My name is Hiromi Ito. I was assigned to work at the Palau International Coral Reef Center as a short-term volunteer last year in October. My job is graphic design. I design public relation tools, exhibition posters, research presentation tools and souvenirs for PICRC. My mission is making PICRC / Palau Aquarium attractive and easy to understand.
Most Japanese designers work in advertisement companies. I also had worked in an advertisement production company for around 9 years in Japan. In such a company, designers’ main mission is “selling products well”. However, I think selling too much products is not good for the environment as it can destroy nature and deplete resources.
I looked for a place where I can work to make a better society. Originally, “design” means “solve problems”. I decided to apply to work for Japan Overseas Cooperation Volunteers program around 5 years ago.
I was first dispatched to Botswana, where I stayed for 3 years as a JICA long term volunteer. Botswana is one of the southern African countries. I was in charge of exhibition designs, publishing designs and event designs at Botswana National Museum.
Palau is totally different from Botswana. When I arrived in Palau, I was excited because I can eat fish and sashimi. I hardly ate fish and I could not see the ocean at all in Botswana, because it was a desert and landlocked country. Nevertheless, the people in Botswana and Palau are very similar. Everyone is peaceful, kind and relaxed. Maybe Japanese people are too serious and that is why I feel it is more relaxed in these countries. I could work here very easily, thanks to its kind people.
I did not know much about coral reefs and marine life before coming here. However, I needed to learn coral reefs and marine life in Palau, in order to design or improve things at PICRC.
Therefore, I began diving and snorkeling. Actually, it was the first time for me to swim in the sea. I was very nervous at first.
Yet, soon after that the ocean of Palau attracted me very much. It is very beautiful and there are interesting ecosystems. Thus, it was very fun to design souvenirs.
I also like traditional way of fishing. I came to know about “bul”. People in this country know how to avoid over fishing since the olden days.
The way of conservation in Palau is forbidding economical fishing, by only allowing fishing for daily life needs. It is quite different from the Japanese way of thinking, but it is an interesting concept.
I was surprised at how people in Palau always check the lunar phases, because it deeply relates to fishing. I never checked the lunar phases in Japan. People in Botswana hardly paid attention to it neither. I felt how deeply the Palauan people are connected with the ocean. Thus, I understood how suitable it is to have a moon on the flag of Palau.
Palau Aquarium exhibits way of the traditional fishing and 5 main ecosystems in Palau. This is where I think I can improve things more.
I could not finish big works in the past 8 months and I do not want to say this is the end of my activity, because I want to make Palau Aquarium more attractive. Therefore, I am planning to come back and continue my mission.
Finally, I appreciate my host family, people in PICRC, tennis friends and all friends in Palau for all that they have done to me. See you soon.