I have spent nearly half of my life with IV-JAPAN.
Also, more than 25 years have passed since I have been living in Laos.
If I recall, I was 10 years old when I was looking at an encyclopedia and saw a series of pictures of how to wear Indian sari. I thought at the moment, “Oh, how beautiful, I want to wear it too.” So I started learning English and had an Indian pen friend when I was 12 years old. I’m still in touch with her.
I joined Girl’s Scout when I was 14 years old because I wanted to do more international activities. At that time, there were only about 10 troops in Tokyo. It was over 60 years ago. After becoming a leader, I learned Development-Education as a new type of international education, which is actually the origin of IV-JAPAN.
Whether in developed or developing countries, we help each other to make a living. Therefore, I think the idea of Development-Education is; “What can be done to make everyone happy? We must think globally, act locally.”
I happened to have the opportunity to live in Thailand in 1980 for a year. I visited poor rural areas and refugee camps in the northeastern and northern parts of Thailand. I then returned to Japan, and founded the International Volunteer Association, (IV-JAPAN) in 1988.
In Thailand, we have started scholarships and rural development. The scholarship donors (cooperators) called on friends and acquaintances to cooperate with more than 100 people from the first year.
In 1994, we moved to the poorer neighboring country of Thailand, which is Laos. About 300 Laos refugees lived in Omiya City of Japan at that time. And I started vocational training at the request of refugees to support the people of Laos. We are engaged in sewing, cooking, hairdressing and wood-working furniture. Now there are more than 2,500 graduates in this training.
Many graduates are employed at hotels and restaurants in Vientiane, Laos. Many graduates are starting a small business. I am very happy to hear from graduates of our training in the city from time to time.
We would like to introduce an example of one entrepreneurial graduate. Mrs. Boun is a graduate of hairdressing and beauty vocational training and is opening a beauty salon. After graduating from junior high school, she took three days from a rural house in northern Sam Neua, Laos to reach Vientiane, the capital. She married at the age of 17, and was already a mother of two when she entered our vocational training center. Her husband had run away from home three times and they were facing many family problems which one can only imagine in countries which are less blessed. Due to the circumstances, she raised her child by herself. She said that she was grateful that I was able to afford a happy life, thanks to the beauty training of IV-Japan.
Her own efforts have been great, and now she has become a popular hairdresser with good skills and good taste, earning at least 10 times more the average income of Laos, owning her own car and house. Her eldest son has passed the EJU and is studying in China. Her eldest daughter says she will become a beautician after graduating from high school, and is working hard to help the hairdresser. They have established a sustainable living and come out of poverty.
In the last over 30 years, IV-Japan has gone through a lot. From important meetings that could not take place because we could not afford it due to various reasons to small and big issues. Our organization is an International Organization but not very big. Even though I was a house-wife when I started this organization, if we look back we have been able to build around 30 schools and vocational training schools in various parts of Laos.
In Nepal since 2015 we have started vocational training for village
women on dress making, soap making etc.
Thanks to everyone’s support, I even received the prestigious many Awards such as the 4th class Medal of Deerake Khunapone from Thai King and the 2nd class Medal of Labor from the President of Laos and some more.
Unfortunately, in 2019, I met with an accident during a site visit in Laos. I am grateful that my life was saved, and I feel that it is my mission to be kept alive, and I will continue to do my best for the people of Laos and Nepal.”