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Posted by: ifcayouth Category: Personal Reflections and Viewpoint Comments: 0 Post Date: May 28, 2017

An Extraordinary Trip to Japan

Janell Braxton

Boarding the Delta airlines for a 10 hour flight sitting next to a stranger that barely knew English, my heart began to race and thoughts poured in about the what ifs. Right that’s when I knew my life was about to open new doors, that I was going to experience an opportunity of a life time, and I was going to immerse myself into a culture of which I did not know the language. It felt surreal entering the airport of Narita with a ton of signs still in English, people with suit cases pointing, and long lines to wait in. After getting my stamp in my brand new passport we were set to leave. This trip I learned immensely about Japanese culture, the foster care system and the challenges that they face and I was beyond happy to share my story to hundreds of participants. Going to Japan has changed my life, it has opened my eyes to many problems, and it has showed me that there are more similarities than differences when it comes to experiencing the foster care system.

Looking back on this experience, I’ve come to realize how much of a wonderful opportunity this has been. As an alumnus of care, all I thought about for my future was getting through High School, getting married and getting by. However, the older that I got the more dreams I had about venturing outside my comfort zone but so many doubted my dreams and that eventually dragged me down too. When I heard about IFCA I was intrigued. After being accepted and becoming a part of the U.S. team I was enthralled, excited, proud, you name it. I knew what skills I had and what I could offer to the team and we all began planning for the trip. This experience has encouraged me and has reinstalled the belief that I can dream big, that I can accomplish whatever I set my mind to. Just because my past was bad that does not mean my future has to be the same or that I will end up like my parents. With IFCA I was given the chance to prove myself, to develop into a greater leader, and to share my experience not only in the U.S. but with people in Japan.

I attended Ms. Mutsumi Yoshida’s event at Wanabiba333 that had a large discussion group on the film that we watched. Mutsumi was so passionate about creating change and being a part of the movement of youth in Japan advocating on issues they face warmed my heart. I connected to everything she said and was proud of all of them in taking the step in attending this event to listen what’s going on. The following day we did our first presentation event in Fuji City at Le Hall Fuji. I spoke about sibling connection and the importance of family when growing up in care whether that’s group homes or foster families. I cried during my presentation because I had a lot of emotion that I never really talked about back home. I was approached by a lot of people after the presentation and they told me good job, considering the language barrier I knew what more they meant and that was what I wanted to accomplish with my story. I was able to share this story at another presentation at the SOS Children’s Village event and the participation with this group of participants was astounding. They enjoyed our presentation and afterwards we were able to have a reception. I was able to talk with a few people that were directly involved in helping children and youth from abusive homes, to foster parents wanting to know what activities they could encourage their young people to get into. Overall this experience put a confirmation that what I have to say is important and can help change a life of a young person experiencing the foster cares system.

It came down to the end of this extraordinary trip in Japan and the surreal feeling of being in this country started to fade. Going home I knew it wouldn’t be the same and it wasn’t. I was more aware of issues outside of my own country and it motivated me to do more. Being in care was hard as it was but being active in this type of work can dampen the spirits of those wanting to create a beacon of light of hope for youth and alumni of care, however, being given the opportunity to travel with all expenses paid sparks that light all over again. I am very appreciative of going and I will continue to work with my team on creating a global communication that too many young people face, and that is experiencing the foster care system but putting a voice to the issue because it is my voice but it’s our story.

This post is also available in: Japanese

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