JICA Volunteer

Ms. Mikako Araki

Koror State Government Youth Division

Alii! Almost 2 years have passed swiftly since I came to Palau. Fortunately I’m blessed with my host family at Olngebang and colleagues in Koror State Government. I can say with full confidence, “Palau is my home away home”.

I’m working for Youth Division at the Koror State Government, and plan some activities for sound development of young people.  During my 2 years, I have met a lot of young people and have spent my time thinking about “YOUTH”.


Compared to high school students in Palau, for example, I think Japanese high school students are very busy every day.  After finishing classes around 4pm, some students put a lot of energy into club activity and some of them even go to private tutoring school. As a result, some  students come back home as late as 9 or 10pm every day and they don’t have enough time to spend with their family. How about students in Palau? When I talked to them and asked about their daily life, many students answered “Nothing to do.” Also, what made surprised me most was easy access to illegal substances such as ICE and marijuana. When I saw  a survey conducted  in Palau,  or when I asked high school students in person, I was extremely shocked at the high percentage of YES answers for “Ever used/ Know somebody sell or use ”  these substances.

One day, I found something new for me. When I went out with my colleagues, some of students waved their hands to my coworker and call him “Obekuk!” It was the first time for me to  hear that word “Obekuk.” I thought it was a greeting word, but they explained to me that it is an honorary term of address to show respect and trust. And also one of my friends told me that sometimes they spend time to talk to each other and support younger people when they need help, no matter whether they are brothers, cousins or neighbors. In addition, one of my friends taught me that a maternal uncle has a responsibility to his niece or nephew in Palauan culture. When I found out these Palauan culture and word, I thought people in Palau helped each other based on their traditions and customs and that was very good. At the same time, that made me realize if young people have their Obekuk(or Aunty, Uncle..), we can reduce their stress and it will help them not to get involved in an undesirable situation. Most of young people have their own worries.  One’s worries are very different from those of others and sometimes they seem complex. It is very hard to help all young people, but we should believe that we can support at least one and that he or she will help others in the future.

To decrease the number of Youth related issues, the first thing we need to do is to listen to their voice.  The same is true of Japan. We should consider WHY they cause problems and WHAT kind of matters they have on their hands.  My great colleagues made me awake of these ideas.

Do you have anybody who can help you when you’re in a difficult situation? On the other hand, somebody must be waiting for your help. While reaffirming the importance of relationships for the progress of society in Palau, I’ll put all my efforts into my work until I go back to Japan. [/restrict]