January 24, 2011

By Bill Jaynes
The Kaselehlie Press

Pohnpei, FSM-Saying that he was part of the group that helped pave the way for Japanese volunteers in the FSM, FSM Secretary for Foreign Affairs, Lorin Robert "crashed" the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) FSM Volunteers General Meeting at Yvonne's conference room on January 14. He apologized for "inviting himself," saying that he simply couldn't stay away from such an important gathering.

Japan Overseas Cooperation Volunteers and senior volunteers who are currently assigned to assist the FSM with programs throughout the FSM gathered together in one place at the annual General Meeting for inspiration and to hear about the progress other volunteers are making in the FSM.

Secretary Robert said that before JOC volunteers began to arrive in the FSM the people of the FSM had the wrong idea about Japanese people. They expected Japanese people to be wealthy tourists with cameras around their necks but the volunteers, who he called Japan's "greatest ambassadors", changed that perception. The program was and is an opportunity to revitalize and to revisit the unique relationship between the FSM and Japan.

He said that FSM also has historically had its own effect on the volunteers themselves. He told a story about the first group of JOC volunteers who went to the airport to greet a new group of volunteers in Pohnpei. When the new group arrived they expressed their surprise that "locals" knew how to speak the Japanese language so well. "But I am Japanese," the fi rst group insisted. FSM had made its own impact on the volunteers' lives.

Mr. Naoyoshi Sasaki, JICA FSM Resident Representative spoke first and gave words of inspiration to the assembled volunteers.

The guest speaker for the meeting was His Excellency Shoji Sato, Ambassador, Embassy of Japan whose speech was illustrated by a Power Point presentation. "The FSM is not a fabulously wealthy nation but is not the most depressed nation either," he said and continued with a rhetorical question, "Why then are you volunteering in the FSM? Why are JOC volunteers staying here?"

His speech explored the definitions of poverty and human security even as it highlighted all of the important contributions that Japan has made during his tenure as the first full fl edged Ambassador of Japan to the FSM; contributions that have helped to increase the standard of living for FSM residents.

He concluded by saying that JOC volunteers and senior volunteers are in the FSM to empower the people of the FSM to act on their own behalf, to work together to do things for themselves.

The 26 JOC volunteers and senior volunteers then heard program reports from volunteers currently serving in each of the four FSM States. The volunteers who gave reports are currently operating in the FSM as part of the Environment Group, or the Education Group, or the Health Group.