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Fluent: Kawakami Mayuko can speak some Vietnamese. VNS Photo Việt Cường
Viet Nam News

Nam Khánh

At Hải Phòng Children’s Palace in Hồng Bàng District, Hải Phòng City on a winter afternoon, children in singing class practice Hiragana’, a song on the Japanese alphabet, under the guidance of teacher Kawakami Mayuko.

If you met her on the streets, you could be forgiven for thinking Mayuko was Vietnamese, thanks to her appearance.

She has taught Japanese at the palace for nearly two years, with classes of up to 70 children.

“Mayuko is very friendly and enthusiastic,” said Lưu Thị Thanh Hương, an official from the palace. “She has a funny and close teaching style and encourages creativeness from students.”

Besides studying Japanese, local children can learn the history of Japan. With photos prepared by teacher Mayuko and her colleagues, the children have learned about the atomic bomb explosions in Hiroshima and Nagasaki cities.

“73 years have passed by but the pain of local victims remains there, the same as Agent Orange victims in Việt Nam,” she told her students.

“At the Japanese Language Club, we have tried to design suitable programme to bring students interesting experiences,” she said.

“I think history lessons would make students understand losses and pains caused by war so that they would together build a peaceful life, without any war,” she added.

Mayuko has completed a post graduate programme for Teacher of English to Speakers of other Languages at the Teachers Training College, University of Newcastle, Australia and had five years experience teaching English at Kinomoto High School in Japan before coming to Việt Nam to work as a volunteer under the Japan Overseas Cooperation Volunteers by JICA in Việt Nam two years ago.

After classes at the palace, Mayuko returns to her rented room, shops at markets and cooks.

Thanks to her fair Vietnamese and friendly manner, she has become close friends with many people, from shop owners to neighbours.

Exploring new land

Like Mayuko, other teachers like Nimura Michiko and Iwai Hisane, who are teaching at two primary schools in the northern province of Bắc Giang, love their lives in Việt Nam.

Hisane suffered from a serious brain disease that required two operations.

She luckily recovered from the disease and returned to work. But she wanted to give back. She wanted to come to a new land to help others, who are less fortunate.

When she was a student at Aichi Teachers Training College, Hisane learnt about Vietnamese history and visited HCM City, where she was impressed with people’s friendliness.

She wished to teach primary pupils in the country.

Michiko, on the other hand, was born into a well-to-do family in Nagoya City, Aichi Prefecture.

After six years of teaching at Kutsukake Primary School, in Toyoake City, Aichi Prefecture, she became a teacher of fine arts and physical training at Tân Mỹ Primary School in Bắc Giang Province. The school is located in a disadvantaged area of the province.

“I have learnt a lot about local culture and their feelings,” Michiko said.

“Life may be more meaningful if we know how to help others and be more responsible to our own life,” Mayuko said.

“Coming to Việt Nam is not a sacrifice,” she said. “It’s my desire. Việt Nam has offered me a chance to explore the country, people and have deeper feelings on a new culture.”

According to Kobayashi Ryutaro, deputy representative of JICA Việt Nam Office, the volunteer programme by JICA started in Việt Nam in March 1995 and has been highly appreciated, with more than 640 volunteers sent to Việt Nam.

At the moment, there are more than 60 volunteers working in various fields like healthcare, education, Japanese language teaching, tourism, sports and other industries in various areas of Việt Nam. — VNS

Giving back: Teacher Iwai Hisane wants to come to a new land to help others. VNS Photo Nam Khánh
Open your mind: Kawakami Mayuko encourages children to be more creative. VNS Photo Hồng Minh

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