My APCC Journey

木本 香苗 Kanae Kimoto
Managing Director and Secretary General, APCC

木本香苗さんは25 年以上APCC に関わっており、こんなに長い間 APCC で働いているのはたった一人で、APCCの発展に大きく貢献していることは間違いありません。木本さんのAPCCでの道のりを本人に聞いてみました。
Ms, Kanae Kimoto has been involving in APCC for more than 25 years, or we can say she is the only one who is working in APCC for such a long time. There is definitely no controversy that she contributes a lot in developing APCC into this stage. So, let’s hear her APCC journey from her own word.

1)How did you become involved with APCC?
1995年の秋頃、「こども国際交流の事務局職員募集」という小さな求人広告を新聞で見つけました。その募集に手を上げた時から、私とAPCCとの関りが始まりました。実は、福岡には国際スポーツ大会(ユニバーシアード)の運営に携わるために他県から移り住んで来たので、その当時APCCのことは全く知らなかったのです。しかし、大学を卒業してから、ずっと国際的な事業に関わりたいと仕事を選んできたので、その延長線上にある、「国際交流」と「こども」というキーワードにとても魅かれたのを覚えています。 (1995年11月に職員になって以降、出産と子育てで途中1年間を2回、お休みをいただいていますが、それ以外の期間、人生の約半分をAPCCと共に過ごしてきたことになります。長いですね。)
In the fall of 1995, I came across a recruitment call for the secretariat staff of a children’s international exchange job in a small advertisement section of the newspaper. I stepped forward after seeing this advertisement, and my relationship with APCC began. In actuality, the real reason for my move to Fukuoka was to become involved in the management of an international sports competition (Universiade), so at the time, I was completely unaware of APCC. However, ever since graduating university, I have always aspired to engage in a job relating to international affairs. Consequentially, I remembered being very drawn towards the keywords “international exchange,” and “children.”
(Since becoming an employee in the November of 1995, besides taking a one-year break twice for the birth and upbringing of my children, I have spent around half of my life with APCC. It has been a long time.)

2)What was your first impression of APCC?
There were people who I obviously never met before, from countries I have never even heard of all meeting together in one place, but what’s more is that they were all 11, and in Fukuoka of all places! I was utterly surprised. Furthermore, this huge project was being carried out by a private organization that was neither an administration nor an enterprise. When I first joined the APCC organization, I was even more surprised because it was completely voluntary without legal personality (executive committee). However, at its core, there were many members of the Fukuoka Junior Chamber and citizen volunteers who previously participated in the projects and became fans, so I truly felt the extent of their enthusiasm and energy. My initial impression of this summertime event where 300 multinational children meet for the first time was, “even if there is a difference of language and culture, children are children. Being a child is universal!” In a good sense, the carefree smiles, ridiculous behavior, and homesickness and tears were all the same for children of different countries. It was extremely uplifting to bring the world of “everyone is different and wonderful” to reality.

3)What has surprised you most about working in APCC?
The biggest surprise I’ve had while working here is that although APCC is a private organization from a local city, it is still possible to connect directly with many countries, including their government agencies such as the Ministry of Education, without involving our capital Tokyo. I feel that the trusting relationship with our overseas partners is gradually becoming more solid with each passing year. This is not a business relationship revolving around gains or losses of money, it is about a true cooperative friendship and joining hands with people from different countries in order to realize the vision of raising children to be global citizens with OMOIYARI spirit.

4)How has APCC program improved over time?
私が見てきた25年間の進化は目覚ましいものがあります。国際親善のイベント、としてスタートした事業が、継続を糧に、OMOIYARI地球市民を育むムーブメントへと、大きく強く変貌してきたと思います。 事業開始から10年目に、過去の事業参加者たちが集う同窓会組織、ブリッジクラブ(BC)が出来たことにより、APCC事業への参加は一過性のものではなくなりました。年代を超えて、国境を超えて地球市民同士がずっと繋がり合っていける、ヒューマンネットワークができ、それが今では事業の大きな特色の一つとなっています。福岡では、毎年の事業参加者公募に応じてくれる小中高校生をはじめ、運営を担う市民ボランティアやホストファミリー、地域や学校をあげて事業に参画してくれる皆さん、そして支援企業や団体の皆さんなど、OMOIYARI地球市民を育むムーブメントには、毎年多くの人たちを巻き込んでおり、その輪がどんどんひろがっています。30年以上、事業が続いていることで、ボランティアやホストファミリーの中には、2世代、3世代にわたり参加する人も出てきています。それもAPCCの進化を物語る嬉しい現象だと思います。
The evolution I have seen over the past 25 years has been remarkable. Our business which started as an international friendship event has continued and transformed into a movement that raises global citizens with OMOIYARI spirit. After the first 10 years, participation with APCC was no longer a temporary involvement because BRIDGE CLUB was established, which is an alumni organization where past participants can gather. And thus, a human network system that allowed global citizens to stay connected across national borders and throughout time was created, which is now one of the major aspects of our business. The OMOIYARI movement that nurtures global citizens involves many people every year, so our circle is steadily expanding in Fukuoka from elementary, middle school, and high school students who respond to the annual recruitment projects, to citizen volunteers and host families who are in charge of management, to everyone who participates in the projects through their communities and schools, and of course the support companies, organizations and many more people involved. After more than 30 years of business, some volunteers and host families have been participating for two or three generations. I think this is the perfect phenomenon to illustrate APCC’s evolution.

5)What do you wish other people knew about APCC ?
APCC believes in the idea of everyone in the next generation to uphold the value of having “a heart full of compassion or OMOIYARI spirit.” In an era of increasing diversity, we believe that a ” heart full of compassion” is the key to collaborating and living peacefully side-by-side with people of different ideas and cultures. I would like for everyone to convey this message and sympathize with others more. Since APCC’s endeavors have cultivated this space that nurtures a heart full of compassion in every situation, I hope that everyone can become involved in some way to foster their compassionate heart and expand this circle of people.

6)What would you say are some of your strongest beliefs about APCC.
My belief is that “the genuine experience of cross-cultural exchange as a child establishes the foundation of their growth.” Even experiencing cross-cultural non-verbal communication and then sharing the joy of mutual understanding after a long struggle gives kids a new horizon. After that, an interest in foreign languages, cultures, and environments with other children will expand. Furthermore, instead of fearing or avoiding what’s different, children will instead find these things interesting, as they will gain many experiences by switching their mindset about cross-cultural exchange to a more positive outlook. It is challenging for many children to experience interacting with foreign cultures, but the confidence and independence gained from facing this challenge will support their growth.

7)Message for Smile supporters of APCC. What would you tell someone who is thinking about donating, volunteering in APCC?
The business style of APCC has remained unchanged for almost 30 years. Of course, we have implemented new programs and business names in response to changing times and needs. However, the principle of providing children with the real-life experience of cross-cultural exchange has remained constant for 30 years. Our main target has been elementary school students, but the participants change every time because of age restrictions. Because of this, even though our business style is constant, unique situations and encounters appear every year. Therefore, APCC strives to continue to provide this space of cross-cultural exchange for children to experience in the future, whether it be 50 or 100 years from now.
For the sake of future children, we will always need people who volunteer to be involved in this program and provide homestays. Above all, I think we need the financial assistance from supporters who can help our business to continue.