Report from the ship (1): Departure Day – Three and half months in a lifetime

Peace Boat’s departure ceremony sets the tone for the lively atmosphere onboard the global voyage.

Amidst the waving and cheering on the top deck of the Peace Boat, one hundred year-old participant Tsubai Setsuji stepped up to the microphone to shout goodbye to the crowd gathered at Yokohama’s Osanbashi Terminal.
Mr Tsubai serves as a symbol of the landmark journey the 68th Peace Boat voyage was about to embark on and its celebration of life.

Voyage Director Hidaka Shinsuke says he chose the words “To Live” as the theme for the 68th voyage,
hoping that participants would contemplate the question, “What does it mean to live?”

Through onboard programmes and cultural exchange activities in ports of call, many of the 490 participants – approximately 200 of whom have previously joined at least one Peace Boat voyage – will learn firsthand about what it takes for people to live a happy and healthy life in spite of adversity.

With only five years to achieve the United Nations Millenium Development Goals (MDGs), Peace Boat will promote the campaign in many of its ports of call.

This amazing journey to 17 ports in the Global South will focus on the continuing efforts to ensure the human rights of all women, men and children,
and encourage everyone to work towards achieving the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by 2015 – eight goals established
ten years ago “to meet the needs of the world’s poorest”

Twelve international students from ten African nations will join the onboard community from Mombasa, Kenya, until Cape Town, South Africa.
Each one represents a non-government organization (NGO) in his or her own country and, as a part of Peace Boat’s African Youth Forum,
they will help develop an action agenda to end poverty that they plan to deliver to their individual governments, as well as the government of Japan.

H.E. Mr Roosevelt Gonwe (center) with Peace Boat Director Yoshioka Tatsuya and staff member Ueno Rei.

On the morning of the departure ceremony, representatives of Embassies of three of the countries involved – South Africa, Ghana and Malawi – spoke at a press conference in support of this project and the dire need for the world’s governments to meet the promises UN members made a decade ago.

His Excellency Mr Roosevelt Gondwe, Ambassador of Malawi, says all people should be able to eat three meals a day and have clean water to drink, children should be able to live past the age of five and there should be a place for every child in a classroom.

The idea,” says Mr Gondwe, “is that all of us will live in prosperous conditions and therefore all of us will be strong.”

The MDG dance team used the traditional Japanese Soran dance to introduce the project.

Peace Boat staff member Kim Heechon will lead a team of participants who will interpret the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) through dance. “Dance is an international language,” she says adding, she thinks the team’s performances will inspire audiences and motivate spectators to take action in any way they can.

Making the most of every moment, Mr Tsubai (left) wasted no time making friends onboard the 68th voyage.

Like Mr Tsubai, Peace Boat has a long, rich history that gets richer with each passing year.

The organization has since its maiden voyage in 1983 brought messages of global awareness and understanding to around 180 ports of call. It provides a neutral space for groups and individuals to contemplate ideas such as sustainable development, environmental conservation and peaceful conflict resolution, with the help of a diverse group of guest educators and the chance to interact with Peace Boat partner organizations all over the world.

Hidaka Shinsuke shares a congratulatory moment with Uchida Yumiko of the MDGs dance team.

While participants travel the southern hemisphere for 103 days onboard the chartered-ship SS The Oceanic – including stops in the Philippines, Namibia, Peru and Fiji – they’ll share countless unforgettable experiences with one another and also be a part of some remarkable moments in Peace Boat’s history.

Along with the topics of protection of children from sex-trafficking, preservation of indigenous cultures and the 15th anniversary of the end of apartheid in South Africa, this voyage features a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to understand the effects of climate change on one of the planet’s most precious areas. For three days in February, the SS The Oceanic will sail around the South Shetland Islands and the Antarctic Peninsula.

The backdrop of Yokohama won’t be very different after 103 days, but the hearts and minds of participants will be forever changed.

Mr Hidaka, who joined Peace Boat on its first southern voyage in 1999, told participants later that evening what a special opportunity it will be. But, it will be but one of many exciting moments yet to come, in a short journey that will last a lifetime.

This article can also be read at Peace Boat’s official website.

(Nick Logan, 68th voyage web reporter)


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