In one of my classes at Ritsumeikan, Service Learning, we learn about social issues, community and not-for-profit organizations (NPO). The course is taught half in the classroom and half through field work in Ritsumeikan’s neighbourhood and the local community in Kyoto.
Last week I got the chance to visit a local community radio station, Radio Cafe, which in part is an actual cafe where they do live recordings, and also a conventional radio station. The cafe was really cool and had this amazing sliding door made out of some kind of crazy soap stone mosaic (at least that’s what it looked like to me). The people in the cafe seemed really down to earth but also quite hip- kind of like Main Street in Vancouver but not trying as hard.
We took a look at the radio station and got a run down from the head honcho and our teacher about their recent work on staying connected with people and stories from the areas and communities affected by the 3/11 natural disaster in Japan. Because they are a community based radio station and not in the mainstream media, they were able to do more personable interviews with survivors, researchers and experts on the subject of the disaster. When the natural disaster occurred on 3/11 a lot of people couldn’t connect to the internet or watch TV to gather news or information, but they could listen to the radio.
At Radio Cafe, they believe it is important to keep sharing the stories and happenings in these communities beyond 3/11 to inspire people to become more proactive within their own communities. They’ve inspired a lot of other areas to start up their own local community radio stations as well, which is pretty cool. In our class we will work on creating a type of broadcast that we will record and send to a local community centre near Sendai in an area that was affected by 3/11.
Another cool project we got to work on today was making thread from cotton balls. Our teacher is involved in a program that teaches communities, recently in the areas affected by the 3/11 disaster, how to grow their own cotton so that they can make their own clothes and become more self-sufficient.
In the end, we will dye the thread in Ohara with vegetable dye and then weave it into a tapestry that we will send to one of the local communities that our teacher worked in after 3/11.
I planned to take a trip to Japan in the summer of 2011, but because of the disaster, Nick and I changed our plans and went to Southeast Asia. It didn’t seem like a good time to be a tourist in a country that was trying to put the pieces back together. I always felt like I wanted to contribute something to support or aid of the disaster affected area but I wasn’t sure what I would do. I think this class has helped me become connected to the communities that were directly affected more than I expected to in Kyoto, miles away. I hope this is just the beginning and that I can make some even more meaningful contributions in the future!