Exchange Students

Jul 06 2012

This week, we were excited to welcome Sharon Davis to our college cash chat.  She joined us to share her story, thoughts and ideas about how Student Exchange Programs impacted her life and those of many other families in her town.

Student Exchange Programs are a great way for students to become world citizens and learn acceptance and understanding of different cultures.  In almost every case, students gain self-confidence and self-esteem.  Additionally, on a college application international experience can give students an edge.

As different as various cultures are, when you take an Exchange Student into your home and make them a part of your family, you’ll probably learn that you have more in common than you thought.

Sharon, who has hosted 2 girls from Otsuchi, Japan, found that although they didn’t speak each other’s language, communication was somehow easy and they loved hearing the girls giggling in their room!

The story of Fort Bragg’s sister city – the Otsuchi Exchange Program – began a long time ago when a boy in Otsuchi lost his father at sea.  For years he would look across the ocean for his father and wonder what was on the other side of this vast body of water.  Following the latitude line, he found Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

When the tsunami his Otsuchi back in early 2011, 5 out of the 7 schools there were destroyed and many students lost their homes and some family members.  The similarities between Fort Bragg and Otsuchi were many and caring for each other’s children led to a deep bond.  After the tsunami, Sharon and others took action to support their sisters across the Pacific.

A press release was written, telling the touching story of their loss and how badly she wanted to be able to visit there and help in some way.  The producers at 60 Minutes received the release and invited Sharon to accompany them to Otsuchi.  While she was excited to go, what she found was devastating and emotionally very difficult.

Sharon was able to deliver a speech in Japanese to express their love and support.  With her, she brought a guitar for her friend who lost his collection, friendship bracelets made by her students and 1,100 letters written by Fort Bragg students – one for each Otsuchi student.

She also got her deepest wish…to hug her exchange daughters.

Survivors of the tsunami in Otsuchi are afraid they will be forgotten, and they still need our help!  Donations can be made at:  http://bit.ly/hydgsK and students are encouraged to draw pictures or write short, simple letters of support.