November 1, 2015

This August, sixteen Japanese and Korean young women (eight from each country) and four adult mentors (two from each country) participated in an exchange program facilitated by World Learning and funded by the State Department, which focused on building their leadership and entrepreneurial skills.

The primary objectives of the program were to support the students as they developed into young adults with a strong sense of civic responsibility, an entrepreneurial mindset, a commitment to community development, an awareness of current and global issues, strong interpersonal leadership skills, and a willingness to foster relationships among youth from different ethnic, religious, and national groups in Japan, South Korea and the United States.

The sixteen students participated in homestays across the U.S., where they were immersed in American culture and strengthened their English skills. They also planned for the implementation of community service projects upon their return home, which were presented to World Learning staff on August 26. The projects focused on issues ranging from library fundraising and book exchange, to developing an English-speaking forum through Skype for Japanese and Korean students.

One of the highlights for the group after their homestay visits across the country was the chance to attend a screening of a Voice of America (VOA) documentary at the World Learning headquarters in Washington, DC. The film, entitled A Single Step, was hosted and narrated by Academy Award winner Sally Field, and focused on women who have made it their clarion call to challenge the status quo and motivate women to participate in issues such as human rights, health, politics, climate change, civil society, and the economy. One of the women profiled in the documentary, Dr. Sachiko Kuno, resonated especially with the exchange group, as she is a Japanese entrepreneur and leader within the pharmaceutical field. VOA brought a film crew to the screening to capture the young women’s reactions to the documentary, during both the film and a post-viewing discussion. A Single Step centers on the Beijing+20 initiative to reexamine the role of women in the international arena and will soon be distributed to American embassies worldwide.