After a three-year COVID hiatus, the Haddonfield Japan Exchange program is back.
Eighteen Haddonfield Memorial High School students will spend two weeks in Sendai, Japan, beginning at the end of June to live with host families there.
The program was started in 2006 by Bill Brown, a Haddonfield resident and member of the Haddonfield 65 and Haddonfield Area Lions clubs, after he retired from teaching in Philadelphia, where he had also had an exchange program.
“I guess I have a love of Japan,” Brown said. “I’ve been there many times, and the people, the culture, the food – everything is great.”
After discussing the idea with former then-mayor Tish Colombi, Brown got an article published locally about his attempt to form a committee that would establish a student exchange program. He got 20 responses.
“I was very surprised,” he noted.
The exchange program fosters long-term international relationships beyond the trips themselves, Brown said. After the devastating earthquake and tsunami in Japan in 2011, students held bake sales and fundraisers to raise funds for the country and exchange students often receive gifts from their host families long after their trips.
“It’s an education that goes on, an education that you can’t get in a textbook,” Brown pointed out.
The exchange has also worked in reverse, with Japanese students staying with host families in Haddonfield. The last time that happened was in 2019, after which the exchange program was put on hold because of the pandemic.This year’s exchange trip will begin on Thursday, June 29. Students are responsible for airfare, but other travel expenses – such as an airport bus and gifts for host families and a school in the city of Sendai – are covered by the exchange program.
To raise funds for the trip, the program will host a fundraiser on Wednesday, April 19, from 5 to 8 p.m., at the Silver Diner in Cherry Hill. There will also be a table set up there for anyone who would like to make additional donations, and exchange students will assist servers.
“Just come and dine in or order online,” Brown said. “It will all count for the Haddonfield Japan Exchange.”
To learn more about the Haddonfield Japan exchange program, visit https://www.hjex.org/.