OWU will team up with a Japanese university for a different kind of spring break.
Instead of participating in a “normal” spring break trip, 21 Ohio Wesleyan students have chosen to take part in the first ever reverse mission trip on campus.
This trip, termed Joint Service Learning, will also include 12 Japanese students from the OWU sister school Aoyama Gakuin University in Shibuya, Japan. Aoyama Gakuin is a Methodist University founded on many of the same principles as Ohio Wesleyan.
Barbara MacLeod, an OWU economics professor, said seven different countries will be represented by all of the students involved. She said the Japanese students will be arriving in Ohio on Thursday.
Instead of visiting another school or community, OWU students will be staying in Delaware and working with the students from Japan. Thus, the experience is termed a “reverse” mission trip. While on campus, the
OWU and Japanese students will build a house through Delaware County Habitat for Humanity.
On the first Sunday of the trip, March 11, OWU Chaplain Jon Powers said there will be a commemoration service for the first anniversary of the 2011 tsunami which hit Japan last March 11 at 2:46 p.m.
“We will hold our memorial service during that hour, beginning at 2 p.m. at Asbury United Methodist Church across the street from Chi Phi,” Powers said. “The Japanese students and their chaplain, Reverend Paul Shew, will be conducting the service, which will be open to the public.”
Powers, along with Sue Pasters, OWU director of Community Service Learning, co-founded both the OWU chapter of Habitat for Humanity and the Delaware County Habitat for Humanity in 1989.
Powers said the idea for this type of a trip came about years ago when he met with Shew to explore the possibility of a “reverse mission team.” He said it has taken this long to hit the right time for this kind of a trip.
MacLeod took a trip to Japan last year and was inspired to plan the experience. MacLeod said she met up with some of OWU’s sister schools and Shew during the trip. From there the idea became a reality.
MacLeod said the team would not have been allowed to work in Japan because of the strict building codes. Takumi Shimizu, an exchange student from Japan who is studying at OWU and participating in the trip, said a builder must have a construction license to build a house in Japan.
“We have so many earthquakes, and if you are not a specialist in constructing, the buildings won’t be able to stand earthquakes. But in the U.S., there is no such law. I thought this to be a great opportunity to do something I can’t back in my country,” said Shimizu.
Anthony Harper, a senior member of Alpha Sigma Phi Fraternity, said he found out about the trip through Alpha Sig’s Philanthropy’s Director Guanyi Yang. He said he worked with MacLeod on another program through a Theory into Practice into Theory (TiPiT) Grant called Nicaragua: International Business. He said he thought the trip was fun and informative.
“I knew working with Professor MacLeod again would be an informative experience, especially considering that it focused on local poverty,” he said. “Plus, I’ve visited Japan before and Japanese students hosted me during my stay in Japan; therefore, I thought it would be only appropriate to return the favor to Aoyama Gakuin University students.”
MacLeod said everyone will work from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., then have some type of activity in the evening, including lectures from different service providers.
“With everyone involved, this is more of a community event,” she said.
MacLeod said this is not a typical spring break on campus, because the Japanese students and the OWU students will be staying with host families in Delaware. Powers said for the Japanese students, Delaware can serve as a solid example of a typical, Midwestern, college-town community.
“We can offer not only a Habitat build, but also the number one zoo in America (Columbus), a typical shopping mall (Easton), a visit to Amish country, and exposure to a major U.S.-Japanese partnership (Honda),” Powers said. “Plus (we can offer) family home-stays for each student, exposure to Dr. John Durst and his lecture about poverty in middle America, and exposure to some key poverty-related service agencies in Delaware like the Salvation Army, Common Ground Free Story, Family Promise, People in Need, Domestic Violence and Help Line, Vineyard Food Pantry and Andrew’s House.”
Harper and Shimizu both said they were excited for the trip.
“Getting to know and become friends with the Japanese students is what I’m most excited about,” Harper said. “I’m also very excited to help with Habitat’s mission statement and build houses, learn more about local poverty, and learn more about the family I’m helping out.”
“Since this is my last semester at OWU, I want this project to be the most memorable experience at OWU, and I am really looking forward to it,” Shimizu said.
An information page detailing the experience was used as background for this article.