Ashinaga Foundation’s Students Take Part in HelloWorld Cultural Exchange Program

Three days of “international exchange” to relieve growing inequality in the experiences of students facing economic challenges. 

HelloWorld Inc. (Headquarters: Okinawa City, Okinawa Prefecture; Co-CEO: Hikari Nonaka & Keisuke Tomida) offered participation to its Cultural Exchange Program free of charge for elementary, junior high and high school students receiving educational support from Ashinaga Foundation (Headquarters: Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo; President: Yoshiomi Tamai).

This event was the first of its kind, and took place for three days from January 7th to January 9th 2023 in Tokyo, with the support of Odakyu Electric Railway Co., marking the beginning of a continued joint effort from HelloWorld Inc. and partner organizations to provide increasing exchange opportunities free of charge to children from disadvantaged backgrounds.

In pursuit of its long-term vision to “create a society where it is normal to have a friend from every country in the world”, HelloWorld offers “HelloWorld Cultural Exchange”, a program where Japanese individuals can stay at the homes of international residents of Japan and experience studying abroad without having to leave the country. HelloWorld also offers “HelloWorld Rogaining”, a scavenger-hunt activity in which participants walk around the city with people from all over the world and communicate in English to solve missions.

HelloWorld’s goal is to help children broaden their perspectives and cultivate an open mind to diversity by providing high-quality English learning and exchange opportunities to a wide range of people.

In recent years, inequality in children’s experiences has risen steeply as it is difficult for many kids to access opportunities for active participation in cultural exchange, especially for those with a family background of economic struggle. This time, HelloWorld has offered pro-bono experiences of international exchange through its “HelloWorld Cultural Exchange” and “HelloWorld Rogaining” programs to 13 students receiving educational support from Ashinaga Foundation; due to the COVID pandemic, the hardships and disparity they have encountered have been even harsher, and exchange opportunities even scarcer.

International exchange and study abroad experiences are great chances for children to think more deeply about themselves, and further develop their dreams and goals for the future while at the same time expanding their horizons. “Exchange opportunities to every child”: such is HelloWorld’s commitment to its social responsibility as it provides pro-bono international exchange opportunities to children who would otherwise be unable to participate in such programs at their own expense due to economic and personal struggles.

A look inside the program

■ Video reportage on the program in Japanese(2min and 21 sec)

■ Day 1: HelloWorld Rogaining 

The 13 children gathered at Shinjuku Central Park, were divided into four teams, and competed for points by solving missions to find objects, solve quizzes, and take videos together with English-speaking international supporters.

■ Day 2 & Day 3: HelloWorld Cultural Exchange

The students participated in a two-day homestay with four host families from England, Germany/France, Turkey/Myanmar, and India. While interacting with the host families in English, the students learned about their lifestyles and culture through experiencing their country’s cuisine and activities.

Comments from Ashinaga Foundation

Mr. Yukichi Okazaki, Managing Director

Many of Ashinaga’s children come from families where they have lost one or both parents, or a parent is suffering from a disability. Many of them are children of single-mothers, and regardless of COVID-19 they have very few opportunities to dive into new worlds and experience new things.

Following this first effort, I believe that HelloWorld’s program will be extremely valuable for the children of Ashinaga, in order to open up and discover a new world for themselves through the encounter with new people and international individuals.

Mr. Yu Yasukawa, Program Coordinator

At first, many of the children were very anxious about whether or not they could actually be able to speak English, but when they returned home after the “HelloWorld Cultural Exchange” program, they were more focused on the joy that came from the various experiences they had outside of English in itself, such as being able to communicate with others, rather than whether or not they could speak English. I felt that the children were able to realize that there was no need to be afraid.

13-Year-Old Participant

I’m not good at speaking English and I used to not enjoy studying it, but this time I was glad to be able to communicate with others and I realized the importance of studying English.  

Comment from Keisuke Tomita, Co-CEO of HelloWorld Inc.

We are committed to creating a society where it is natural for every child to have a friend from each country in the world.

While having conversations with Ashinaga Foundation we learned that the kids they provide support to did not have access to opportunities for active participation due to their family backgrounds, which were further exacerbated by COVID-19. This realization led to our decision to provide HelloWorld Cultural Exchange” and “HelloWorld Rogaining” as a pro-bono opportunity. 

The children were nervous at first, but in the end, they were all smiling and filled with enthusiasm saying “I want to speak English more”, “I want to work abroad in the future”. 

In times where profound inequalities in children’s experiences have emerged, we will continue to work with our partners to provide high-quality experiences to all children, everywhere.

About HelloWorld Inc.

HelloWorld is an educational startup company established in Okinawa in 2020. The Co-CEO Hikari Nonaka started the business after hearing the voices of foreigners living in Okinawa that mentioned their difficulties in making local friends, even though they lived there. It prompted the idea of creating opportunities for exchange with local children, who couldn’t fulfill their dreams of studying abroad; eventually, “HelloWorld Cultural Exchange” was born. 

Currently, in addition to “HelloWorld Cultural Exchange” and “HelloWorld Rogaining”, HelloWorld also offers “WorldClassroom,” an English learning and international exchange platform connecting schools around the world, which has been introduced to 33 schools and approximately 15,000 students, providing online exchange opportunities with 17 different countries.

As part of its activities, HelloWorld has established the “Machinaka Fund” to provide exchange experiences to students who wish to engage in international exchange but are not able to afford it: the first students to benefit from this fund will experience the “HelloWorld Cultural Exchange” program in April 2023.

As stated in the SDG Development Goal 4 “Quality Education for All,” we hope that all children will have the opportunity to experience different cultures and learn real, practical English through interaction with international people.

*This is an English adaptation of an article released on PR Times, dated 10 February 2023. Find the original article in Japanese here.