Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) is an institution affiliated with the Japanese Official Development Assistance (ODA) of the Japanese government. JICA’s Japan Overseas Cooperation Volunteers (JOCV) program celebrates its 50th anniversary this year, which will be held in December in Phnom Penh.
JICA’s volunteer programs support activities by citizens who wish to cooperate in the economic and social development as well as the reconstruction of developing countries.
JICA first dispatched volunteers to Cambodia in 1965 in the field of sports and agriculture. Cambodia was one of the four countries where JOCV was first dispatched around the world. After decades of turmoil in Cambodia, JICA restarted dispatching volunteers to the Kingdom in 1993. To date, JICA has had 611 volunteers serve in Cambodia.
One of the first volunteers to this country was Mr. Ohmomi. His specialty was teaching Judo. After his arrival, he started coaching at five Judo-Clubs in Phnom Penh. After all these years, he still says, “I never forget their shining eyes and good attitude towards training, not to fail to listen to any of my words, sweating much every time.”
Since the first JOCVs were dispatched in 1965, the program has continued to answer calls for assistance from governments of developing countries, training and sending eager young volunteers to share their skills and knowledge in local communities around the world. Participants, who are between the ages of 20 and 39, provide assistance during the course of a two-year assignment in one of 200 sectors, such as education, nursing, auto mechanics, IT and sports.
Over the years, JICA has inaugurated several other volunteer programs to aid development. The Senior Volunteers program, which targets participants between 40 and 69, began in 1990.
JICA’s volunteers live and work alongside local residents, carrying out their activities with an emphasis on fostering self-reliance. The programs aim to contribute to social and economic development through community-based efforts to address poverty, healthcare, education and other issues faced by developing countries. To date, nearly 50,000 volunteers have been dispatched to 96 countries and regions. Participants’ activities have served as “grassroots diplomacy ”fostering mutual understanding between Japan and the partner countries.