Shinzo Abe makes surprise visit to Ashinaga student fundraising campaign in Tokyo

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Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe arrived at the opening ceremony of Ashinaga’s biannual ‘Bokin’ fundraising on Saturday morning outside Shinjuku station in Tokyo, much to the surprise of the crowd who had gathered there.

Ugandan Ashinaga scholar Robert Aine, who met the prime minister at the event, said “I was humbled by prime minister Abe’s action to support us, and I have also learnt that position is nothing but the level of humility is what pushes you on”.

Bystanders had been waiting for about an hour while the Japanese national media filmed the students’ introductory speeches, and private security personnel combed the crowd in preparation for the prime minister’s arrival.

The prime minister stopped to talk to the students and make a personal donation to the fundraising campaign. When a couple of children saw the prime minister pull out his wallet, they ran over with their donation boxes to try their luck too. A crowd of bystanders gathered outside Tokyo’s Shinjuku station last Saturday, looking on as a small group of student fundraisers lined up, flanked by Japanese national media and private security personnel. To the astonishment of the crowd, a black car arrived and out stepped Shinzo Abe, stopping for several minutes to chat to the students and personally donate to their campaign. The Japanese student fundraisers are all supported by loans and scholarships from Ashinaga, a large Japanese NGO which provides educational and emotional support to orphans worldwide.

Ashinaga was founded in 1963 as a result of the death of Mr. Yoshiomi Tamai’s mother. Mr. Tamai resolved to fight for social equality for those who lose one or both of their parents. To date, Ashinaga has empowered more than 95,000 orphaned students to finish their high school and university education. Ashinaga’s extraordinary success of helping orphans in Japan has grown into a worldwide movement, focused on educating and nurturing future leaders. Ashinaga continues to support high school and university students in Japan, as well as children orphaned by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami disaster, but in recent years has started looking outwards towards Africa, where the AIDS epidemic has left millions of children without parents. Ashinaga’s involvement with Africa has grown over the past sixteen years, from the foundation of Ashinaga’s ‘Rainbow House’ on the outskirts of Uganda’s capital city Kampala in 2003, to ‘At Home In The World’
(https://www.facebook.com/search/top/?q=ashinaga%20collaboration%20concert), a musical collaboration with Les Miserables director John Caird, bringing together the Ugandan Terakoya students with Japanese Taiko drummers and New York’s Vasser College choir. Ashinaga was also involved in this year’s TICAD (Tokyo International Conference of Africa’s Development) in Kenya, where the Terakoya students performed in front of many African heads of state. Prime Minister Abe was also in attendance at the conference.

This October’s fundraising campaign is of particular significance to Ashinaga, because it is the first time that their students are raising money for the charity’s projects in Africa, such as the Ashinaga Africa Initiative (AAI). The AAI is a scholarship programme which gives African students a chance to study abroad for their university degree, before returning to their home countries as future leaders. Each year, one successful applicant from each of the chosen Sub-Saharan African countries is brought to meet their fellow scholars for a six-month boot camp in Uganda or Senegal, where they study, prepare for entrance exams, and develop skills that will help them achieve success at university and beyond. So far, the programme has sent 34 students from 32 countries to universities in the US, UK, Ireland, France, Australia, Canada, and Japan, with hopes to expand to incorporate students from all 49 Sub-Saharan African countries.

Applications for English-speaking candidates are now open for this year’s programme, and French-speaking candidates will be able to apply from April 2017.

Ashinaga’s 93rd ‘Bokin’ street fundraising campaign will be running again this weekend in over 200 locations across Japan, with half of the money raised going to their projects in Japan, and half going to the Ashinaga Africa Initiative.

Prime Minister Abe’s visit showed how valuable Ashinaga’s support is to the Japanese people. The students’ decision to fundraise for Ashinaga’s projects abroad is a crucial step towards providing the same support for many people across the African continent.

Will you be next to support Ashinaga?

See the Ashinaga Web site at: http://www.ashinaga.org/en/
Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/ASHINAGAofficial/?fref=ts

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Irene Nabanoba
Ashinaga
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Xan Varcoe
Ashinaga
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