Front row from left to right: Nick Russel, historian, Mr Yoshiro Sueoka, Osaka YMCA General Secretary, Mr David Lawson, Australian Consul General of Osaka, Mr Fakuzo Ishihara, Board Member and Mr Tadakuni Tajiri, Managing Director, Global Deparment, with Osaka YMCA and YMCA Victoria staff and volunteers.
YMCA Victoria and Osaka YMCA's partnership has been formally recognised by the Australian Consul General of Osaka for the second year running.
Mr David Lawson paid a visit to Osaka YMCA headquarters on Friday 28 July to meet the young interns representing YMCA Victoria currently working for Osaka YMCA in various leadership roles.
“You are ambassadors for Australia and I know you will represent our country well during your stay here,” says Mr Lawson.
Mr Lawson explained that the relationship between Australia and Japan is only getting stronger, with trade, investment and of course tourism between the two countries currently reaching peak levels.
The partnership between Osaka YMCA and YMCA Victoria also continues to strengthen, largely due to the international internship program and the exemplary ambassadorship of its Australian interns. Internship positions include swimming teaching, kindergarten teaching, conference facilitating and communications. All come with unique challenges, as well as the common challenge of working and living in a completely foreign culture and environment.
Mr Lawson himself was fortunate enough to have a similarly formative experience when he participated in a student exchange program to Japan when he was just 17 years old.
When asked if it was this experience as a young person that began the trajectory to who and where he is today, Mr Lawson answers yes without hesitation.
Decades later, Mr Lawson remains just as passionate about Japan as he was when he first experienced its rich culture, delicious food and fascinating history as a teenager.
While talk of foreign investment, business and tourism was a focus, Mr Lawson did not to forget to remind the interns to also have fun in Osaka, explaining that the people of Japan and their hospitable nature (‘omotenashi’) are also what make it such a great country.
Lousia Caldwell, 26, Camp Leader intern from YMCA Victoria, addressed Mr Lawson on behalf of her fellow interns.
“It’s an incredible privilege to be here representing the YMCA, but furthermore, I’m proud to be here representing Australia. I know that each new person I meet through my internship here in Japan presents an opportunity to build a connection and further establish the bond between Australia and Japan, and in particular the bond between sister cities Melbourne and Osaka.”
Associate Director of the Osaka YMCA Global Department, Dominic Pangrazio, said the best part about his job was witnessing each intern thrive in their positions and grow throughout their time in Japan.
The Australian Consul General and guests were also treated to historian Nick Russell as guest speaker, who recently discovered (after three years of searching) evidence that the first contact between Australia and Japan may very well have been convict pirates escaping prison in Hobart, only to be greeted by rather hostile samurai!
Things are certainly different today, and both Osaka YMCA and YMCA Victoria are proud to be part of a program that builds leadership and resilience in young people, while creating positive international relations on a global scale.