Jakarta, 25 May 2011

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All hands are up as ASEAN Secretariat seeks volunteers for the ASEAN Caravan of Goodwill to visit victims in Ishinomaki city, Miyagi Prefecture in Northeastern Japan, on 3-5 June 2011. The area has been devastated by the earthquake and tsunami of March 2011. What started as a simple idea to lift the spirit of and show comradeship with the survivors by the Secretary-General of ASEAN, Dr Surin Pitsuwan—and agreed by the Special ASEAN-Japan Ministerial Meeting on 9 April 2011 in Jakarta—is receiving tremendous response.

“We’ve had to double the number of participants, from 30 to over 60 persons, while asking others to show their support in other ways. After all, it’s our Japanese friends in the center of this effort—and the last thing we’d want is to overwhelm them—though well intentioned,” says Dr Surin.

Through volunteerism, the Caravan is a joint initiative by the civil society, businesses, embassies, celebrities, the media and the ASEAN people such as Secretariat staff and survivors of natural disasters. The Secretary-General will lead the Caravan that will include:

  • Survivors of the 2004 tsunami from Aceh (Indonesia) and Pang- Nga and Phuket (Thailand);
  • ASEAN youths;
  • Selected ASEAN Secretariat staff that can, for example, speak Japanese, sing, dance, play instrument, entertain children, or sympathise with the hosts through similar experiences in the past; and
  • Artists from Indonesia, the Philippines and Thailand.

The Thai Embassy in Tokyo is coordinating participation of ASEAN students in Japan.

The Nippon Foundation is making arrangements for Japanese volunteers and managing all ground logistics that include identifying possible places to visit and coordinating activities in pursuit of comforting and helping the survivors.

Sony Music Indonesia, with lead singer Fadly and bassist Rindra from an Indonesian band Padi and Derby Rumero, will pay a courtesy call to the ASEAN Secretary-General on 31 May, and will perform a “sneak preview” for ASEAN Secretariat staff in Jakarta.

Thai Airways and Air Asia are supporting through complementary flights for Caravan members.

To bring the message to Japanese all over the country that the ASEAN people care about them and their families, NHK will cover the entire ASEAN caravan visit to be aired on 17 June. In addition, NHK news will be covering the ASEAN caravan when they reach the affected area.

“The Japanese Government is ensuring necessities for her citizens, we just want to show our friendship with a little of our culture and experience. Participants are willing and ready to do what is needed; may it be cooking ASEAN cuisines just for them to taste a bit of our culinary tradition, cleaning, singing, dancing…or simply listening! They just want to be there in person, share personal experiences and spend quality time with the survivors and friends—as fellow Asians, as fellow humans,” Dr Surin concludes.