People in Japan who had been touched by the citizen-to-citizen diplomacy of Sebastopol World Friends (SWF) were devastated to learn about the October 2017 fires in Sonoma County. They took an action. SWF’s counterpart Takeo World Friends, along with Takeo Lions Club and Kagoshima University students in Kagoshima, Japan raised $2,600.00 in total, which is donated to the Sebastopol Fire Department as well as an alumni family of SWF who lost their home in the fire.
On March 1, 2108, Fire Chief Bill Braga gratefully accepted the donation presented to him by the Kagoshima University students during their visit to Sebastopol Feb. 24th – March 2nd. The program is in its second year and was organized by SWF in partnership with Sonoma State University’s American Language Program. The student group who came to homestay in Sebastopol last year heard about the fires and quickly organized a fundraiser on campus.
The donation from Takeo World Friends and Takeo Lions Club was presented to Chief Braga on March 18 at the family meeting of SWF’s Takeo Student Exchange Program. Seventeen student ambassadors and three chaperones, along with an adult delegation of eight community members will visit Takeo from March 22nd returning April 1st. During their visit, the delegation will deliver Chief’s appreciation letter to the people in Takeo who raised money for the fire relief efforts.
The Fire Department will use the money to purchase a portable pump and personal supplies critical for firefighting efforts. Chief Braga states, “We are overwhelmed with gratitude and heart felt thanks on receiving three cash donations from Japan. We are all touched by everyone involved.”
SWF was organized as a Sebastopol City Commission in 1985. Since then, it has been active with its two sister cities, Chyhyryn in Ukraine, and Takeo in Japan. SWF’s goal is to work toward “World Peace, One Friend At A Time” by bringing sister city citizens together through youth and adult citizens home stay exchange programs. Hundreds of Sebastopol youth and adult citizens have participated in the program as grass-root diplomacy ambassadors.