By Cindy Filipenko
A Pemberton parent has asked mayor and council to recommit to the Japanese student exchange program.
Karen Love, a parent who accompanied Pemberton Secondary students on the November trip to Inchomiya, Japan, thinks the Village of Pemberton should take a lead role in the program.
Love made a presentation at the Dec. 19 VOP meeting outlining the trip itself, how hosting contrasted in both countries and the history of the municipality’s involvement. Additionally, she spoke of cultural similarities between Pemberton and Inchomiya, as well as trade opportunities that could develop from that relationship.
“I’m here to ask council to resurrect the committee,” said Love. “I feel the connect has to be re-opened. There is so much to gain from a relationship with them.”
The VOP stepped away from the program in 2005 after Pemberton ended its sister-city relationship with Miya when the Japanese village was absorbed into a larger city. At that point, organization and coordination of the trip fell to Pemberton Secondary School.
As reported last week, November’s trip resulted in an external third-party investigation undertaken by the school in conjunction with School District 48. The findings of that report seem to have been expedited, as a resolution is expected before Christmas break.
Asked by Mayor Jordan Sturdy why the current situation needed to be revisited, Love said she believed community involvement was integral to the program’s success.
“Through the high school the program is connected with the school board and not functional,” she said. “In Japan, the committee is made up primarily of business people, with maybe a couple of teachers on the board.”
The organization of Miya’s committee has resulted in substantial fundraising, which has allowed the community to fully host the participants. In contrast, Japanese participants must pay for their housing and activities while in Canada. It costs Pemberton students $1,700 to go to Japan, while Inchomiya students have to pay more than double that amount.
Currently, there is no seed money to help the program. Funds totalling $32,000 that had been ear-marked for the program were re-allocated to offset a VOP budget shortfall that occurred in 2005, once the sister-city relationship had dissolved.
While acknowledging the importance of the program, Mayor Sturdy said that he was not in favour of the village spearheading the exchange.
“We have a real focus for the next two or three years,” he said, in reference to leveraging opportunities from the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games. “If the community — the greater community that includes the Pemberton Valley — gets involved, we will certainly be supportive.”
Several times the mayor asked Love what she was specifically asking for and several times she reiterated that she was looking for the VOP to take a role in developing the committee and commit to finding a way of funding the program.
The mayor, citing the exchange as a program that could be served by the new VOP-SLRD joint Grants in Aid program asked that Love return in the New Year with a community group formed, a budget for the program and a work plan.
The next exchange will happen in March 2008, when 20 Japanese students will visit Pemberton.