Continuation of JOCV program uncertain

The Japan Overseas Cooperation Volunteers (JOCV) held their annual presentation at the Palm Haven Hotel on Thursday. Through the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), volunteers have been coming to the island for over 16 years in response to requests made by the Government of St Lucia.
Since 1995, the JOCV have been contributing towards the socio-economic development of St Lucia and using skills and knowledge acquired from Japan to help strengthen bonds of friendship and mutual understanding between St Lucia and Japan.
During the volunteers two year stints, each JOCV is assigned to pursue activities with the country’s people, schools and special education centers, thus enabling them to ascertain needs on St Lucia’s communities based on the viewpoints of local residents.
Thursday’s presentation saw reports from the JOCV on work done over the past year in various communities, Nursing the Disabled/Special Education Unit of the Ministry of Education, Rural Community Development/ Community Service Unit of the Ministry of Social Transformation, and Youth Activities/Upton Gardens Girls’ Centre.
Resident Representative of JICA/JOCV St Lucia, Kyohei Mizutani says the work done here from since 1995 has helped St Lucia become one of the higher developing countries in the world, ranking at 82 out of 187 countries.
As he addressed the gathering, Mizutani explained that although the program has strengthened ties between Japan and St Lucia, the tremendous progress made in St Lucia, not to mention, the rising global crisis and last year’s earthquake disaster have caused the Government of Japan to consider putting an end to the program. Mizutani says the program requires much input both financially and physically. Although he did not give a definitive statement about the continuation of the program, the resident representative believes there is still hope.
“The administration cost for St Lucia is higher than that of other countries,” Mizutani said, while adding, “we need to find a reason why this program should continue in a country like St Lucia categorized as a developed country.”
Deputy Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Finance and Economic Affairs, John Calixte says he hopes that the program will continue and urges the Government of Japan to reconsider while the two countries find a solution to the challenged plagued program.
“The Government of St Lucia is indeed grateful for the commitment of the Japanese Government—for the contribution of the program to St Lucia especially at a time when Japan is experiencing Budget constraints like many other countries around the world and they are still recovering from the after effects of the Tsunami that hit the country sometime last year.
“We are happy with the program and hope that it continues – we cannot put a price to volunteers who provide that sort of assistance to our people and although it is not financial assistance, the technical assistance that is provided is invaluable,” said Calixte.
Yuriko Nakamura is one of the volunteers who have spent some time with the Upton Gardens Girls’ Centre. She says it has a been a great learning experience for her while helping some of the most disturbed and challenged youth at the Centre.
“I’ve always wanted to work with children, especially those who have difficulties in the family environment or maybe mental problems
and also, I wanted to
improve my English so I applied for this program,” she explained.
As she spoke with reporters after her presentation, Nakamura expressed her findings of the St Lucian culture and people: “It is a great place and the people are great. They take much pleasure in life and
that’s a very good thing we can learn from them. So it’s give and take; we get a broader view of life that can be utilized for the rest of our lives.”
As of October 2010, 15 JOCVs worked in four prioritized areas including environmental issue, fisheries development and income-generating initiatives. The fourth which is support
for the socially-vulnerable is the largest area.
No word was given as to whether the program
will continue next year but hopes are that the Government of Japan will reduce the number of JOCVs from 15 to at least eight or less to lessen the rising costs of the program. Other solutions such as local Government aid are also being looked at to keep the program running a few more years.

Yuriko Nakamura of the JOCV.

Resident Representative for JICA/JOCV St Lucia, Kyohei Mizutani.

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