Hiroshima International Contribution Network supports peace education in Cambodia

by Keiichi Nagayama

The Hiroshima International Contribution Network, consisting of 27 entities including the Hiroshima Prefectural Government, local business organizations, educational institutions, and citizens groups, held a general meeting at the Prefectural Government on March 26, 2008. At the meeting, the participants resolved to undertake a project to provide support for peace education in Cambodia starting this April. By appealing to residents of the prefecture through a fundraising campaign, the network aims to collect 7 million yen, which will cover 70% of the expenses projected for activities in the first year.

The primary mission of the project is the development of learning materials for peace education. Utilizing their experience of providing math materials to local elementary schools in 2007 and a human network they have already established in the country, the network plans to create materials for peace education, based on Cambodian history and culture, over the next three years.

A team of 3-5 researchers and educators will be dispatched to Cambodia from Hiroshima to work with local educators and community leaders. The group will hold discussions on the atomic bombing and the reconstruction process of Hiroshima, as well as the history of conflict in Cambodia, with an eye towards developing materials for children that can stimulate the study of peace.

The network also intends to provide support for teacher training sessions, health education and physical examinations, and the growth of computers powered by solar energy.

Kenichi Kawamura, Chair of the network and a professor at Hiroshima University of Economics, explained, “We want to provide support that will nurture human minds and resources, rather than simply donating money and goods. This sort of support is appropriate from Hiroshima, an A-bombed city that now strives to share its experience with the world.” Starting in April, collection boxes will be placed in public facilities and at the offices of network organizations to appeal for cooperation from citizens and private corporations.

Reporter's Viewpoint: Empathy is key to this peace project

Over the next three years, learning materials for peace education will be developed for Cambodian children. This project will be implemented by specialists from Hiroshima in cooperation with their counterparts in Cambodia.

Seventy percent of the project's budget for the first year is expected to be covered by raising 7 million yen through a fundraising campaign. The Hiroshima International Contribution Network hopes this campaign will raise public awareness of the project.

This project is uniquely appropriate for Hiroshima, in the sense that it does not merely provide a donation for the people of Cambodia. To raise sufficient financial support and realize the success of the project, it is essential to foster empathy among the people of Hiroshima in regard to life in Cambodia, a country struggling to recover from the scars of civil war, as well as communicate the project's concrete plans in such a way that people can readily appreciate them.