JELA’s mission partnership with the Asian Rural Institute (ARI) in Tochigi began 15 years ago in 2003 when our foundation provided an educational scholarship to a young person from Indonesia to participate in the 9-month servant leadership program. Since the start of this successful mission partnership, JELA has provided scholarship support to 19 ARI students from the countries of Indonesia, India, Cambodia, Myanmar, Malawi, Cameroon and Brazil.
On April 20th, Dr. Lowell Gretebeck (JELA Senior Advisor) and Mr. Masato Shimokawa (JELA Scholarship Program Coordinator) attended a study seminar, sponsored by Sophia University’s Institute of Comparative Culture, where two researchers, Steven Cutting and Bev Abma, and ARI principal Tomoko Arakawa, discussed results of a study focused on the long-term success and impact of ARI graduates.
Based on interview sessions conducted with 229 ARI graduates, it is clear that all participants – including those that were sponsored by JELA – have had a significant impact in their rural communities. In particular, the study confirmed extensive success in the areas of introducing organic agriculture as well as gender-inclusive capacity building at the grassroots level.
In addition, graduates have fulfilled key advocacy roles in bringing about positive government policy changes affecting the rural poor and promoting peace amongst people of different races and religions. A final purpose of the study was to assess how ARI here in Japan can improve its 9-month academic program to better meet new challenges faced by the rural poor as a direct result of globalization and technological change.
After 40 years of service, ARI’s mission journey continues – but with new energy and focus; however, the underlying guiding principle “That We May Live Together” is unabated. It is JELA’s honor and privilege to continue walking with ARI as well as rural leaders at the grassroots level. JELA and ARI share a common mission to transform communities and improve the livelihood of the poorest of the poor in Asia and around the world.
Senior Adviser, JELA