GOTEMBA, SHIZUOKA, Japan --
Several junior Marines assigned to Combined Arms Training Center, Camp Fuji, Japan dedicated a September weekend towards Japanese youth camping out at the National Chuo Youth Friendship Center in Gotemba, Japan, to help the children in conversational English skills.
The Marines and kids spent several hours with each other over the course of three days.
The children’s knowledge of the English language varied, between no prior exposure to English to basic conversational skills.
The first day went as anyone encountering a bunch of adults that didn’t speak the same language would expect. Most of the children appeared to be apprehensive.
“It’s been going well,” said Ayano Quentin, the CATC Camp Fuji host nations relations and community relations specialist. “Initially they looked a little shy, but then by the time we got to the third activity of the day, it looks like they are getting to know each other, so they feel like they’re more relaxed and more comfortable. They’re making friends with the Marines.”
A couple of Marines followed the lead of the girls they were playing with on the first day.
The children who Sgt. Selene Cruz Alavez, a supply clerk with the CATC Camp Fuji distribution management office and Cpl. Brissenia Rojo, from the range control office, were trying to get to know were building sandcastles.
“We were trying to get them a little more comfortable with us,” said Cruz Alavez, a Temecula, California native. “I could tell that they are a little bit shy. I noticed that a lot of little girls don’t approach you, so we wanted to approach them and wanted to get in on their little activity.”
Cruz Alavez said that being in Japan with a limited knowledge of the language made it easy for her to relate the kids who felt hesitant about speaking English out loud.
Throughout English Camp, Marines interacted with the children in several activities.
The first day was designed to give everyone a chance to becoming comfortable with each other. The second day involved a tour of CATC Camp Fuji and concluded with a campfire songs, games, and dances. On day-three Marines helped the children prepare short speeches, talking about their experiences, which they shared with an audience of supportive family members.
Lance Cpl. Emmaline Della Maggiora, a range control fire desk operator, appeared to be very popular with the children. Several times during throughout the three-day venture, one would see Della Maggiora carrying a child on her shoulders or encouraging the children to jump to give her high-five hand claps.
She believes she’s doing her part to contribute to positive experiences between U.S. Marines and Japanese people.
“They know that the Marines are here to help. We’re their friends. We’re supporting them and doing everything we can on our base and in their country while we are here,” said Della Maggiora. “[This is] something that the children can remember from their childhood.”