KRIS WILLIS SPEAKS AT MGC ABOUT VOLUNTEER WORK IN JAPAN
(Cochran, GA) – Middle Georgia College recently hosted Kris Willis, who spoke to students and faculty about his time volunteering in Japan after the 2011 earthquake and tsunami. The event was sponsored by the MGC Learning Communities and co-sponsored by the MGC Anime Club.
After the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan, Willis traveled to Isinomaki, a city in Northern Japan, to help in ongoing relief efforts. The city was one of the most seriously affected by the earthquake and tsunami. “I had friends over there tweeting about the earthquake after it happened,” he said. “It seemed like people were fine, but the next day, on the news, you could see the damage.” Willis decided he wanted to go and help.
At first, Willis was overwhelmed by what he saw in Isinomaki. “There was trash up to eye level and grime everywhere,” he said. “People were living in and breathing noxious air.”
Several of the volunteers Willis met were involved with different organizations, such as JHelp, a non-profit, non-governmental service dedicated to the international community. “They provide disaster relief by finding people who have been overlooked and then offering help,” said Willis.
The volunteers also participated in Takedashi, a potluck of different dishes. “We made pots of stew and food and brought it around the area,” he said. “It was tough to see people who had to go without so much.”
Willis said he was impacted the most by seeing community members come together, and his chance to spend time with other volunteers. “Our goal was to help people by spending time with them, making them laugh and helping them get through the day,” he said.
For students interested in traveling abroad, Willis recommended visiting Japan for a great international experience. “It’s very different from the U.S.,” he said. “It’s very safe, and the people there are open to new people. Don’t be intimidated by trying something new.”
MGC student Stephanie Farmer said she thought Willis’s presentation was interesting. “The presentation was nicely done,” she said. “I like how he talked about the people that he met and what they did.”
Dr. Sharon Mozley-Standridge, an Assistant Professor of Biology at MGC, said she felt students learned a lot from Willis’s presentation. “The students were surprised to hear how people responded world-wide to help, and how the Japanese themselves reacted to the Tsunami tragedy,” she said. “Many students commented that their favorite part during Kris’s talk was when he covered his personal experiences helping out at some of the hardest hit villages in Northern Japan.”
Willis studied multi-national business and Japanese at Florida State University. He currently works in specialty sales and lives in Roswell, Ga.
The event was part of the Learning Communities’ series “Lives in Conflict”, which encourages students to examine conflict on a global platform, according to the Learning Communities’ website. The Learning Communities, a series of linked classes that share a common theme, sponsors events like movie nights and key note speakers throughout the semester to encourage students to engage in self-examination. For more information, visit http://www.mgc.edu/reading/lc/.