Yokota students continue orphanage bond

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Val Gempis
  • Air Force Print News
Students from Yokota East Elementary School here experienced the joys of giving, sharing and making friends when they visited an orphanage in suburban Tokyo on March 1.

During the visit, the sounds of American and Japanese children playing and laughing filled the cramped two-story Aiji-no-ie (House of Affection) facility. Even though the language barrier at times was a little bit challenging, most of the base students said they wish they could stay longer so they could spend more time with their new friends.

"This is absolutely a wonderful experience for our kids," said Joan Mendel, a third-grade teacher and coordinator for this event.

Mendel said that the students learn a lot about Japanese culture and customs during their annual visit. She believes the trip gives the children an opportunity to make friends and realize how fortunate they are.

"This is a very worthy cause," she said. "It's very satisfying and educational."

During the daylong visit, the Aiji-no-ie staff ensured that their guests had plenty of activities to keep them busy including Japanese doll making, flower arranging, calligraphy and a tea ceremony demonstration. They also played various games and learned how to make rice cake. The children also enjoyed wearing traditional Japanese kimonos during a photo session.

Yokota East Elementary School and the Aiji-no-ie orphanage have been conducting a student exchange program for more than 20 years. The base invites the orphans to visit several times a year. In return, the orphanage asks the school to come by each March during the "Girls Day Celebration."