GOTEMBA, SHIZUOKA, Japan --
Several Marines assigned to Combined Arms Training Center, Camp Fuji, Japan dedicated a September weekend towards Japanese youth camping out at the National Chuo Youth Friendship Center in Gotemba, Japan, to help the children with conversational English skills.
The Marines and children spent several hours with each other over the course of three days.
The children’s knowledge of the English language varied, from no prior exposure to English to basic conversational skills. The first day went as expected, with most children appearing apprehensive.
“It’s been going well,” said Ayano Quentin, the CATC Camp Fuji host nations relations and community relations specialist. “Initially they looked a little shy, but then by the time we got to the third activity of the day, it looks like they are getting to know each other, so they feel like they’re more relaxed and more comfortable. They’re making friends with the Marines.”
The children who Sgt. Selene Cruz-Alavez, a supply clerk with the CATC Camp Fuji distribution management office and Cpl. Brissenia Rojo, from the range control office, were trying to get to know were building sandcastles.
“We were trying to get them a little more comfortable with us,” said Cruz-Alavez, a Temecula, CA native. “I could tell that they are a little bit shy. I noticed that a lot of little girls don’t approach you, so we wanted to approach them and wanted to get in on their little activity.”
Cruz-Alavez said that being in Japan with limited knowledge of the language made it easy for her to relate to the kids who felt hesitant about speaking English out loud.
: Here to Help
Photo by Song Jordan
Corporal Sarah Malka, a company guide assigned to CATC Camp Fuji, watches over a child as she writes a short speech about her experiences during English Camp, September 18, 2023. CATC Camp Fuji Marines mentored Japanese children through English Camp emersion course hosted by the National Chuo Youth Friendship Center in Gotemba, Japan. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Song Jordan)
Throughout English Camp, the Marines interacted with the children in several activities.
The first day was designed to give everyone a chance to become comfortable with each other. The second day involved a tour of CATC Camp Fuji and concluded with campfire songs, games, and dances. On day three, the Marines helped the children prepare short speeches, talking about their experiences, which they shared with an audience of supportive family members.
Lance Cpl. Emmaline Della Maggiora, a range control fire desk operator, appeared to be very popular with the children. Several times throughout the three-day venture, one would see Della Maggiora carrying a child on her shoulders or encouraging the children to jump to give her high-five hand claps.
She believes she’s doing her part to contribute to positive experiences between U.S. Marines and Japanese people.
“They know that the Marines are here to help. We’re their friends. We’re supporting them and doing everything we can on our base and in their country while we are here,” said Della Maggiora. “[This is] something that the children can remember from their childhood.”