Event welcomes 75 guests to the prestigious venue at the UK House of Commons
Ashinaga France and UK hubs to provide momentum to AAI
Coming off the back of President Tamai’s successful talk at Sciences Po in Paris, given in September at the request of Director Frédéric Mion, Ashinaga has opened its UK office with a splash at an event held at the UK House of Commons on the 20th November.
This means that Ashinaga now has strategic hubs for the Ashinaga Africa Initiative (AAI) in the UK and France and a route for AAI students to study at the most prestigious universities in Europe. This will make the process for AAI students to study in Europe quicker and easier from the 5th intake and beyond.
President Tamai (front-row centre), Vice President Shimomura (front-row, second from left), Executive Director Kudo (second-row, third from left), Michael King, Director of Ashinaga UK (first-row, left), Ashinaga UK and France President Tominaga (front-row, right), with AAI students currently studying in the UK and Ireland.
The House of Commons is the UK’s lower house. Ashinaga was able to hold the event here thanks to the kind support of Lord Willetts, a member of the House of Lords, the UKs upper house. He is also a university professor, and an ex-Minister of State for Universities and Science.
In attendance were many esteemed individuals including the Japanese Ambassador His Excellency Mr. Tsuroka, the ambassadors of Lesotho, Zambia, and Tanzania, the first member of the Kenjin-Tatsujin International Advisory Council, Sir Eric Thomas (previously president of Universities UK), Lord Willetts, Mr. John Caird, an accomplished director who brought the Ashinaga production “At Home in the World” to the stage, as well as 65 other guests from 15 universities including Oxford, Edinburgh, Bristol, and SOAS.
Furthermore, from the organizing side, in attendance were 25 people including President Tamai, Vice President Shimomura, Executive Director Naruhiko Kudo, President of Ashinaga UK and Ashinaga France, Executive Director of the Kenjin-Tatsujin International Advisory Council, Noriko Tominaga, staff from the Ashinaga UK office, and 15 of the 20 AAI students studying in the UK and Ireland. The room was filled with an air of celebration and enthusiasm towards future projects.
(*There are currently 68 AAI students as of November 2017. They are studying in the USA, Canada, the UK, France, Ireland, Finland, the Netherlands, Portugal, Belgium, Australia, Brazil, and Japan)
In her opening address, Ms. Tominaga thanked everybody in attendance and remarked: “Meeting President Tamai in Paris in 2011 was in many ways the beginning of the Ashinaga Africa Initiative. Then I had no idea that 6 years later I would be celebrating the opening of the UK office here in this splendid venue”.
Confidence in further strides forward
President Tamai gave his address as below (photo below)
“When my mother was killed in a traffic collision in 1962, I started a movement. 50 years has passed since then and now the movement I started alone has accumulated many followers. Up until today we have supported 100,000 orphans gain access to secondary and university education.
20 years ago, we also started working to ensure that children in African countries could also have the chance to study. In Japanese, the Ashinaga Africa Initiative is called the “100 Year Vision Project”. This means that we are prepared to work towards students in African countries being able to receive education and support the development of Africa even if it takes 100 years. Please remember the AAI! From the 1st intake to the 4th intake of the AAI, we now have 68 students studying at universities around the world. Today, we have AAI students from the UK and Ireland in attendance. I had the chance to speak with them yesterday and I was very impressed. I am now confident that the initiative will go from strength to strength.
Ashinaga is also proud to have the Kenjin-Tatsujin International Advisory Council, whose members provide support and advice for the AAI. Like Sir Eric Thomas and Mr. John Caird who we have in attendance today, there are 90 members of the council all around the world.
We are still on our way there, but we are expanding the AAI steadily, and I have every confidence that it will grow in leaps and bounds. If I can count all of you to become Ashinaga supporters, then I am sure we can get there even faster.”
Returning to Ghana to become a role model for the orphans
Next, AAI student Sena said a few words on behalf of her fellow students. Sena is currently in her first year at Westminster University and will graduate in the summer of 2020 (photo below). It was a moving speech, and the room erupted with applause and emotion at the end.
“I grew up in an orphanage. Around the age of 6, I began to develop my identity, find my voice, and question the world I lived in, through education. I came to the realization of my environment and began to ask questions, where am I? Who are all these children and caregivers? And which of these caregivers is my mother? When I went to school, I would see my peers arrive, receiving hugs and kisses from parents, which was a bitter pill to swallow. All I had was a bus taking me and picking me up from school.
Then in 2010, a viral video from Ghana exposed the inhuman treatment of children by caregivers in an orphanage. This was heartbreaking for me. In the same year I was given the opportunity to give a speech to government officials upon the enactment of the national action plan with regards to the video. During the speech I said, “children should have a say in decisions involving them as there is the need to integrate children in orphanages into the society through adoption and tracing of family members… it is unfortunate that those who are to protect us sometimes became our abusers.
