Dr. Christopher S. Thompson, Associate Professor and Chair of Linguistics, has been invited by Iwate Prefectural University in Morioka, Japan, to participate in a Tsunami Relief Forum on July 16-17.
The purpose of the forum is to celebrate five years of successful tsunami relief collaboration activity between Ohio University and IPU that began shortly after the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami struck the coastal communities of Northeast Japan on March 11, 2011. During the summer of 2011, Thompson initiated the Tsunami Relief collaboration with Dr. Keiko Chiba of IPU. Each year since 2011, Thompson has taken groups of OHIO students, administrators, and alums to coastal locations each September in coordination with Chiba and IPU students, faculty, and administrators.
Over the past five years, OHIO and IPU have been engaged together in a variety of tsunami-devastation-related relief and recovery projects, including river cleanups, visits to “temporary housing villages,” water delivery in neighborhoods with infrastructural damage, involvement in community cultural festivals, and other good will events.
From the beginning, Thompson included students from OHIO’s oldest institutional partner in Japan, Chubu University (Nagoya) – partners since 1973 – as well as Musashi University (Tokyo), and Toyogakuen University (Tokyo). So far, a total of 53 OHIO students, 11 from partner institutions, and four OHIO administrators including Dr. Tom Scanlan (former College of Arts & Sciences Associate Dean and English professor] who went twice), Provost Dr. Pam Benoint and Vice President and Dean of the Graduate College Dr. Joe Shields have taken part.
Students studying in Japan from 10 African nations and as many South and Southeast Asian countries supported by the Honjo Foundation also joined the OHIO-IPU project starting in 2012. The Honjo Foundation, the educational arm of the Itoen Tea Co. (famous for its bottled teas and soft drink in vending machines across Japan), has been the corporate sponsor of the OHIO-IPU Project ever since, supplying water, tea, and relevant supplies used during relief and revitalization visits to coastal Iwate towns.
The Forum kicks off in Morioka on July 16 and features “poster booths” designed by OHIO, Chubu, HF, and IPU students that highlight the various venues that the OHIO-IPU Project has served during the past five years. While working with these students, Thompson will also participate in a series of panel discussions with IPU faculty and representatives from the HF to critically analyze the local revitalization strategies used during the last five-years of activity. A major goal of the Forum is to develop ideas for future student-centered post-tsunami relief initiatives that will continue to benefit the local residents and communities that were victimized by “3.11.”
Visiting Three Worksites on Iwate Coastline
OHIO Professor Dr. Taka Suzuki also is involved in the forum panels, symbolizing the deepening ties between OHIO and IPU. July 17 involves trips by forum participants to the three worksites on the Iwate coastline where the OHIO-IPU Project has spent the most time – the communities of Rikuzentakata, Otsuchi, and Miyako. Incredibly, IPU will be covering the travel, lodging, and meal costs for the four current OHIO students (finishing their one-year study abroad experience at Chubu), and selected Tsunami Relief “Alums” residing in Japan – eight from OHIO, three from Chubu.
From its inception, the five-year plan for OHIO to partner with IPU for Tsunami Relief activity has enjoyed strong support from President Roderick McDavis, Provost Benoit, the Office of the VP For Student Relations, Dean Bob Frank (A&S), and the Office of Global Opportunities. The project has resulted in the visit of 10 IPU faculty members to Athens over the years so far. Dr. Charlie Morgan (Sociology-Anthropology) and Dr. Shiyong Wu (Chemistry and Biochemistry) also have made visits to IPU for project-related purposes.
Starting in academic year 17-18, IPU will be sending undergraduates to study in OPIE each fall. The OHIO-IPU Tsunami Relief Project also has had the strong support of the OHIO Alumni Association Japan Chapter both in Tokyo and Nagoya, which has funded the domestic travel, lodging, and food expenses for current OHIO students studying abroad in Japan since 2012.