CULTURE

Ukraine and U.S. envoys announce fund to help integrate evacuees into Japan

The Ukraine and U.S. ambassadors to Tokyo have called on the Japanese public to give to a newly launched fund helping Ukrainian evacuees adjust to life in Japan, including with language-learning aid.

The Ukraine Evacuees Assistance Fund, established in partnership between the philanthropic Nippon Foundation with U.S. Ambassador Rahm Emanuel and Ukrainian Ambassador Sergiy Korsunsky, aims to raise ¥1 billion ($7.4 million) by Sept. 30.

To ensure evacuees can become linguistically competent to find jobs and lead fulfilling lives, the fund covers tuition at Japanese language schools and offers scholarships. It will also offer everyday items such as cards for public transportation, and some cash will go to facilitating experiencing Japanese summer festivals.

At a news conference held at the foundation’s Tokyo headquarters on Monday, Korsunsky stressed the fund is not just “spending money,” and cited future potential IT and agricultural partnerships to call it an “investment of Japan into the nation which will always be friendly to you, which can help you in many terms in the future.”

Emanuel, who approached the foundation about the fund, praised Japan’s response to Ukrainians’ plight so far, saying, “The Japanese people have stepped up since day one, and opened their hearts, opened their homes and opened their wallets, and we’re asking them to continue to do that.”

Also attending were evacuees Oksana Bila, 48, and her son Mark Yelenets, 22, and daughter Rimma Yelenets-Memor, 18. Mark said the family, who arrived in May, is “really grateful” for educational support because it offers the “possibility to be directly integrated into the society by learning the language, by learning the culture.”

Tuition for language classes can cost ¥700,000 to ¥800,000 annually plus enrollment fees, according to the foundation, which said the money would also help Japanese language schools struggling due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Other Nippon Foundation Ukraine initiatives have included a fund announced in March providing around ¥5 billion to evacuees and nongovernment organizations helping them.

Jumpei Sasakawa, the foundation’s executive director, said evacuee arrivals had exceeded expectations.

As of Saturday, Japan is home to 1,256 Ukrainian evacuees, government data showed. Figures current to last Wednesday show 284 are below the age of 18, another 788 are between the ages of 18 to 60, and 171 are 61 or older.

Ukrainian nationals evacuating to Japan can currently stay up to a year. They receive temporary visitor 90-day visas upon arrival, which can be upgraded to designated activities visas affording a year’s residence and work eligibility.

An estimated 4.9 million people have fled Ukraine for other countries in Europe, UNHCR figures on June 9 showed.

Contributions to the fund can be made at the following link (https://kifu.www.nippon-foundation.or.jp/ukrsp/), with payment options including credit card or bank transfer.

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