Three sophomores of Waseda University and their partners visited me in December last year. When they traveled to Bangladesh they were extremely shocked by its situation and “wanted to find out what we can do, to eventually change Japan from there, and we are definitely doing it!” they said.
They returned to Bangladesh, saw more people, and one of them are already starting activities by taking one year leave of absence from the university. I was unable to see this person, but the remaining two came over to see me and give me follow ups of their activities (their blog (in Japanese) is filled with passion and photos.)
Many plans are going on – one of them is "Grameen Change Makers Program". This program shows their wonderful ability to think, move, and act. Their ideas come from their local experience and we can also see their strong message to Japan from the plan. I am also very pleased to know that they are having lots of advice from Professor Seiichiro Yonekura of Hitotsubashi University.
The point here is: "Local experience matters". It is where you find what you have in yourself. No meaningful contribution is possible without this, just as I have said in my recent column.
Also, it is a very nice thing to take a year of leave of absence from the University. I would like to recommend taking a leave or joining in a student exchange program for a year to many university students as possible. Universities will supposedly not charge tuitions from students on leave, but I even think it is high time that universities, or even governments, consider offering financial supports for such cases. (See article "Opening Japan Up to the World" by Kurokawa. Registration at Science Magazine necessary.) Companies could give scholarships, too. Nothing but such communication/exchanges of youths are so crucially important for the upbringing of human resources that shape the future of Japan.
I urge young people to join this "Grameen Change Makers Program" (this website is in Japanese) and ask everyone to support them. Universities and companies, too. The future of Japan depends on more and more expansion of such movements and activities.