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Who Are the Mizuan?

Shantel Dickerson with Dr. Fauziah Hasan and fellow GET volunteer teachers. Shantel Dickerson

Meeting Nobel prize winners, environmental experts and activists aboard Peace Boat. 

One of the most fascinating and inspiring parts of being a GET teacher on Peace Boat is attending the "Mizuan" lectures. Short for mizusakianinin  (guest educator), the lectures are an opportunity for experts from various fields to present their stories, projects and global initiatives to Peace Boat passengers.

After two months aboard, I have had the pleasure and privilege of having coffee with an internationally recognized refugee activist; attending a private teaching workshop led by a Japanese university professor; eating dinner with an expert on environmental issues in the Maldives; and meeting a Nobel Peace Prize winner. Each of these intelligent and hard-working people were invited to join Peace Boat to speak about their work in the field of peace and conflict resolution.

The first Mizuan I met was professor Kip Cates. As a teacher myself, I was drawn to his lectures because he has been working within Japan’s higher education system for 33 years. He aims to promote exchange between students of different cultures through initiatives such as the Asian Youth Forum, which is a platform for students from all over Asia to gather to discuss critical issues. In addition to implementing peace initiatives on a global scale, Cates believes it is important to act within one’s local community. For example, he recognized that support for the international student community at Tottori University was lacking, so he partnered with two professors and his wife to create TIME: the Tottori International Multicultural Exchange.

Not only was I able to attend Cates' lectures, but our coordinators organized a private workshop for the GET Volunteer Teachers, where he taught us how to liven up our English lessons by including cultural information. Teaching methods and cultural exchange initiatives like these are incredibly inspiring, and have given me a chance to think more deeply about my own purpose for teaching English abroad. Now, after meeting Cates, I have a clearer vision for my own career path and how teaching language as a tool for promoting peace fits into it.

Teaching methods and cultural exchange initiatives like these are incredibly inspiring, and have given me a chance to think more deeply about my own purpose for teaching English abroad.

Later in the voyage, I met Dr. Fauziah Hasan. Hasan came aboard to discuss the refugee crisis and her role as a doctor in providing medical care to those who have been forcibly displaced throughout the world. She has worked across Southeast Asia and the Middle East, touching the lives of countless people who had nowhere else to turn. In 2014, she was named International Activist of the Year and in 2017, she received the Islamic NGO Leader award.

After attending her lectures, our teaching coordinators informed us that we would have the opportunity to have a coffee with Hasan. Given that Mizuans are only on the ship during a small portion of the voyage, we were thrilled to connect with Hasan in a more casual setting to hear her stories about working with refugees. She spoke in-depth about her passions, as well as the challenges she faces in her line of work. Just as we were about to say our goodbyes, she gave each of us a beaded-pencil grip that was hand-made in Malaysia. Small gestures like these are a huge testament to Hasan’s kindness and ability to genuinely connect with people. Though we only met for a short time, I learned so much from her. 

Further into the voyage, the GET volunteer teachers were invited to join Maeed Zahir for dinner. The Advocacy Director at Ecocare Maldives, Zahir is an advocate for protecting and sustaining the environment. 

Upon arriving in the Maldives, I ventured into the city of Male to find a place to snorkel. Making my way down one of the main streets as motorbikes zipped past, I stopped to buy some fresh fruit. I was talking with the shop keeper about Peace Boat, when the man behind me in line chimed in saying, “My friend is on Peace Boat.” As it turns out, the friend he spoke of was Zahir. In moments such as this, when the world feels small and connected, I remember how lucky I am to meet people who are doing such admirable work in their communities.

In the same vein, I have also had the pleasure of attending Akira Kawasaki’s lectures about his role in the abolition of nuclear weapons. Kawasaki is a member of ICAN: the International Campaign for the Abolishment of Nuclear Weapons, which is a coalition of over 500 NGOs. (Peace Boat is one of the 10 international groups on the ICAN steering committee.) 

Once again, the GET teachers were given the opportunity to hold a private meeting with Kawasaki to learn more about his work in denuclearization. As Kawasaki shared his opinions about the government of Japan’s role in denuclearization and support (or lack thereof) for the atomic bomb survivors, I could feel the fire and passion in his voice. Given the intimate setting, we were able to ask Kawasaki more personal questions, such as when and why he decided to dedicate his life to the abolishment of nuclear weapons. I had never imagined that I would be sitting next to a Nobel Peace Prize recipient discussing nuclear disarmament, and as a result, I continue to feel just how special it is to be a volunteer GET teacher.

The community on Peace Boat is so intimate that the Mizuan are not only experts in their fields who give engaging lectures on critical topics, but also fellow passengers with whom you can share a morning cup of coffee or dance with at one of the many salsa nights. Though my teaching responsibilities come first, I feel so lucky to have the opportunity to meet such passionate people who are dedicating their lives to making the world safer, more equitable and more sustainable. 

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Published in Volunteer Abroad Blogs
Shantel Dickerson

Shantel Dickerson is a Japanese Exchange and Teaching Programme (JET) participant who is teaching English to high school students in Beppu, Japan. Shantel will join Peace Boat for four months as a volunteer English teacher and travel to 23 countries.

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