Two weeks ago, March 11 marked the third anniversary of the devastating earthquake and tsunami that hit the Tohoku region in 2011. This date and this event resonates for me.

Over 40 years of teaching English I have had the privilege to teach many Japanese students. Last August I had facilitated a CAS workshop in Japan. It was my first, long anticipated trip to this country.

That trip and CAS workshop had me much more aware of the role that young people now assume in being of service.

One of the highlights of this particular CAS workshop was a presentation by 5 MYP students from Tokyo Gakugei University International Secondary School. These young pupils – Mizuki, Yuka, Eri, Remi and Chika – quietly and powerfully elucidated their empathy and their learning through a variety of service activities that they had delivered to the survivors of the tsunami and nuclear meltdown in the Fukushima area.

Through their humble and personal narratives they explained the why, the when, the what, and the how of real service activities. And led by their teacher Fujiku-san, they shared power-points, photos, videos, their reflections and their journals.  By witnessing their planning, actions, observations, and reflections we adults became acutely aware of their own experiential learning. They had us, an audience of 22 experienced educators, in awe of their empathy and their maturity. It was a rare and precious moment for me as a CAS workshop facilitator.

As a result of their presence and contributions to our learning I was more convinced than ever that in CAS we should promote empathy and also cultivate the creativity and energy of our young students. Empathy and youth are two significant elements in CAS.

Last week I was casually leafing through a locally produced magazine called “Indonesia Expa” – a popular monthly published here in Indonesia. The words and photos from an article on pages 3 and 4 of the March edition caught my immediate attention,

“For Japan : our sister”, declared the bold headline. The byline went further, “as Indonesia is familiar with the hardships caused by natural disasters, it was no surprise that one of the things that came through was a sense of solidarity with those in Japan in this respect.”

Reading this story that highlighted a variety of creative service activities that were generated by Indonesian university students for the survivors of the tsunami reminded me again of the 2 elements – empathy and youth – that are indeed also two important ‘ingredients’ in CAS. This time, the actions of a dedicated group of young Indonesians to render assistance, were driven by their own knowledge of Japanese people and culture. Their empathy drove them to make other Indonesians more aware of that cultural knowledge and how they were looked after. They in turn invited their Indonesian communities to help the victims and survivors in their hour of need.


These young people highlighted in the video and the report invigorate the slogan –  “act local, think global.” Their stories again emphasize the importance of youth and empathy in expressing and delivering creativity, action and service.