I was a freshman at Duke when the Great Eastern Earthquake hit Japan (and in particular the Tohoku region). I remember seeing videos of the aftermath and I was speechless. Coming from western North Carolina, I have been pretty lucky in my life so far and I have not personally experienced any massive natural disasters. I had no idea that Mother Nature could strike so quickly and so hard. My heart went out to those affected and I began to search for ways I could contribute to the relief effort.
The next year I began to take Japanese at Duke and after studying for a year and a half, I began to look for organizations I could volunteer with. JEN was one of the first organizations, I and my DukeEngage partner, Jamie, contacted. They also happened to be one of the most enthusiastic about us joining them for the summer. JEN, and in particular the PR Supervisor, Miyako Hamasaka, have been incredible. Their passion for the work they do across the world was evident from their website, publications, and email correspondence, even before we met the staff in person. Now, after interning a week at their Tokyo headquarters, I can say whole-heartedly that going to work is a thrilling experience all because of their dedication, their vision, and their philosophy regarding service work.
While JEN is based in Japan, it is an international non-profit that was initially founded in 1994 to assist those affected by the Bosnian genocide. Since then they have initiated projects across the world from Haiti, to South Sudan, to Jordan, to the Tohoku region. JEN partners with vulnerable and forgotten people and, through that relationship, works with them to rebuild their communities in sustainable ways.
I am so grateful to DukeEngage for granting me funding and thus enabling me to travel to Japan, as well as to JEN for allowing me to enter their workspace and community. Even after only a week of work editing English and other PR materials, I have learned so much about the non-profit world. Truly, I feel this is a wonderful beginning, leading to what I feel will be an impactful and memorable summer.