Dec 5th -25th, 2014
Four Asian countries on this trip and so many different experiences. On this trip, I visited Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia to research future projects for AHAN. What kind of project will be selected by AHAN is not an easy decision and not an easy process. There are many factors that have to be weighed carefully before deciding on any project for AHAN. One important criteria for all AHAN projects is that any group be motivated to achieve self-reliance and independence. I have seen so many cases where facilities have received too much support and become dependent on donors for their existence. In worse case scenarios I have seen organizations turn their operations into donation collection businesses, feeding of the good will of others. It is important to me to find people who truly need the support and have the ability and motivation to move themselves forward toward independence. So far, AHAN Nippon Kan projects have been successful in moving toward these goals and our support has been productive. So far so good…
4 day visit to Laos. The biggest disappointment was discovering an entire industry that had sprung up around staged visits for tourists to orphanages and centers for children with special needs. As the tourists would arrive, handicapped children from the neighborhood would be brought in to beg the tourists for donations. A saddening tragedy that reflected badly on the organizers involved.
5 day visit to Chiang Mai City in Northern Thailand and Bilay House Orphanage near the Myanmar border.
The Chiang Mai visit included Aikido practice at 4 university club dojos and a visit to the church headquarters of Bilay House Founder, Pastor Bilay. The Church Headquarters Pada Tarasapanan cares for orphaned children mostly from Myanmar and houses over 600 children on a regular basis. Another 400 neighborhood children also attend school at this facility. After touring this headquarter facility I returned to Bilay House to report on my visit to Church Headquarters with Pastor Bilay.
4 day visit to Myanmar. The AHAN Nippon Kan Myanmar Learning first opened its doors in 2010, coinciding with a move toward democracy by the government of Myanmar. New democracy in Myanmar brought with it a wave of new opportunity from outside countries that clamored for skilled workers and higher education.
The AHAN Myanmar Learning Center houses and instructs young students from all over Myanmar that normally would not have the opportunity to ever attend a university in Yangon. This center focuses on college prep courses, preparing young people to take entrance examinations into prominent universities. The young people are selected for their aptitude and all of their living and class expenses are covered by AHAN. AHAN Myanmar Coordinator Nilar Than and her family run the center; both of Nilar’s parents, her older sister Daw Khin Lay Swe and younger sister Jin Jin both teach full time. The entrance examinations into Myanmar universities in Yangon are quite difficult and the percentage of successful passage into these schools is close to 100% from the AHAN Myanmar Learning Center.
Academics are not the only thing that these students learn here. Myanmar is populated with many different tribes of people with many different customs and backgrounds. At the center, young people from all tribal backgrounds live together in a structured environment that helps to teach them to understand one another. The photos below were taken on “Teacher Appreciation Day” which is a yearly event that even students who have graduated and gone on to begin careers return to the center to pay their respects.
While in Yangon, I stopped by to visit the Yadanapon Monastery Orphanage facility which is supported by AHAN with rice donations and to practice at Renbu Kan dojo outside of Mandalay with Chief Instructor U Mya Sein Sensei.
3 day visit to Japan. First stop on this leg of the journey was to Iwama to see Dento Iwama Ryu- Shin Shin Aiki Shuren Kai Hitohiro Saito Jukucho. His father, the late Morihiro Saito Shihan came to Denver a number of times to teach seminars at Nippon Kan and was also my teacher. Many long time students came to join us and we spent the evening telling stories and reminiscing about the long history of Aikido in Iwama.
On this trip, Japan Branch advisor Mr. Shishikura did a very god job organizing our Japan Branch end- of- year party and coordinated all the travel arrangements. Many thanks for all of your help.
Nippon Kan Kancho