than ten students from various countries. Few students are not native English speakers. You will have so fun.” on the website. My situation was really different with that! Teen age girls spoke British English so fast around me, and the staffs in there spoke their local language. I couldn’t understand anyone speaking . I was alone and I cried every day in the first week. It was really bitter experience. There were many hard things, but I could become friendly with everybody at last. I got the power to complete something patiently. It is really precious experience to see a developing country when I am a high school student. This experience will affect my future. Anyway, anything cannot understand until we watch it with our own eyes. I heard Ghana made surprising progress before I go, but there were many things which need to improve in there.
On the other hand, the educational system was much better than I thought before. It is not enough to get information from only books and internet.
I saw Japanese cars and guys doing Mario games in net cafes. Japanese culture was spread in Ghana. As a Japanese student, I want to know about Japan more to explain my culture. I could enjoy this program through two weeks thanks to everybody supported me. I would like to say thank you for Tobitate staffs, teachers, my friends, and my family. I am so proud of this experience in Ghana, and I will work hardly to use it well for the future.

This article was written based on interviews with Ms.M・Y in November 2015.

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