TUJ students flourish in the practical world of NGO fieldwork

August 8, 2008

At Temple University, Japan Campus (TUJ), a key element of our education is growing our students as people, creating learning experiences outside the classroom so they can understand the importance of putting their instruction to practical use. With the backing and support of two major companies, TUJ students have been gaining valuable experience working with NGOs in Japan and abroad. They recently gave presentations in Tokyo on their experiences.

Since 2000, TUJ has been offering NGO-related courses such as "NGO Skills Development Training" as part of its Continuing Education program. Since 2003, with the financial support of Philip Morris Japan, TUJ has significantly enhanced the content and scope of its NGO-related programs. This was further expanded in 2006 with the addition of the "NGOs in International Development" course to the Undergraduate Program. This course provides students with a comparative overview of development theory, then considers the present and potential role of NGOs in the development process. It also includes fieldwork with a special focus on India.

In late April, 15 students participated in a two-week program of fieldwork at the M. S. Swaminathan Research Foundation (http://www.mssrf.org), an NGO dedicated to research work on sustainable agriculture and rural development in southern India. Here the students learnt first-hand how to combine cutting-edge information and communication technologies with local-level training to support poverty alleviation, sustainable development, and environmental preservation. In the course of their fieldwork, they visited self-help groups in eight villages and observed how each group has taken advantage of micro-credit banks to start businesses and climb out of poverty with ingenuity and dignity.

On July 16, the students gave a presentation to the public on their experiences in India at the World Bank Public Information Center. Xinran Xu, a TUJ International Affairs major on the program commented "In terms of the experience and productivity of NGOs, I see India as one of the most developed countries in the world... and I think we should learn from India in this regard."

A second NGO initiative at TUJ is the "Citi Community Internship Program (CIP)", a worldwide initiative by Citi which supports NGOs by providing them with funds, as well as paying the salaries for manpower in the form of student interns who gain first-hand experience in the running of NGOs. In Japan, Citi has chosen TUJ as a partner for CIP program which was launched here in 2007.

This year, the CIP program enabled TUJ to offer 18 students the opportunity to work as interns at seven NGOs. TUJ's internship extends throughout the semester (approx 3 months), with students typically working 10-15 hours a week. At the same time, TUJ's bilingual interns are proving to be a great source of manpower for the NGOs, contributing to indirect cost savings.

On July 15, three students who completed internship at NGOs during the Spring semester (April-May) gathered at Nikko Citi Holdings Inc. for a round-table discussion with representatives from the respective NGOs-Japan Association for the United Nations World Food Programme (UNWFP: www.wfp.or.jp), Kids Earth Fund (www.kidsearthfund.org), and Japan Philanthropic Association (www.philanthropy.or.jp)-to talk about their experiences.

Typical of their enthusiasm, was Kentaro Shimano, a TUJ Economics and Political Science major who reported: "I worked at the Japan Association for UNWFP and was in charge of making a "Fund Usage Report" for Japanese donors. This internship was great since it gave me the chance to understand how the organization really works and what roles it plays."

In the course of their studies, many TUJ students express the desire to work with international organizations. With experiences at NGOs and through the CIP program, TUJ is helping them to take a step closer.