Saturday, September 3, 2011

Japanese volunteers return for 18th year

Revegetation at Paradise
Photos by Kay Ishii
Almost every year since 1993, students from Waseda University in Tokyo have been visiting Mount Rainier National Park through the Japan Volunteers-in-Parks Association (J-VIPA) to conduct volunteer projects. They typically stay for three weeks, live with host families in the local community, and get a lot of work done.

This year, despite the major earthquake in Japan this winter, nine students have spent the past two weeks working on revegetation projects at Paradise and campground restoration at Ipsut Creek. They'll be here another week before returning home, helping to paint the park's newly acquired facilities at the Thompson Ranch near the Carbon River entrance.

Meanwhile, J-VIPA is deeply involved in recovery work in Japan. This year's group leader, Hitomi Saito, for example, who has been to Mount Rainier twice before, attended a memorial service in Sendai just days before flying to Washington. Read all about their efforts on their website: in Japanese (with bilingual earthquake reports in both English and Japanese), or via a Google translation. Members of the local Mount Rainier community had, as of April 30th, contributed almost $3,500 toward J-VIPA's work in Japan.

Next year will be J-VIPA's last work year at Mount Rainier --  not because they've given up on us, but because they're expanding their work to other national parks around the country. Over the past 18 years, more than 320 students have served at our park, many of them multiple times, and they've contributed more than 21,000 hours of effort worth an estimated $450,000 in today's dollars. More importantly, of course, they've also led to long and lasting friendships between people in two countries, and our lives have been enriched by their partnership.

Thank you to this year's students: Akiko Uemae, Kanako Itohara, Julia Martel, Chiaki Kusui, Hitomi Saito, Sachiyo Wakabayashi, Natsumi Yoshioka, Tatsuya Matsubayashi, and Kaoru Kajigayama!

For more photos of this year's crew in action, visit Kay Ishii's photo page on Picasa.

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