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2017 Oleander Program Report

UME is proud to announce the successful implementation of the 2017 Oleander Initiative. Seventeen educators from throughout the Middle East/North Africa (MENA) region, the United States and Japan spent eleven days together in Japan with the mission to  transform the lessons of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki into relevant and impactful peace education activities for their students.

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2017 Oleander participants and staff at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum

The 2017 Oleander Initiative featured two major changes from the inaugural program in 2016. First, UME increased the cross -cultural understanding aspect of the program by including adding five educators from throughout the US.  UME also added a trip to Nagasaki, increasing the length of the schedule by four daysand incorporating an important, often overlooked perspective into the program.

The 2017 Oleander Initiative featured two major changes from the inaugural program in 2016. First, UME increased the cross -cultural understanding aspect of the program by including adding five educators from throughout the US.  UME also added a trip to Nagasaki, increasing the length of the schedule by four days and incorporating an important, often overlooked perspective into the program.

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Opening Dinner Guests flying “peace wish” origami planes at Seisen University

Oleander educators received a warm welcome upon their arrival in Japan. Seisen University in Tokyo hosted an opening dinner that included faculty and students, Japanese peace educators from the Tokyo area, as well as special guest Yuji Sasaki. Mr. Sasaki is the nephew of Sadako Sasaki (of the 1,000 paper cranes), and a notable musician in Japan. Mr. Sasaki performed his hit song “Inori” at the opening ceremony.

1Following a night in Tokyo, the Oleander Initiative officially began with an orientation session at the Hiroshima offices of the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR). Mihoko Kumamoto, director of the office welcomed us to Hiroshima and gave a presentation entitled the “Rebuilding of Hiroshima.”
1UNITAR Senior adviser Nassrine Azimi introduced “Green Legacy Hiroshima,” a project with the mission to spread the seeds and saplings of Hiroshima’s A-bomb survivor trees worldwide to promote peace.

3With a stunning view overlooking the Genbaku Dome and Hiroshima Peace Park, the UNITAR offices were the ideal location to convey the “power of place” at the heart of the Oleander Initiative.


The Oleander Initiative featured numerous lectures in Hiroshima and Nagasaki including the “Facets of Hiroshima” by Prof. Ron Klein of Hiroshima Jogakuin University. Prof. Klein’s lecture provided an overview of the history and aftermath of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and then focused on the constantly changing meanings associated with the city since the World War II.


In Nagasaki, Professor Kazue Shijyo compared the differences in the memorization of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki with special attention on the role of Christianity in Nagasaki.

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While in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Oleander Participants attended the Gensuikyo World Conference Against A+H Bombs. The World Conference includes nearly 10,000 attendees from over 50 countries and is the largest conference of its type. First established in 1955, it is credited as the venue that first gave voice to the hibakusha victims of the atomic bombs in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.


Oleander participants attended various panels and discussion sessions focusing on nuclear disarmament at the Conference and had the chance to address the conference attendees.


The average age of hibakusha or atomic bomb survivors is 81, and with the number of survivors growing fewer every year, we were fortunate to hear two powerful testimonials by hibakusha during our time in Japan.

In Hiroshima, Teruko Ueno shared her experience as a 16 year old nurse working at the Red Cross in downtown Hiroshima on the morning of August 6, 1945. Her testimonial was part of an inspiring day at ANT, a local Hiroshima organization that conducts international peace and education projects inspired by the atomic bombing of Hiroshima.

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This special day included three generations of peacemakers from the same family. Teruko, who survived the atomic bombing , her daughter Tomoko who is the director of ANT, and her granddaughter Kuniko who also works at ANT and assisted Teruko in telling her story.

Teruko, Kuniko and Tomoko at the ANT offices

In Nagasaki, Miyako Jyodai was six years old and approximately 1.5 miles from the hypocenter when her city was hit by the atomic bomb.  Ms. Jyodai shared her testimonial of that terrible day and also provided a perspective particularly relevant to the educators at the Oleander Initiative. Like the Oleander participants, Ms. Jyodai was a school teacher during her professional life and shared her experiences and challenges in promoting peace education during post war Japan. 20


Cross cultural exchange is an essential component of the Oleander Initiative and for the second year, Oleander participants had the opportunity to build bridges with students at the Jogakuin High School in Hiroshima. On August 4th, students conducted their own research on the various landmarks at Peace Park and presented their findings in English to the Oleander educators.


