January 3, 2010
Peace Boat organizes a variety of exchange and study programmes in ports visited throughout its voyages. Today the ship called to Manila, in the Philippines. An exchange programme was held together with local group ZOTO (Zone One Tondo Organization), a community organization working to improve the lives of many living in poverty, including through the localization and realization of the Millennium Development Goals.
With its origins in Tondo and now working in many areas beyond, ZOTO works to empower urban poor communities, including people living around dumpsites, under bridges or in housing on stilts. It provides education programmes and services in relation to gender, health care and nutrition, and is a people’s organization composed of 646 local urban poor organizations, working within 28 communities with an estimated population of 2.4 million urban poor.
ZOTO, which is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year, is undertaking many activities towards the MDGs on a local level. Its Children’s and Young People’s Programme is of particular note, including activities where youth themselves create songs and dance to express the challenges faced by the urban poor in every day life such as child labour and abuse, as well as the MDGs. ZOTO’s activities are highly appraised by the United Nations Millennium Campaign, who have selected them as one of their examples of best practice.
During their visit, Peace Boat participants had the opportunity to visit local homes and enjoy lunch and exchange together with families. After a visit to the ZOTO Centre to learn about their initiatives, a community march was held together to appeal about the importance of the MDGs and their achievement. Peace Boat, ZOTO and the People’s Global Exchange then organised an evening concert together, to celebrate their partnership and the 40th anniversary of ZOTO. Talented members of the ZOTO youth groups performed their original songs and choreography on themes of social issues faced by the urban poor. Participants then of the Peace Boat 68th Voyage MDGs Dance Team then shared dances including the lion dance and traditional festival dance to introduce Japanese culture, which were received with great interest by the children seeing this for the first time. It is said that to be bitten by the lion in a dance is very good luck, and the children all gathered excitedly around the lion dancer to receive their blessings for 2010!
After the Peace Boat dance performance, the venue was awash with energy and locals and Peace Boat participants alike enjoyed dancing together, exchanging many hugs and laughter.
Furthermore, during the day’s activities 601 signatures to Peace Boat’s petition calling for the achievement of the MDGs by 2015 were collected, together with messages to end poverty on a large banner. These messages and signatures will be collected during following ports of call throughout the 68th Voyage.
As the first time for members to ever dance outside of Japan, this was the first opportunity to truly feel how music and dance can be used to communicate beyond cultural or linguistic borders. “I felt like we were able to share the same feelings and really understand each other,” said one participant. Learning about the innovative initiatives to end poverty in the Philippines, and exchanging with the creative energy of the local people, was a great inspiration to continue efforts to promote the MDGs throughout the remainder of the voyage.
(Kim Heechon, Peace Boat MDGs Dance Team Leader)