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American, Okinawan children dive into each others’ culture

Date Posted: 2005-10-13

CAMP KINSER, OKINAWA, Japan — Children with the Kinser School-Aged Care program hosted Japanese children with Nakanishi Elementary School for an hour-long cultural exchange at the Kinser Youth and Teen Center here Oct 5.

According to Mi-Dona Worley, the program director for the youth center, the weekly exchange program is aimed at providing the children with a unique opportunity.

“The children are getting to understand each others’ culture and experience their diversity at a young age,” Worley said. “These experiences are very valuable and will stay with them for the rest of their lives.”

Both student groups, Nakanishi Elementary and the SAC program, study American and Okinawan culture as part of their regular class schedules. The children had the opportunity to apply the things they learned in the classroom during the exchange.

“It’s really good for me to use the Japanese I learned,” said Anthony Christoff, a 9-year-old SAC student. “I can say what grade I’m in. I can also say what language I speak and how old I am.”

After spending some time getting to know their counterparts, the children headed outside in the sun to play a variety of American-styled games. American and Okinawan children paired up to take on several team-oriented events, including an obstacle course and tug-of-war.

“It was fun and cool – just basically exciting,” Christoff said.

After the makeshift obstacle course, the hot, sweaty children headed inside for popsicles and quality time.

“It was a special time, and I liked the popsicles,” said Bobbie Murphy, a 7-year-old SAC student.

It seems both student groups left with more than just sugar in their bellies, but memories for a lifetime.

“They might not understand right now, but for these children it’s a really great opportunity,” said Ichino Kuba, Camp Kinser community relation specialist. “They are very fortunate. It’s almost like a sort of vacation to study abroad.”

The recent trip to Kinser is the second visit for Nakanishi Elementary since the program’s inception. Before the Kinser SAC program hosted Nakanishi Elementary at Kinser, the Okinawan school hosted the exchange program at their facilities. According to Worley, the groups will change locations every four weeks.

The Kinser School-Aged Care program is for children ages 5-12. Worley can be contacted for more information about the program at 637-3713.

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