The relationships between the Oleander educators and Jogakuin High school further deepened during our visit to the school on August 6th, the anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. Approximately 350 teachers and students lost their lives at Joagakuin High during the atomic bombing in 1945. In order to honor these victims, Jogakuin High school implements an annual “Peace Forum” for students from throughout Japan, Asia and the US during the anniversary of the bombing.


The 2017 Peace Forum included special guest Dr. Lassina Zerbo,  Executive Secretary of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO).


The Oleander educators also visited the Honkawa Elementary School in Hiroshima. The Honkawa school was the closest school to the hypocenter of the nuclear blast on August 6, 1945. The original facade of the school and the basement have been transformed into a museum, complete with a scale model of the city of Hiroshima following the atomic blast.32.JPG


Following the museum tour, Oleander educators and the Jogakuin students engaged in traditional Japanese cultural activities including origami and calligraphy.


At night, the Oleander educators joined the Bon-Odori festival at the Honkawa elementary school. Bon is a traditional summer festival that welcomes the spirits of the dead and honors ancestors. The Bon-Odori at the Honkawa school had a dual purpose: to commemorate the victims of the atomic bomb but to also  celebrate life through music and dance.



Hiroshima’s comprehensive peace education curriculum spans from early childhood at nursery school to the last year of high school. Oleander educators had the opportunity to take an in-depth look into this unique curriculum through site visits to the Motomachi nursery school, Motomachi elementary school and a meeting with Hiroshima high school teachers.

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Oleander educators greet Motomachi nursery school students

Oleander educators also had the opportunity to have a discussion and a question and answer session with Motomachi elementary school faculty about the focus on multi-cultural understanding and peace education in their curriculum.


The Hiroshima peace education curriculum day concluded with a meeting with Japanese high school teachers who shared their successful peace education activities with the Oleander educators.

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On August 6th, Oleander participants attended the commemoration of the 72nd Anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima.


As part of the 50,000 attendees at the ceremony, Oleander participants were fortunate to be seated in one of the front lying seating areas with a clear view of the speakers. Speakers included Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Hiroshima Mayor Kazumi Matsui and the UN High Representative of the Office of Disarmament Affairs. Following the ceremony, participants placed flowers at the Memorial Cenotaph and walked around Peace Park to view peace related activities.

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In Nagasaki, the Oleander participants had the opportunity to meet with Mr. Tomihisa Taue, mayor of Nagasaki city and former Japanese ambassador to Kuwait and current chairman of the Hiroshima Peace Culture Foundation, Mr. Yasuyoshi Komizo.

Oleander participants with Nagasaki Mayor Taue

In Nagasaki, Oleander participants visited Dejima Island and dressed in traditional Japanese Kimono and Hakama outfits while expriencing life in Japan from the 1600s.


Throughout the Oleander Initiative, participants continually modified and refined peace education themed projects for the students in their home communities.



All of us at UME are looking forward to their work and the impact the Oleander participants will make in thier classrooms throughout the 2017-2018 academic year. To see examples of Oleander projects from 2016, click HERE.

Thanks to the generosity of the City of Nagasaki, Oleander participants had the opportunity to work on their projects in donated classroom space located within Nagasaki National Peace Memorial Hall for the Atomic Bomb Victims.



The powerful, tragic artifacts and displays at the museum further added to the “power of place” of the Oleander Initiative and gave participants additional impetus for their important work to promote peace within their schools and communities.

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As in 2016, the 2017 Oleander received attention from prominent Japanese newspapers including the Asahi and Chugoku newspapers.

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NHK World, Japan’s international English language news station also covered the 2017 Oleander Initiative. A 7 minute news segment about the Oleander Intiative broadcast to over 150 countries on Aug 30.

Please click HERE to watch the broadcast. This program also aired in the United States on PBS in early September 2017.

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NHK television crew at ANT Hiroshima

Many Thanks to the Otterman Foundation, Shinfujin Women’s Association, Peace Exchange, ANT, Hiroshima Peace Culture Foundation, Jogakuin High School, Honkawa school, the Nagasaki Memorial Hall for Atomic Bomb Victims and the Cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki for making this program possible.

Special thanks to Galia, Liz, Kathleen, Michelle, and Layla for their incredible academic guidance for this program and to Kanade, Saho, and Kohei for showing the best of Japan to the participants.

Please contact me at if you have any questions or would like additional information about the Oleander Initiative.
Ray Matsumiya
Executive Director

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