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Okinawans and foreign community unite for Summit success

By: Kenny Ehman

Date Posted: 1999-10-19

Last Friday, October 8, Camp Kinser's Surfside restaurant hosted a banquet to inaugurate the future cooperation between Seattle Colleges East-Asia Network, the marines stationed at Kinser, and other members of the United States Military, to support next year's G-8 Summit. Approximately 130 people attended the banquet. Among them were guests of honor Colonel Paul R. Puckett, Base Commander of Camp Kinser; Karen Kelley, US Consul for Public Affairs; and Mikio Shimoji, former Parliamentary Vice Minister.

The Seattle Colleges East-Asia Network is spearheading this cooperation campaign through its "Okinawa Association of International Interpreting Volunteers". The initiative provides language training and Okinawan history courses to both local nationals and foreigners who wish to volunteer as guides and interpreters for the G-8 Summit. The courses started last month and have already received over 500 inquiries. Yukiko Shinzato, Chief Coordinator of the program, explained that the turnout for foreigners was very low, one reason why they are seeking a cooperative relationship with the US Military. "The program is open to everyone, and it is free to all foreigners," she said.

Instructors from Seattle Colleges conduct several classes, which give the volunteers basic skills for interpreting. Students also take part in different field trips, and there are work-experience seminars that enable students to use their acquired language skills in real life situations. Seattle Colleges designed the training courses to provide many opportunities for international exchange. The program has been arranged to accommodate the schedules of working individuals as much as possible.

Colonel Puckett is giving his full support to Seattle College's plan. He told the Japan Update that Camp Kinser would use its newsletter and the "Single Marine" program to notify marines about the international volunteer project. He also mentioned that Camp Kinser's support is just one of many ways in which the marine base is actively promoting closer ties with the Okinawan community. "We have a Japanese school that we work with. We are active with the Urasoe Chamber of Commerce and the Rotary Club, and we have fifty-four Okinawans enrolled in the BRIDGE program here at Kinser. My wife is also involved with the Ladies of Urasoe Chamber of Commerce Cultural Exchange," said Colonel Puckett. "

During his opening speech, Colonel Puckett talked about the importance of the US Military relationship with Japan and the need for cooperation between the American and Okinawan communities. "One thing the leaders should see is Americans and Okinawans working together,'' he said, referring to the upcoming Summit. "All attempts to improve relationships on Okinawa must be encouraged."

Noboru Uechi, President of Seattle Colleges East-Asia Network, stressed the significance of Okinawa's diversity during his opening remarks. "It is sad that the Americans and Okinawans have very little chance to communicate on a regular basis. This is really unfortunate and this is the true reason why I came up with the idea of the interpreter's association." He continued by saying, "This island has an American heart. It also has an Okinawan heart, and it has a Japanese heart. People from China, Philippines, South America, Mexico and all over the world share the beautiful spirit on the island."

Anyone interested in becoming a member of the G8 Summit through the Okinawa Association of International Interpreting Volunteers can call 860-7320.

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