The Active English Class is an annual program run by Kazumi Watanabe, chairperson of the Mammy z Tummy Project in Fukushima, and film director Hitomi Kamanaka. The main portion of the program is a summer camp for children whose lives have been badly affected by the disasters of 2011, some of them with ongoing health complications. While enjoying fresh air, healthy food and the great outdoors, the children also have the opportunity to improve their English skills and experience a range of activities they are unable to take part in at home.
This year’s Active English camp took place for 9 nights and 10 days in 2 different remote locations in Miyazaki and Ōita prefectures. A total of 8 students (5 boys and 3 girls) came from Fukushima city, ranging in age from 11 to 15, and one of EOF’s staff members went along as their English tutor.
Personal report: Active English Class 2015
27 – 31 July: Kunitomi, Miyazaki Prefecture
The Kunitomi Hanazen Community Plaza is an inn located inside Hokkedake Park, a wide expanse of forest as far as the eye can see. All meals were prepared by the resident chef and agricultural expert, with most of the ingredients grown on the premises. We scheduled English class in the mornings and various activities in the afternoons, and in their free time the children swam in the nearby river, picked vegetables and played in other areas of the park.
We went on a tour of the production facilities and farms at Agri-Sun Academia and received a lecture from the head of the corporation, Yoshio Nagatomo. The children also had the opportunity to pick figs and boysenberries and make blueberry jam, which everyone got to take home.
The children were especially excited to swim in the ocean as it is no longer considered safe to do so in Fukushima. We also enjoyed kayaking, snorkeling and hunting for seashells along the azure coast of Takamatsu and Nichinan Beaches in Kushima. We met up with residents of the area and cooked lunch on the beach, and the students learned how to surf together with the local children.
Among other delights, we were even fortunate enough to be visited by both a koto ensemble and a taiko drum group, and the children got a chance to try the instruments and play together with the performers.
01 – 05 August: Yufu, Ōita Prefecture
It took almost a whole day by bus and car to get to our second lodgings up in the hot spring mountain area of Yufu. We stayed at the Kurodake Inn, which is so deep in the forest that the trees almost block out the sky. There is natural sparkling water running throughout the area, which is not only delicious but has reported health benefits.
We enjoyed sparkling hot spring baths and showers, but brushing our teeth with sparkling water was a bit unexpected! Here the food was also locally sourced and prepared on site. The highlight was sparkling nagashi soumen (literally “flowing noodles”) with handmade yuzu pepper.
Most of our time was concentrated on using the English we had studied to prepare speeches for an upcoming presentation about Fukushima. Each student chose a place or aspect of Fukushima prefecture that they wanted to introduce to people in other countries, and on the last night they performed the speeches before staff and guests of the inn.
The students were all great kids and a joy to teach, and I was pleased to see a marked improvement in their English. Some of them told me they became interested in English for the first time, which is even more important to me as a teacher. I also feel that every one of them taught me something unique and special that only they could impart, and for that I am truly grateful.
Some of the students experienced health problems but they still participated with enthusiasm and enjoyed the lessons and activities to the fullest, which I found very inspiring. The program leader Kazumi was not only an amazing teacher but also a natural role model to all the children.
Thanks to Kazumi and her generous friends across Miyazaki and Ōita prefectures, we enjoyed a broad scope of new experiences and learned so much in a short time. I would like to take this opportunity to convey my utmost gratitude to The Mammy z Tummy Project and all related people for a fascinating and rewarding trip.