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December 2, 2011 > Local resident assists Habitat for Humanity in Caribbean

Local resident assists Habitat for Humanity in Caribbean

Submitted By Makiko Watanabe

Hayward resident 42-year old Akira Watanabe is leading a service project with the help of 17 young adults in the fishing village of Anse La Raye on the Caribbean island of St. Lucia. During their three-week stay, they plan to organize arts projects with school-age children, rebuild houses for the elderly and hold cross-cultural events in the village.

According to Watanabe, the most essential project is character education with the emphasis on "purity before marriage and fidelity within the marriage." He keen to offer villagers a different view of marriage and family; many teenage parents abandon their children who inevitably grow up with very little physical and emotional care.

Watanabe and his wife, Makiko, are deeply committed to youth education. For the past 11 years, he has worked as a mentor and coach for the Generation Peace Academy (GPA), an educational component of the Lovin' Life Ministry, designed to provide young adults with opportunities to discover their true dignity and value as God's sons and daughters. Makiko, a Cal State University, East Bay graduate and former GPA counselor, works for the Hayward Education Foundation. She and her husband have always striven to care for other children as they would for their own three sons.

In November 2010, Watanabe and 16 GPA members arrived in St. Lucia after Hurricane Tomas had swept across the island, taken several lives and destroyed water pipelines and highways. Despite challenges, such as the absence of running water, the GPA team did whatever they could for the people of Anse La Raye. Even when no events were scheduled, the children in the village gathered and remained with the GPA members from morning to night. They clung to those young Americans, desperately seeking the love that was missing from their lives.

Such overseas service projects provide opportunities for young people to cultivate a deeper appreciation for life and respect and love for people of different races, cultures and religions. Watanabe goes a step further, describing the project as "citizen-to-citizen diplomacy." He maintains peace is not only achieved by the absence of conflict but through acts of selfless service. He sincerely hopes that all those who come into contact with the GPA participants can experience what it means to be one family under God.

"Even if I can inspire a few people to practice a greater spirit of giving, I know peace begins to take root," Watanabe concludes. Gandhi's word is constantly repeated in Watanabe's lecture to the GPA members: "Become the change you want to see in the world."

For more information about the GPA and the project in St. Lucia, visit www.stfusa.com.

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