During the summer, the Tohoku Relief Homestay program has provided Japanese high school and university students with the opportunity for an all-expense-paid home stay with participating host families in the United States, helping them take a new step forward in their lives.
Participating students are among thousands of young Japanese people who have been impacted by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami and the crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.
With the support of American Airlines, a total of 62 students traveling in four groups have spent time in the United States this summer. The first group of 16 students had a 3-week home stay in Dallas. The second group of 15 went to Phoenix; the third group of 15 also stayed in Phoenix; while the 4th group of 8 stayed in Houston. A 5th group of 8 university students left Narita on Monday for Fort Smith, Arkansas.
In each city, 2 students were paired up with a host family. During their home stay, the students attended English language school in the morning and then enjoyed a variety of activities in the afternoon. The English-language study program was supported by language school operators, including Berlitz Languages, Inc.
American Airlines provided support on the ground, including local event coordination and an airport tour.
More than 210 students have so far participated in the Tohoku Relief Homestay program, which is also sending eligible students to Australia (72 students), New Zealand (50) and Hawaii (20).
Following the devastating earthquake and tsunami on March 11, members of Japan’s New Zealand community were inspired to develop a program that would offer traumatized young Japanese students an opportunity to begin their long journey to recovery among families in New Zealand, which had experienced a destructive earthquake in Christchurch barely 3 weeks earlier (February 22). This program, endorsed by the New Zealand Ambassador to Japan and “Support our Kids” Committee, was then expanded to include destinations in Australia and the United States.
Host families were vetted by local churches/organizations and screened by local authorities. The program offered 24-hour support by Japanese counselors in each city where the students stayed.
Students applied to the program in response to announcements posted at schools in devastated areas and were selected through a screening process.
Tohoku Relief Homestay bore all expenses incurred during the program – including travel expenses, living expenses and fees for passport applications and visas – using funds raised by program partner Support Our Kids and other contributors.