At Ashinaga Uganda in January 2014, Hilda Nilwanga celebrates with young friends as she receives word of her admission to Smith College.
Ashinaga USA’s focus is the Ashinaga Africa Initiative. This project seeks to provide an opportunity for higher education at the world’s leading academic institutions for talented orphaned students from Sub-Saharan Africa to attend the world’s top-ranked universities by providing them with necessary scholarships and living expenses as well as guidance for four years of education. If a student receives scholarships from a school, Ashinaga USA will pay the balance of tuition, room and board, and other necessary fees for four years of education, such as monthly stipend and a round-trip airfare.
To help accomplish this goal, Ashinaga USA is developing networks with universities and other institutions of higher education in the U.S., and creating alliances and strategies to raise funds to support these promising Sub-Saharan African students who have lost one or both parents as they pursue their educations at first-rate universities and colleges.
With the youngest and fastest-growing population in the world, Sub-Saharan African has the potential to become the world’s largest region within 50 years, not only in terms of population, but also in the size of its economy. However, it is also likely that the already excessive gap between rich and poor in the region will dramatically increase, thus making it harder than ever for destitute children who have lost parents to receive the education they deserve. The Ashinaga Africa Initiative seeks to do its part to liberate bereaved children in Sub-Saharan Africa from the chains of poverty, and provide them with the opportunity for the kind of high-quality education they will need in order to return to their communities and nations as leaders in the fight against poverty, corruption, and exploitation.
To that extent, Ashinaga President Tamai envisions a secret weapon to help educate these young people and create a better world. “Yasashisa,” he notes, “is a Japanese word commonly translated as kindness or caring, but it is more than that. The concept of yasashisa includes humility, compassion, empathy, the desire to help. It suggests humanity, and love.” We are retaining the Japanese word in the motto of Ashinaga USA, because we believe in the yasashisa of people everywhere. We believe that, when people are brought together, their yasashisa can make all the difference. To find out how your yasashisa can help make the difference, please click here.
Ashinaga is currently supporting its first three students at universities and colleges in the United States – the vanguard of many more to come. Here are their own stories, in their own words.
A multinational cast featuring orphaned students served by Ashinaga programs in Uganda and Japan and students from Vassar College performed At Home in the World to wide acclaim in Japan in March 2014. The unique show comes to the U.S. in June 2015.
In 2014 and again in 2015, Ashinaga and Vassar College combined forces to present Japanese and American audiences a unique amalgamation of dancing, singing and drumming by students from Ashinaga’s Rainbow House in Uganda, Japanese taiko drumming by students from Rainbow Houses in Japan, and American choral singing by students from Vassar College, the alma mater of Jean Webster, whose timeless novel helped inspire the Ashinaga movement. Titled At Home in the World, the show was directed by London-based John Caird, who won the Tony Award for Les Misérables and both the Tony and Olivier awards for Nicholas Nickleby.
The first edition of At Home in the World comprised two concerts in Japan in March 2014 that featured traditional and popular songs from Japan, Uganda and the U.S. After an intense rehearsal period at a secluded location in the snowy mountains of northern Japan, the young performers presented the first concert in Sendai, with the nation’s Prince Akishino and Princess Mako in attendance. The show coincided closely with the third anniversary of the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami that had devastated the Tohoku region. Following this emotional performance, the troupe traveled to Tokyo to perform for a very appreciative audience of more than a thousand at the Shinjuku Cultural Center.
The 2015 edition of At Home in the World, once again directed by John Caird, maintained much of the original production while benefiting from the addition of choreography by Griffin Matthews and new and expanded original musical works by noted composers Mitsuaki Sato, Matt Gould and Tarik O’Regan. After the multinational troupe spent several days rehearsing the revised show on the campus of Vassar College, they performed for an audience at Vassar, then traveled to New York where they played to an equally full and enthusiastic house at Jazz at Lincoln Center. At Home in the World then moved on to Washington, D.C., for a rousing performance at the Warner Theatre. One week later, the tour concluded in Tokyo, where the largest audience yet – 1,200 people at a sold-out Nerima Cultural Center – gave the young performers such a prolonged standing ovation that the entire troupe of more than 70, having left the stage, had to return for a final bow before the audience would leave.
Because Ashinaga and Vassar College are linked by shared ideals and dedicated to education as the key to improving the lives of people everywhere, they collaborated with John Caird on this production in order to raise awareness of the needs of young people who have lost their parents, and to support Ashinaga, Inc.’s efforts to raise funds for African students of great promise to attend college overseas.
Of equal importance, the creation and performances of At Home in the World offered talented young people from Uganda, Japan and the United States the opportunity to articulate and share their experience, artistry and aspirations across their varied and vibrant cultures.
Please watch video clips from the 2015 show