Yu-Ai October issue 2019 — One Friend at a Time by Barbara Shenk

Yu-ai Friendship
Newsletter of the World Friendship Center, NPO

One Friend at a Time
Barbara Shenk

In August, 2017, Hiroshima became our home, to a much greater degree than we could have imagined.  Many wonderful people involved in the World Friendship Center and beyond quickly befriended us.  The more we learned of Barbara Reynolds and the mission of WFC, the more it became our mission.  Sharing this mission with the 800 or so guests we hosted, over 1600 or so breakfasts we served, confirmed to us that peace is fostered “one friend at a time.” As we walked and bicycled in and around the beautiful city, we discovered almost magical places for relaxation and refreshment.   We already miss all these aspects of our two busy years at WFC. 

We miss the English classes where we read and discussed literature and histories together.  In these classes we learned so much about the daily lives and interests of our students and about special customs and places in Hiroshima and Japan.  And we laughed a lot.   

We miss the breakfasts with our guests where we had great discussions about war, peace, cultures, politics, and personal experiences.  Having guests from different parts of the world connect over breakfast was particularly satisfying.  Sometimes they would make arrangements to meet each other again.

We miss the warm friendships of the WFC board members and many others who came to support us and participate in the mission of WFC in whatever way they could.  This included helping with cleaning, bringing food, translating, editing, carrying away and disposing of unneeded items, improving the WFC website, taking guests or interns to the doctor, painting, sorting through books and documents, and moving furniture.

We miss the beauty of Hiroshima, from the rivers which were our daily companions, to Miyajima, the Inland Sea, the mountains, and perhaps as much as anything, the Mitaki temple complex and hills.  We also miss the oysters, okonomiyaki, and all the other wonderful foods of Hiroshima.

Perhaps the most rewarding aspect of our work in Hiroshima was witnessing the interactions between our guests and the hibakusha who came to share their stories.  Our guests were moved beyond words and often told us that this experience changed their lives forever.  It is impossible to calculate the effects of these guests retelling the stories back in their home countries. 

From the bottom of my heart I wish to thank all of you who enriched our lives immeasurably over our two years in Hiroshima.  We will never forget you or the mission we share. 

Copyright © NPO World Friendship Center 2019 All Rights Reserved

Yu-Ai October issue 2019 — Reflections on Hiroshima by Dannie Otto

Yu-ai Friendship
Newsletter of the World Friendship Center, NPO

Reflections on Hiroshima
Dannie Otto

It is difficult to write about my experiences in Hiroshima, because when I think about the past two years, my mind is flooded with memories. We met many wonderful people. First of all, the Hiroshima people who are involved with WFC and contribute so much time and energy to the work of the center. In addition, there were the many interesting guests who came from many countries to learn about the effects of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima. At times it seemed like we lived in two worlds. On some days, we would spend time with our international guests, serving them breakfast and then telling them the story of Barbara Reynolds and her work for peace and nuclear disarmament. Immediately after telling the Reynolds story, I would go to meet with local members of WFC in an English class where we would also reflect on the effect of the bomb on Hiroshima. I wish we could have brought these two groups of people together.

We enjoyed all of our international guests, but there were several who stand out in my memory. In February of our first year, a time when we were not very busy with guests, we received a request from a woman for a party of two, male and female. The reservation was on short notice but she was persistent that we could assure her that they could hear the story of an A-bomb survivor. When they arrived, we had time for tea and conversation together. After introductions, the woman asked if we ever have people in the military visit us. I couldn’t think of any but assured them that military people would be welcome. She then urged her male friend to tell us what he did. Eventually he told us that he was active duty in the U.S. Air Force and served in the Strategic Air Command where his job was to develop the programming to guide American nuclear armed bomber jets to their targets. His job was to develop a detailed checklist to guide bomber pilots from their base in Louisiana to the potential targets. His friend then interjected that they had come to Hiroshima and WFC because she wanted him to understand what would happen if there were another nuclear war.

The following day our two guests heard a survivor story, toured the Peace Memorial Park with a WFC guide and then visited the museum. In the evening he and I talked late into the night about war, the threat of war and the nature of peace. The next morning, they left. We never learned his name. He indicated that his superiors in the Air Force would not be happy if they knew of his visit. We never heard from them again. I often wonder if his visit to Hiroshima and WFC changed his views on his job.

Barbara Reynolds set the mission of WFC as “Fostering Peace, One friend at a time”.  We believe that this is an important mission and the example of our encounter with a member of the Air Force is one example of how we can engage people on a personal level with serious conversations. I am very grateful to WFC for giving me the opportunity to engage in peacemaking in this very personal way.

Copyright © NPO World Friendship Center 2019 All Rights Reserved