Thursday, December 21, 2006

Peace Winds Japan

I went to an event in Suzuka the other day. It was a presentation by the founder and CEO of Peace Winds Japan, Kensuke Onishi, and three of his Kurdish staff members, and they talked about their relief efforts in Iraq, specifically Kurdistan.

Peace Winds Japan (PWJ) is, "an NGO (Non-Governmental Organization), dedicated to the support of people in distress, threatened by conflict, poverty, or other turmoil. With its headquarters in Japan, PWJ has been active in various parts of the world." From what I have seen, they do terrific work, so I was interested in meeting Mr. Onishi and his staff to hear what they had to say.

When I arrived, I found that they were short of an interpreter, so they asked me to do the honors. I would rather just have listened, but they needed the help. The three gentlemen told about the work that they do with PWJ, like digging wells, building schools, and setting up refugee camps. They were generous with their praise of the organization, and especially Onishi.

They are risking their lives daily, doing essential work in Iraq, as well as in trouble spots all over the world. I was impressed by their dedication to their work, and to the lengths they will go to help people in real need. When other aid agencies refuse to go, they are there, but always weigh the risks. After transporting a sick man to a more advanced health facility, they were ambushed. (That was a word that I had trouble translating into Japanese. Not something one says here everday. "machibuse" is the word. Now I know.) They escaped, mostly thanks to the Japanese car they were driving. Since the steering wheel is on the right side, and since the shooters concentrated their fire on the left side of the car, the driver was uninjured.

The staff members wanted to visit Japan so that they could see what a war-torn country can become. They were impressed by cell phones and the shinkansen, but highly unimpressed by people's English ability. "You have cell phones and the shinkansen, but you can't speak English. We have nothing. We live in tents, but we can speak several languages," was their take.

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