About the Oleander Initiative

Months after the atomic bomb was dropped over Hiroshima, Japan, a small patch of red oleander flowers bloomed out of the irradiated rubble. Since then, red oleander has symbolized both the dangers of nuclear war and the hope of a more peaceful future. In a similar spirit, the Oleander Initiative leverages the “power of place” of the city of Hiroshima – the first city to be devastated by nuclear weapons – to harness the power of education to promote more peaceful societies.

The Oleander Initiative inspires peacebuilders to formulate innovative approaches to their work by removing them from their usual contexts and immersing them in Hiroshima’s culture of peace. Throughout this experience, participants are encouraged to reflect upon the various “lessons of Hiroshima” – pacifism, resilience, forgiveness, among others- and then work collaboratively to apply these lessons within their own local environments.  

Since the inaugural program in 2016, dozens of educators, politicians, NGO workers, and civil society leaders from 14 countries have developed deep and actionable insight on their own practices via the Oleander Initiative. 

First implemented during the summer of 2016, the Oleander Initiative has included teachers from the United States, South Korea, United Kingdom, Japan and ten countries in the Middle East/North Africa Region. Click HERE to view previous Oleander programs.  These educators have returned to their communities and impacted approximately 187,000 young people in their classrooms, via train the trainer workshops, and community projects.  


The Oleander Initiative is implemented by UME, a United States 501 c 3 non profit organization based in Cambridge, MA USA. UME was legally incorporated in 1997 and its Dun and Bradstreet number is 018827043.


The Oleander Initiative is directed by Ray Matsumiya. 

Inspired by a mother from Hiroshima, Ray has devoted his professional career to unofficial diplomacy, cross-cultural exchange and peacebuilding. Over the past 20 years, he has designed and supervised peacebuilding institutes for over 2500 participants  in six Middle Eastern/North African (MENA) countries, the United States, Spain, and Japan primarily with UME, a US non profit organization.

UME programs have been endorsed by former US Sec of State John Kerry and praised by senior US State Department officials “to be among the best planned, managed and most effective public diplomacy efforts overseen by the Department.”

Ray has been an invited speaker at TEDx, the Massachusetts State House, the Dayton International Peace Museum, the US embassy of Tunis and numerous universities such as the Sloan School of Management at M.I.T and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. 

Ray received his Master’s degree in Conflict Resolution from the Fletcher School at Tufts University and his BA from Wesleyan University. He is a certified mediator under M.G.L. ch.233 § 23C.  


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About us

The Oleander Initiative gathers educators from communities around the world to work together and transform the lessons of Hiroshima into relevant and impactful peace education activities for their students.