Volunteering at the grassroots level

Kevin Cleary, JALT President

In 1974 a group of language teachers in Japan got together and decided to share ideas on teaching and help each other develop professionally. This group grew, combined with other groups, and soon JALT had thousands of members. Importantly, the grassroots spirit that prompted our organization to form in the first place is still alive and well, powering our world-class publications and conferences as well as the many local events you can find on the JALT calendar. Anyone who attends a Chapter meeting or helps plan a SIG event or publication understands that the work that goes into JALT activities takes place at the grassroots level. International visitors and first-time attendees at the annual JALT conference often comment on the unique, positive atmosphere they enjoyed throughout their time there. With practicing teachers doing an incredible amount of work to plan and hold the conference, it is not difficult for us to stay true to our grassroots origins and for the volunteer spirit to shine through in all that we do.
Many JALT members are now showing their grassroots spirit in a more literal manner as they volunteer in Tohoku. These JALT volunteers, often accompanied by family members and students, typically spend a weekend or a week doing cleanup work in an earthquake or tsunami stricken area. It's tough work but extremely rewarding. One member told me of how her team helped an aged farmer clean out all the muck and mire in his greenhouse. He couldn't have done the work himself, but once the team put their muscle to it the greenhouse was soon usable and the grateful farmer was able to start growing food again.
Right now, this kind of grassroots work is probably the most valuable contribution anyone can make in Tohoku, and I urge you to donate some of your time and energy in this worthy endeavor. In the coming months and years we will continue to work with the people in Tohoku, but more in line with our status as a language teaching organization. Volunteer teaching, summer camp hosting, materials provision, and other responses are just a few of the initiatives being explored by JALT teams. It is wonderful how the various individuals and groups in JALT have responded to the call of duty; as soon as possible we will have new avenues for you to contribute your energy in an area where it will be very highly appreciated. To be sure, the grassroots relief efforts in Tohoku are bringing out the best in people all over Japan, including JALT members.
To learn how you can help now, and to find out about any new developments, please check the JALT Emergency Response web page at <jalt.org/emergency_response>. Thank you again for your membership in JALT, and keep up the great work you are doing to advance language education in Japan!

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