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Celebration of Service

Volunteers connect students with overseas mentors


As global employees, Japanese IBM employees who were on temporary work assignment in Brazil wanted to do something special for the Brazilian community, which has a unique Japanese emigrant history. Kenji Kuba, Jumpei Ueda and Tiong Hocktoh, with help from Rika Takahahasi, used MentorPlace to connect Brazilian students of Japanese descent in the cities of Suzano, Sao Paulo, and Indaiatuba Brazil with Japanese volunteers on the opposite side of the globe.

Students learn about the Japanese language & culture from Japanese mentors.

For three months, the students in Brazil communicated with their mentors in Japanese. The mentor-student pairs talked about various topics, from the history of each country and Japanese culture, including comics and music, to daily life and future careers. The Japanese mentors found themselves learning, as well, as the MentorPlace program provided good practice for communication in a global environment with people from a different cultural background.

The volunteers in Brazil supported the program by working directly with the designated schools, training the teachers, helping the students get started, and arranging for TV conference meetings. At the farewell party, each student spoke directly to his/her mentor in a second video conference, and the mentors were astonished by the students' dramatic improvement in their language skills.

Mirian Lie Hatanaka, a Brazilian journalist who is influential in the Japanese community, helped find schools for the global MentorPlace model. She noted, "I believe that education and communication are the ways to a better world with more understanding, peace and progress. MentorPlace is one of the best projects that I've participated in."

Other IBM Japan volunteers on the team are Miki Azeyanagi, Noriko Horita, Rie Iida, Kayoko Kawamura, Yuhji Kitahara, Osamu Koura, Waikeung Luk, Katsuya Maehara, Shuutaroh Nonami, Yusuke Ohtori, Hiroki Oya, Ikue Saiga, Masaaki Saitoh, Tsubasa Saitoh, Atsushi Sano, Kumiko Shigeta, Masahiro Sugino, Jeongwon Suh, Hiroaki Uetsuki, Toshiyuki Yoshida, and Kohsuke Yoshino. Yuko Fukui Samain and Jimmy Yoshihide Tozu, from IBM Brazil, worked locally to make the initiative possible.