My personal experience, and opportunities such as this speech, cultivated an even stronger interest and passion inside of me, to pursue the questions unanswered. It greatly influenced my desire to further my studies and support children in similar or worse situations. After I completed high school, I wanted to go into higher education, but I could not afford it. It was then that I first heard about the Ashinaga scholarship in 2014, which was the very first year of the programme, and decided to apply. After my time at Study Camp in Uganda, I was accepted into a foundation course at SOAS, University of London. I vividly remember the day and moment I saw my acceptance e-mail, and how I was overwhelmed with excitement. However, this also came with a fear of leaving Africa to study in the UK and the challenges that I would have to face of being independent in a foreign country.
Currently I am studying Law at the University of Westminster after completing a foundation year in International Law and Development studies at SOAS. The opportunities I have encountered as a student in London are countless compared to home. multicultural and dynamic milieu I find myself in, has allowed me to explore beyond my academics. Meeting experts both in and outside of university and learning from their experiences deepens my understanding and diversifies my knowledge in the field of law. From my research so far, the Ghanaian government has not provided enough legal support, especially with emotional and psychological support, which are essential to successful social integration. psychological support, which are essential to successful social integration. I believe that a better implementation of the legal structure will have a powerful impact on how children transition from orphanages to society. That is why after graduating university, I will proceed to the bar and pass to become a barrister. I will then specialize in family law and begin to support the children in orphanages. This is how I will leave my legacy to touch every life. I will continue to be a role model for these children and instill in them that education is the most powerful tool that one can use to change any situation.”
A source of pride for UK universities
Sir Eric Thomas kindly said a few words of congratulation, representing the Kenjin-Tatsujin International Advisory Council (photo bottom-right).
“It is now nearly five years since President Tamai asked me to join the Kenjin-Tatsujin International Advisory Council and I have been able to witness at first hand the impact this huge charity has had in Japan and now more globally.
You have met some of the students today and I have been privileged to spend some time with some of them. These are the youngsters who are fully committed to the future of their countries and who will go on to be the leaders of the future. I am hugely impressed by their talent, their courage and their value driven commitment to make a difference. These are the kind of students which any university would be delighted to welcome to their campus.
For UK universities, joining with Ashinaga means an opportunity to attract the very brightest and best that Africa can provide and then for three to four years provide the opportunity to make a real difference to them. Equally as important is that these are not just students who are fortunate enough to have parents who can afford higher education abroad – these are students from very different backgrounds and who often have experienced great disadvantage. All of us who have worked in higher education know how brilliantly such students shine when exposed to a rich and stimulating educational environment. These are individuals who will remember and cherish their time at your universities throughout their lives. Not only will these students be a source of great pride to our universities in the future, they will be the base of a wonderful network full of soft power.”
Finally, Japan’s ambassador to the UK, His Excellency Ambassador Tsuruoka (photo below) praised Sena’s speech and gave a toast as follows.
“Ladies and Gentlemen, distinguished guests, thank you very much for inviting me to this wonderful event. Ambassadors have not been instrumental in making Ashinaga happen. It’s been done by the individuals under the leadership of Mr. Tamai. Isn’t it amazing that one individual can produce over the past 50-plus years students on scholarships that number over 100,000. This is evidence of the power of the human being. And I think he has faith in people and that is why he is continuing to invest in children who otherwise may be discouraged. With a little bit of encouragement, they become leaders. And we’ve already heard from one of the students that has repaid her scholarship by being here and demonstrating to us that it was an investment well placed. Congratulations, and I hope that everybody else will also follow her steps, and I have no doubt that they will all do. And they will be followed by many more. That is why we are here today, and I think we should remember why we have been invited. It is for us to continue to support Ashinaga. By the way, it is the first time I am meeting Mr. Tamai. But I have been under the guidance of Minister Shimomura and there is one important minister who is missing, Mr. Fujimura, from Osaka, who has been a real leader in the opposition party, unfortunately. But this combination shows that Ashinaga is based on individual excellence; on the quality of people not on political parties or on any political credo. Because after all, people are people, individuals are the basis of all societies, and if we continue to invest in individuals we will have a peaceful world. So, let me propose a toast for the continued prosperity of Ashinaga and for the health of all of you here gathered today. Thank you all very much.”
After the speech Ambassador Tsuruoka kindly pledged his full support to Ashinaga’s activities.
With the establishment of Ashinaga UK and Ashinaga France, the AAI is sure to go from strength-to-strength. Keep an eye on the homepage for further developments!