SISTER CITY EXCHANGE STUDENTS ARRIVE FOR WHIRLWIND VISIT
July 25, 2012 – Three high school students from Midland’s Sister City of Handa, Japan flew to Midland on Monday to start a three-week exchange program. Eriko Sakakibara (16), Makoto Sakakibara (16 and not related to Eriko), and Satoko Shimizu (15) were chosen to represent Handa in this reciprocal exchange program that is now in its 30th year.
Nine area families have volunteered to host one of the students for a week, sharing their usual summer activities and providing a taste of American life. The first week host families are Gale and Steve Kissinger, JoEllen and Ken Yarosh, and Joan and Emily Bischoff.
Emily Bischoff was selected as one of Midland’s exchange students to visit Handa in a similar three-week home stay program last summer. Welcoming Satoko at the airport, Emily said: “It was a life-changing experience for me to visit Handa last summer. The Japanese people are so warm and welcoming. I love the Japanese culture and am continuing my studies of the language. My family and I want to make this visit by the Handa kids just as special for them this summer.”
The visit is being coordinated by the Sister City Committee, under the auspices of the City of Midland. Group activities include a welcome picnic at Dow Gardens, a clinic at the Midland Community Tennis Center, a Great Lakes Loons game, a day at Sanford Lake, a high school tour, and a farewell event at the City Forest Chalet.
Mayor Maureen Donker praised the Sister City exchange program: “Over the past 30 years, Midland and Handa have extended a hand of friendship over the ocean. We have learned that we share common values and experiences even though our languages are different. Each of the students who have participated in the program has grown in numerous ways as a result of actually experiencing daily life in a different culture.”
For more information on the Midland-Handa Sister City relationship, visit www.midland-mi.org/sistercity or call 837-3307.