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"71 Days in Okinawa"
July 16, 2012 - Mike Donahey
My youngest is spending her summer in Japan with fellow college-aged kids on a U.S. Marine base in Okinawa, Japan. Why? She and cohorts are supervising educational and recreational sessions for base personnel's children, mainly pre-school and early-elementary age.
Camp Adventure Youth Services, headquartered at the University of Northern Iowa, oversees the program, not only in Japan but world-wide, with hundreds of students like my daughter doing similar work at dozens of military installations. It is an 11-week commitment and she recently passed the half-way mark.
Which means mom and dad will get to see her in mid-August, just in time to start her sophomore year at the University of Iowa. Her blog, “71 Days in Okinawa,” several Skype sessions, many emails and old-fashioned letters have made our daughter's absence tolerable. Reports have been very positive — she is learning much, has made friends and bonded with the children. She spends approximately nine hours per day with them Monday - Friday.
It is win-win. They learn from her and importantly, she learns from them. My daughter remarked in a email how exciting it was to watch Marines, who had just returned from an extended deployment, stop at the Camp Adventure facility on base to pick up their sons and daughters. That experience, she said, made an impact — it helped her understand the commitment our servicemen and women have made with repeated absences from family and friends. It also helped her understand how important her job is — taking care of children while moms and dads are away days at a time or performing other important work on base.
My daughter said there is time for fun too. The M-F schedule allows evenings and week-ends off to explore Okinawa and the mainland, mindful of curfew, of course. Area restaurants have been patronized, exotic foods eaten, hiking, snorkeling and zip-lining, among other activities have rounded out a great educational experience.
Lessons in scuba diving are next. We can’t wait to read her next blog!