Table Speech

About Rotary Scholarship Kibo-no-Kaze (Wind of Hope)

April 17, 2019

Mr. Takeshi Domeki
Chairman, District Support Committee of
Rotary Scholarship Kibo-no-Kaze
Tokyo Asakusa RC

 Eight years have passed since the Great East Japan Earthquake broke out on March 11th 2011. Kibo-no-Kaze is a Rotary scholarship program for children who lost either one or both parents in the Great Earthquake. We provide them 50,000 yen a month as a grant with no repayment required while they study in university, junior college or vocational school after graduating from senior high school.

 The program started on November 1st, 8 months after the earthquake. Immediately after the earthquake, the scope of the disaster was so immense and each RC didn’t know what to do. Just then, the Governors’ Association of RY 2010~11 made a proposal to consolidate the channel for donations and responding to it, 1.038 billion yen of donations came from all over.

 The Great East Japan Earthquake Relief Committee was set up by the Governors’ Association in order to examine how best to utilize such generous contributions. It consisted of 5 Governors from the disaster-stricken Districts and 5 Governors from non-disaster-stricken Districts with Governor Yoshiro Oda from RI D2790 as its Chairman. 8 million yen was sent to RI D2500, 50 million yen to RI D2830, 50 million yen to RI D2520, 30 million yen to RI D2530, 5 million yen to RI D2550, 10 million yen to RI D2820, 15 million yen to RI D2790, which totaled 168 million yen.

 Governors of some disaster-stricken Districts suggested that all the donations should be promptly divided among the Districts to be utilized for the relief of victimized Rotarians. However, the Governor of Fukushima insisted that the donations should be utilized to improve the educational environment for young people who will shoulder our future. It was agreed that the program must be initiated by the Committee, as it was difficult for each District to manage the initiative independently under the circumstances, they were in.

 We learned from the responses made by Tokyo RC at the time of the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923. 89,000 dollars sent from Rotary Associations and 503 RCs in 17 countries were all utilized to improve the condition for children. Initiatives included sending teaching materials to 188 elementary schools collapsed in Tokyo and Yokohama, construction of orphanages, reconstruction of maternity clinics and assisting bereaved families of policemen died on duty. This idea was handed down to the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake in 1995 and the Great Niigata-Chuetsu Earthquake in 2004.

 Two programs were formulated based on the principle that they should be “fair, constructive and warm-hearted”: one was providing educational support to orphaned senior high school, university, junior college and vocational school students equipped with Counselor schemes to ensure continuity; and the other was the “5 for 1 program” in which 5 non-disaster-stricken RCs collaborated to assist 1 disaster-stricken RC and provided both mental and in-kind support.

 It was only after we formulated the programs that we realized a further 1.58 billon yen was needed to implement them. After extensive discussions, we decided to exclude senior high school students from the scholarship scheme and launched the Rotary Kibo-no-Kaze Scholarship Program.

 Then the divine wind blew. The Taiwan-Japan Goodwill Association sent us 123 million yen, by which we were able to acquire a firm footing of maintaining the program for 5 years. As of March 2019, we are assisting 134 students, in total 369 students so far.

 Our minimum requirement is to continue the program until March 2033, when babies born just before the Earthquake will graduate from universities. In total 1.08 billion yen is needed, and unfortunately, we are still 172 million yen short as of the end of March this year. Enthusiasm at the beginning has faded as time goes by, while many more natural disasters occurred for which RCs had to take actions. At the outset of the program, we received as much as 60 million yen of donations each year, but it started to decline 2 years ago to 40 million yen, and then it dropped to as low as 20 million yen. I would like every Rotarian to know this program and continuously donate even a small amount. Regrettably as the donations to Kibo-no-Kaze are not tax-deductible, it is not widely known as Rotary Foundation or Yoneyama Foundation.

 Getting acquainted with students receiving this scholarship will motivate you to support them further. In November 2017 we invited 4 students studying in and around Tokyo to our lunch meeting. We wanted to invite more, but some of them declined as they didn’t want to remember the trauma they experienced. Miss Kuga who joined us then came again and made a table speech about her 1-year study in Senegal, which appeared in Rotary-no-Tomo magazine in September 2018. What we have found out through the exchange with students is that many of them are not aware that they receive a scholarship from RCs, as their guardians receive the money, which is regrettable.

 Before I close my speech, let me quote a letter from a mother of one of the students: “Thanks to your dedicated support, my daughter graduated from a Junior College this spring. She was a third grader of Junior High School at the time of the Earthquake. Her father was missing in tsunami and we had no future prospect. Now she is going to work at a nursery in Sendai utilizing what she has learned. We are so grateful for your generous support for 2 years.”