From left: former councillor Pat Foster with Yasuko Murase and Coun. Jayne Ingram in 2010.

From left: former councillor Pat Foster with Yasuko Murase and Coun. Jayne Ingram in 2010.

Ohtaki Twinning Committee seeking homestay hosts

Councillor Jayne Ingram is excited at the prospect of traveling to Ohtaki, Japan next July

Councillor Jayne Ingram is excited at the prospect of traveling to Ohtaki, Japan next July as part of the Ohtaki Cultural Twinning Committee.

The Ohtaki Cultural Twinning Committee Exchange Program was started in 1989 and is part of a B.C. initiative to strengthen education and trade between B.C. and Asia. Last year the visit to Ohtaki/Date city was cancelled due to the devastating earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan.

Each year a delegation of students from Ohtaki come to Lake Cowichan and are treated to local sights, events, and culture. Local students then have an opportunity to travel to Japan, stay with a host family, and learn about Japanese culture.

This year, students from Japan will be arriving on October 6 and staying until October 13. There will be 28 visitors in total, 12 students and 16 adults/supervisors. The committee is currently looking for homestay hosts for these delegates and they hope that the majority of those who sign up to welcome these students and their adult traveling companions into their homes, are also those who are interested in taking part in the program.

Most of the students who take part in the program are of middle or high school age and Ingram says she feels the students really gain a lot from participating. Ingram herself, though she has never been to Japan, has traveled extensively and remembers fondly the time she spent in China and having to adapt to eating foreign foods and a completely different language and culture. “And those are the kinds of things that I think are really good for kids to learn; those experiences of travel. You might not speak their language but, you know, there is that world language of that smile and that understanding that you learn. You learn to survive even though you can’t speak their language.”

Ingram also says that through these experiences students learn about their own independence and they are given a chance to see the world. “I often think that taking a trip like this some kids might like it, some kids might not, but the kids that like it will probably become travelers after that because they’ll like it so much that it will spark their interest to travel and to find out what it’s like in other countries.”

The committee is currently working on its itinerary for the students who will be visiting Lake Cowichan in October and is seeking input from the public. You can post your ideas to the town’s Facebook page or attend the next Ohtaki Twinning Committee meeting on June 12 at 5 p.m. Or you can phone Mayor Forrest or Coun. McGonigle through the town office at 250-749-6681.

For their last visit, students were taken to the Nitinat Fish Hatchery and Kissinger Lake where they were able to take part in releasing salmon into the lake. They were also treated to a banquet dinner at Centennial Hall where they were able to meet Mayor Forrest.

The committee and delegates traveling to Japan raise all their own monies for the trip. “The cost is approximately $2,500. Part of that $2,500 helps pay for the supervisors,” says Ingram. “The goal is to raise as much money as possible fundraising in the community.”

The committee is also currently working with Lake Cowichan Secondary School to set up a date to come and speak to students, tell them what the program has to offer, and give them some information about where Ohtaki is located.