Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Student trip to Japan explores devastation

Kizuna project allows teens to see tsunami damage

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Parents, they promise they're not going anywhere near radiation, OK?

But 24 students from Kelvin High School will get a close look at the devastation the March 11, 2011, earthquake and tsunami unleashed on Japan, horrific damage from which the region has yet to recover.

"I don't think people know how bad it was," said student Maddy Pineau.

Kelvin is the first Canadian school to take part in Kizuna -- Japanese for bonds, as in bonds of friendship -- an international project financed by Japanese organizations to bring young students from around the world to see the devastation and to form ties with affected students.

"It was started after the tsunami hit in Japan. It's a global project," Pineau said.

The 24 students are enrolled in Asia-Pacific and Japanese language credit courses at Kelvin.

They leave Jan. 3 for two weeks, then their Japanese host students come to Winnipeg in late March.

"We're going to a school to participate in some learning," student Marc Rochette said.

The students will be billeted with families, they'll attend classes in which they'll be expected to speak Japanese and they'll go to work.

Teacher Raymond Sokalski said the students could be planting trees, working in a daycare for displaced families or clearing debris -- though not radioactive debris.

"It's shining a spotlight on what international co-operation can do," Sokalski said.

"It's not going to be radioactive work," student John Manning assured.

Michaela Prentice said she enrolled because "Asian countries are becoming more important for the economy."

"You learn pretty much everything on politics and culture," Elleaina Bearden said.

Sokalski said the students will never be without someone who speaks English, but they should expect many people in the Kanto coastal region will speak only Japanese.

Student Dong In Won said the students have to get their heads around not only Japanese language and grammar, but syntax: In English, we would say the tsunami happened because of an earthquake, he said, while in Japanese, you would say, "because of the earthquake, the tsunami happened."

While the students' costs are covered, they're raising funds to make a donation to relief efforts, said student Freddie Cousins.

There's been a whatever-you-want-to-pay bake sale that made a huge profit and Peak of the Market vegetable sales, and a craft sale will be held in the future, Cousins said.

nick.martin@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 22, 2012 B3

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