CAMP HANSEN, OKINAWA, Japan --
The Okinawa Defense Bureau hosted a Japan-U.S. Sports Exchange for children from Kin Town and the U.S. community Feb. 12 aboard Camp Hansen, Okinawa, Japan.
Approximately 200 children and volunteers from Nakagawa Elementary School and Bechtel Elementary School attended the event, filling the Camp Hansen Gymnasium. Marines and members of the community, also volunteered at the exchange.
“You might not know it, but you learn a lot of life lessons and important things through playing sports,” said Col. Brian Howlett, the camp commander of Camp Hansen, during his opening speech. “Some of those things you learn are teamwork, discipline, confidence and they become very important later on in life, trust me.”
After splitting participants into eight, color-coded teams, they participated in a bean bag toss, five rope tug-of-war and three legged relay race.
“This is my first time volunteering at an event like this, and I think it’s great,” said Yoshua Andersson, a volunteer and student at Okinawa Christian University and Nishihara, Okinawa, native. “I think it changes the mindset of the children. After seeing the negativity on the news, coming to these events definitely changes the stereotype. I look forward to volunteering at another event like this. I would like for this type of event to happen more often.”
The teams shared a meal of burgers and chips, cementing the new friendships made during the games.
“I think this is great for building relationships,” said Lt. Col. Sherif Aziz, a volunteer and an operations officer with III Marine Expeditionary Force. “No matter where you’re from, no matter what language you speak, sports are a common way to bring unity, teamwork and perseverance. It’s good old fashioned fun together and builds our relationship with our host nation. I look forward to volunteering at more events like this in the future.”