Philippines Participates in the ASEAN Youth Caravan of Goodwill in Japan

Filipino students Norel Palima and Aira Palima (left and second from left) with other participants of the ASEAN Youth Caravan of Goodwill after clearing debris caused by the March 11, 2011 earthquake. (Photo courtesy of Philippine Embassy, Tokyo.)

Filipino students Norel Palima and Aira Palima (left and second from left) with other participants of the ASEAN Youth Caravan of Goodwill after clearing debris caused by the March 11, 2011 earthquake. (Photo courtesy of Philippine Embassy, Tokyo.)

Four Filipino volunteers participated in the ASEAN Youth Caravan of Goodwill on 3-5 June 2011, a project of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) with the Nippon Foundation. The Caravan saw young people from the ten ASEAN Member States conducting outreach activities in Ishinomaki, a community in Miyagi prefecture in Northeast Japan which was devastated by the March 11, 2011 earthquake and tsunami.

The idea for an ASEAN Youth Caravan was agreed upon at the Special ASEAN-Japan Ministerial Meeting held on April 9, 2011 in Jakarta. Noting that there are still thousands of people being housed in evacuation centers, the ASEAN and Japanese Foreign Ministers endorsed a proposal to organize an ASEAN Youth Caravan to strengthen the human bonds of goodwill that have long existed between the peoples of ASEAN and Japan.

The Caravan was led by ASEAN Secretary General Surin Pitsuwan. Around 70 participants from the ASEAN Member States engaged in the clearing up of debris and entertained evacuees through song and dance performances. Southeast Asian foods were also served in the evacuation center.

Of the four Filipinos volunteers, two were high school students studying in Yokohama, Ms. Aira Palima and Ms. Norel Palima. The other two were Mr. Ronnel Del Rio, a blind musical performer, and Ms. Maricel Manalo, both of whom are based in the Philippines. According to the two Filipino students, it was heartbreaking to see the devastation caused by the earthquake and tsunami. They said, however, that the experience of participating in the Youth Caravan was rewarding because they were able to help and made many new friends.

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