Pursue your dreams: a ‘group visit’ with Fukushima children

For the sixth consecutive year the Association Orto dei Sogni will host twenty Japanese children living in the neighbouring areas of Fukushima, still strongly contaminated by radiation, for one month.

The project, conceived in 2012, gives concrete help to the population affected by the Tsunami and the nuclear incident, which occured in March 2011. In these situations children are the most affected, because they are forced to grow up with a constant fear of radiation. The Orto Association of Dreams instead wants to give them the possibility of experiencing a relaxed and carefree summer and have contact with nature. This summer the stay will take place in Pietra Ligure, in a wholesome environment that allows their bodies to combat the effects of radiation and reinforce their immune systems.

Thanks to collaboration with the University, some students from Ca’ Foscari, from the Department of Asian and North African Studies will participate in the project, living side by side with the young hosts.

Matteo Bettin, student of the department and veteran of the project explained to us how it was organised and what the principal aims of the association are:
“The project has developed so much within the space of a year: initially we had to find volunteers that were first and foremost cheerful and good with children, but also with specific prerequisites: a good level of Japanese; first aid skills; and previous experience with scouts or entertaining. Once they have been selected the volunteers proceed with raising money: the association is non-profit, so all of our bills, from airplane tickets to renting the facilities, are financed by donations. The next step is to prepare for the stay and finalise the preparations for medical services that the children receive at the beginning of the holiday, offered by the medical faculties of this area. We are looking to prepare to be able to completely welcome the children into a calm, happy, and stimulating environment. Many children from Fukushima have never seen the sea or not since the disaster, and so for them it is always exciting. Additionally, there will be Italian children, to promote a complete cultural exchange. Our “Orto Home” is also a simple summer camp, bit we want it to have a real family feel, in which you can learn about each other's rich cultures in another country. We have been successful to this day. By the end of the stay, the children understand each other without the need for interpreters, we are still in contact with many young people who have participated in the programme, and many dream of organising a large reunion with all the previous participants”.

Gabriele was selected this year as a volunteer, and this summer will participate in the project for the first time:
“I decided to participate mainly for widening my human experience, but also for the opportunity to improve my Japanese,  interacting with native speakers in close proximity for a month is not to be underestimated. All the teachers were really encouraging, and the work of organising and fundraising has already allowed me to grow in the last few months. I already have volunteering experience in both Japan and Italy, and they were wonderfully enriching experiences. I don’t have any experience with children, apart from a few years of scouts. I imagine that the month will be demanding as well as tiring, but will bring priceless rewards”.

Teresa Trallori