On 1 December 2020, “JUNKO Association,” a nonprofit student organization based at Meiji Gakuin University, was announced winner of this year’s Foreign Minister’s Commendation.
Foreign Minister’s Commendations are awarded to individuals and groups with outstanding achievements in various international fields, to acknowledge significant contributions toward promoting friendship between Japan and other countries, praising their achievements and deepening understanding of their activities.
The “JUNKO Association” supports education in rural areas of Vietnam and Myanmar. It was established by students and faculty in remembrance of Junko Takahashi, who died in an accident while she was a Meiji Gakuin University student. This year marks the twenty-fifth anniversary of its founding.
Today, its approximately fifty members work for the world’s underprivileged children. They provide scholarships for the JUNKO School in Vietnam and schools and orphanages in Myanmar, and they perform cultural exchange activities. They provide educational support such as selling purchased and original-design folkcraft products at events such as the University’s “Shirokane Festival.” In 2020, Myanmar recognized the JUNKO Japan–Myanmar Scholarship Foundation as a nonprofit organization.
Overview of achievements
To keep alive the dreams of Junko Takahashi, a student at Meiji Gakuin University who died in a traffic accident in 1993, her bereaved family established the Junko Elementary School in Quang Nam Province in central Vietnam in 1995. In the same year, Students at Meiji Gakuin University established the JUNKO Association, which over the twenty-five years since has conducted cultural exchange and support projects at the JUNKO School and other elementary schools, junior and senior high schools, and universities, as well as contributing to the improvement of educational environments for ethnic minority youth and promoting grassroots-level Japan–Vietnam educational exchanges. By selling folkcraft products in Japan, they work toward maintaining sustainable educational support for Vietnam, and they are also active in Myanmar.