Joined The 95th Ashinaga Student Fundraising Campaign in Japan

Ashinaga USA Student Relations Team (SRT) members, Sarah Bourenane and Elisa Edmondson, participated in the 95th Ashinaga Student Bokin (Fundraising) on October 28 and 29, 2017 at Shinjuku, Ueno, and Tachikawa stations in Tokyo. During SRT training session at Ashinaga Tokyo Headquarter, regional staff members could join the fundraising event in Japan for the very first time in order to understand and experience the deep history and cultural significance of Ashinaga`s grassroots origin.

Occurring at 200 locations across Japan twice a year, this 50 year old tradition has raised about $3 million in recent years. Half of the generous donations contribute to Ashinaga activities in Japan, and the other half is contributed to the Ashinaga Africa Initiative (AAI), which provides higher educational access for Sub-saharan African students.
Of course, Bokin exists as a significant financial contribution to AAI, and from the perspective of Ashinaga USA, to the education of the scholars who attend universities in the United States and Canada. However, Bokin is much more than that. To experience Bokin is to connect to the powerful, traditional, grassroots formation and continuation of Ashinaga Japan. It is an event that not generates an awareness of orphans and barriers to educational access as well. During Bokin (often in the chilly, wet weather), students bravely held out their donation boxes and shared their stories to hundreds of thousands of random passersby in some of the busiest train stations in Japan.

In an instant, however, these passersby became generous donors, gracious cheerleaders, or fellow scholars. Often young families would have their children come up to the Bokin donation box and contribute. In addition to financial contributions, words of encouragement were stated to the scholars, to study hard and that Japan is cheering them on. Finally, it was particularly meaningful when Ashinaga Japanese scholars who are currently paying back their educational loan to Ashinaga introduced themselves to the students and passed forward not only money but yasashisa, a spirit of compassion and respect paramount in Ashinaga values. Even in the fastest-moving, busiest train stations of Tokyo, deep connections were made through Bokin.97b2

Sarah and Elisa reflected that it was a humbling and eye-opening experience to meet more Ashinaga Japanese scholars, and also to meet in person the network of volunteers, from high schoolers to older adults, who chose to donate their time to participate. “Bokin was a unique opportunity to realize the deep extensiveness of Ashinaga in Japan. Every connection made that weekend is directly related to the everyday experience of the AAI scholars here in North America, to the connections and opportunities they pursue on their respective campuses” Sarah said. Bokin all in all provided valuable insight to SRT, en route to connecting global Ashinaga initiatives to daily SRT responsibilities and improving AAI.