Pay it Forward: No wrong or right — just different

It’s not right, it’s not wrong. It’s just different.

The 11 months of life spent in Homer has given me lots of chances to experience an international environment. I was an AFS exchange student from Japan and studied in Homer high school from 2002 to 2003. Needless to say, I had one of the greatest years of my life in Homer welcomed by a genial family with two sweet little brothers. If I were to start writing about how much fun I had in Homer, I could never stop.

Even though it has been more than 15 years since I left there, AFS is still an important part of my life. My major in junior college was International Corporation. I joined the field trip to Cebu in the Philippines for three weeks. On weekdays, we stayed in an impoverished area and visited kindergartens to introduce Japanese culture to children there. Even though most of them had grown up in a complicated environment, they gave us great smiles and showed great interests. I don’t think I’ll have a chance to see them again, but I still can remember their individual faces. They should be around seventeen years old now and I hope that they have happy futures. Soon after that, I became a member of the AFS student volunteers, a group that gives orientations to new Japanese high school students who are going abroad, or to support foreign high school exchange students who came to Japan.

We had a lot of meetings to help acclimatization. There were discussion times for students to let them learn how to live in another culture. I like the phrase that AFS tells us, “It’s not right, it’s not wrong. It’s just different.” This may sound just like a simple phrase, but if people all over the world are conscious and understand the meaning of these words, I really think the world will be more peaceful, and this is for what AFS ultimately aims.

After graduating junior college in Japan, I worked in Bulgaria for seven months as an intern. After the AFS program, I became interested in Europe because I made an AFS friend who was from Italy. She studied in Homer at the same time with me. I visited her in Italy and she visited me in Bulgaria. We still happily keep in touch.

After becoming employed in Japan, I was active as an AFS volunteer. AFS assigns a counselor called a Liaison Person for each international student, and I worked as one of them. I had a great Liaison Person when I was in Homer, so I was interested in being one. We help the student, the host family and the school to make the student’s year smooth through regular contact. If we find any problems, we try to solve the problem as soon as possible.

I’ve worked with students from Asia, Europe, and North and South America. For them, Japanese culture was very new, of course, and it was not always easy. Here again, I realized the meaning of, “It’s not right, it’s not wrong. It’s just different.”

For my current job, I work as a manager of an English conversation school. After my internship, I’ve worked here for 12 years and have worked with a lot of native English teachers.

In fall of 2016, my host parents from Homer visited me. It was definitely one of the happiest events since I came back to Japan. Without the AFS year in Homer, I couldn’t have gotten to know all these people who gave influence to my life.

Kayo Toyoda works as a school manager in Nagoya, Japan.

March 2020 Nonprofit Needs

Haven House is looking for: Sanitary pads (desperately) individually wrapped snacks, juice packs, waterproof mattress protection for twin and double beds, large shampoo, large conditioners, packages of razors, four cases of water, unstained baby clothes and maternity wear for Homer Thrift. Contact Maggie Lush at maggie@havenhousealaska.org.

Bunnell is in need of a 110 Volt Dishwasher. Contact Asia at asia@bunnellarts.org.

Hospice of Homer is looking for 3-4 hospital bed mattresses. The mattresses cost $148 each. Also, our volunteers who deliver medical equipment to our clients’s homes have requested a set of ramps to use loading and unloading beds and other equipment. A suitable set of ramps should cost about $300. Contact Charlie at director@hospiceofhomer.org.

Kachemak Bay Family Planning Clinic is seeking donations towards a van purchase for afterschool programs. Secure, online donations can be made at kbfpc.kindful.com.

SPROUT is looking for size 4 diapers, pull-ups, co-sleepers, pack ‘n’ plays, small/medium storage bins/drawers. Contact remme@sproutalaska.org.

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