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Jeana and Kevin's Miharu Diary
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Benefits of International Exchange to the People of Miharu

For the record, here are just some of the things we accomplished in Miharu with the sister city program in my 20 year affiliation with Miharu.     

 

1.     International Exchange and Citizen Exchange have uncountable benefits to world peace by improving the understanding between our two people.  The people of Miharu see and have the opportunity to talk with friendly foreign teachers and visitors almost every day.   Foreign exchange participants from Miharu going to America learn about American values, customs, and ways of doing business from teachers, fellow students, families, and volunteers, thru direct experience.   They learn to appreciate aspects of American culture, but also develop a deeper understanding and appreciation for Japan and Japanese culture. 

 

2.       In turn, American host families or American visitors to Miharu gain an appreciation for Japanese culture and take back Japanese culture to America.   Citizen participants in international exchange between Miharu and Rice Lake have gone on to work for the US State Department (S. Finnigan, Jr), Sony Records (Chris Bathke), a major world engineering company (J. Lilliblad), a major international university (Y. Ouchi), and a major IT company (J. Hashimoto). 

 

3.       International exchange programs -- moving people across borders for educational, professional, or cultural purposes -- connect an ever-widening circle of Miharu citizens with the world.   Visitors to Miharu have led Miharu people to India, Czech Republic, Canada, and other parts of the US than just Rice Lake, Wisconsin.   Citizen and high school exchanges allow Miharu people to enrich their own lives, share their country’s rich culture, and develop new skills and knowledge as they promote global understanding and world peace – one person at a time.

 

4.       To continue to grow and prosper in an increasingly interdependent global economy, Japan will need growing numbers of citizens equipped to succeed in international trade: citizens knowledgeable about markets, languages, cultures, and business practices around the world.   Why should those future global business and government leaders only come from Tokyo or Osaka?  MIFA and the RLH hep Miharu children acquire the tools and skills necessary for their future role in a global economy.

 

5.       Miharu WAS the home of the ONLY American Bed and Breakfast in Japan.  The Rice Lake House allows Miharu people (and other Japanese) to experience American home stay without ever leaving Japan.   The Rice Lake House attract tourists and visitors to Miharu, who then spend money in Miharu’s stores and restaurants.   (unfortunately the RLH is just an empty house now since most of the classes and events are no longer offered.)

 

6.       MIFA and the Sister City Relationship allow Miharu people to participate in home stays and English language study programs for LESS than the cost of other such programs in Japan.  

 

Typical Summer English Homestay Programs cost between $4000 to $5000.

Miharu’s summer program costs $2000 to $3000 per person.   

 

7.       Miharu students received help with application to American universities at NO charge.  Other companies charge $1000 to $3000 per year for such a service.  (Note: Six Miharu students have graduated from American universities.  Two are currently enrolled (as of 2009).

 

8.       Due to the efforts of Miharu’s CIR, Miharu was home to the first English Immersion Pre-school in Fukushima Prefecture.  Miharu ABC Kids pays rent to Miharu, and purchases goods and services from Miharu businesses.  Miharu ABC Kids employs a teacher who uses the salary to pay taxes back to Miharu, as well as to purchase other goods and services from Miharu businesses. 

 

9.       Before July of 2006, Miharu was one of only TWO cities in Fukushima Prefecture where people can have weekly contact with native speakers of English.  Miharu WAS the ONLY town in Fukushima Prefecture that offered 16 hours of English conversation a week (7 adult classes, 4 elementary classes, 4 preschool classes, and 1 jr. high class) to its citizens. Miharu was the only town in Fukushima that offers Spanish, French and Korean classes taught by native speakers at the community level.    (Unfortunately most programs were cancelled from 2008.)

 

10.   The money that MIFA receives is spent BACK in Miharu.  

 

(ア)     Salary to three or four Miharu citizens (who then pay taxes to Miharu and spend that money in Miharu).

(イ)     Purchasing goods and services from Miharu local businesses.  (Toribun, Ozawa Liquor Store, Mikiya, Kuroba, Hachimonjiya, etc, etc.)

(ウ)     Taxes and utilities are fully paid by the RLH and MIFA.

 

11.    The CIR (Jeana) PAID full taxes on her income, and regularly worked more than the required hours WITHOUT overtime pay.  She also regularly used her “annual leave” to travel with groups of people from Miharu to America, arranged her own vacation and used her personal travel allowance for the people of Miharu.  She participated in many community activities and promoted Miharu inside and outside of Fukushima Prefecture.

 

13.   Other community groups that Jeana started in Miharu pay for use of public facilities (Miharu Ensemble and Play+ing paid more than 3,000,000 yen combined in Heisei 17 for use of Mahora) as well as buy goods and services from other Miharu businesses.  ABC Kids Preschool pays Miharu in excess of 800,000 yen a year (2005 and 2006)in rent for Ogisawa Preschool.  In 2004, they paid about 200,000 yen rent for the Dam Jimushitu.  In addition, none of these three groups have accepted direct financial support from the Miharu general budget!  All three of these organizations are self-supporting!

 

14.   Jeana and her work with in English education in the community directly brought tax payers (Alaine, Keri, Kristelle and Yohei, Debbie, Haruko, Jacky, etc. ) to Miharu over the last 10 years.  These are non-public employees, who also pay rent and spend their salary in Miharu on other services.

 

15.   The CIR (Jeana) at RLH provided the following services FREE OF CHARGE to Miharu citizens:  a) travel advice/assistance to Miharu people wanting to travel abroad.   b) assistance in making reservations and making payments abroad   c) translation of business cards and documents for Miharu businesses doing business abroad   d) research and referrals to other resources in consultation with the customer.

 

16.   Jeana provided invaluable support and advice to the other foreign teachers and residents of Miharu.  She assisted them with medical emergencies, driver’s license and taxes, visas and other daily problems.  She advised and assisted them in their lesson planning and curriculum and ensured a higher quality of English education was available to Miharu citizens.   With Jeana’s support, Miharu was able to retain good teachers LONGER, therefore maximizing the return on investment of the town.

 

17.     The RLH served as a center for community exchange for the whole community of Miharu, not just to meet foreigners, but also meet other Miharu people and make new friends.   

 

“If it weren’t for RLH, I wouldn’t know anyone in Miharu,” M. Murakami

(new yomei-san in Miharu).

 

18.          Miharu school children experienced American life without leaving Miharu.  Tours of the RLH for Miharu children are FREE.  Craft and cooking classes are offered for cost of materials only.  

 

19.          The RLH Managers happily arrange their days off around the schedule of Miharu schools and town events. Jeana happily received visitors, even on her scheduled days off, and took overnight guests on any day of the week, regardless of scheduled days off.

 

20.          The Sister City program allowed two students from Miharu to attend American high school each year.  This program costed approx. 500,000 yen per student, but similar programs offered throughout Japan cost between 800,000 and 1,000,000 per student.  (Note:  For the first 15 years of the program, the cost per student was less than 200,000 yen – the cost has increased due to changes in US law). 

 

 

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