Students travel to Japan, help recovery efforts

Travel to Japan was disrupted last year when a devastating earthquake and tsunami hit Japan on March 11. The disaster brought an alarming death toll, fear of nuclear explosion and travel alerts cancelling hundreds of flights and stranding tens of thousands of travelers. But that disaster also elicited enormous response from people all over the world who pledged their help to the affected area. As we approach the one-year anniversary of the tragedy, recovery is well under way but there is a lot of work to be done. One of the organizations helping in the effort has students traveling to Japan for an immersive foreign travel experience like no other.

People to People Ambassador Group will be sending over 100 students to Japan in July for the first time since the devastation. These students were so committed to traveling to Japan that they’ve waited a full year to be able to make this trip.

People to People’s Spirit of Japan program puts student ambassadors in the heart of Japan, on an immersive itinerary that provides an immersion in a rural Japanese community where students will work at local schools and farms in the ravaged Tohoku area. The idea is to lend a hand to a host community, providing much needed help doing everything from assisting farmers in clearing their fields to teaching local students English. Working side by side with local citizens during a home stay with a Japanese family is part of the experience as participants offer up close and personal time with those actually affected by the natural disaster.

It is all part of People to People’s mission to get students involved and raise their global awareness with immersive experiential learning through travel.”In our interconnected world, we cannot be isolated-our decisions have an impact on other people, sometimes even those who live half a world away. Global citizens are people who accept a responsibility to others in their local and global community,” says People to People on its website.

Conditions in the affected area were so bad last year that it was unsafe for People to People groups to travel there. Both Narita (NRT) and Haneda airports (HND) which handle international and domestic flights for Tokyo were closed; leaving 14,000 passengers stranded. Sendai airport (SDJ), 300 kilometers to the north, was virtually destroyed by the tsunami.

Many travelers around the world felt the effect of Japan’s airport failures combined with a huge increase in demand for flights into Japan that had a cascading effect on travel. Airports from Canada to London saw delayed flights as the U.S. issued a travel alert urging U.S. citizens to avoid tourism and non-essential travel to Japan.

Here, some of the survivors look back-

Image provided by People to People