Cultural vitality still exists through Sister City exchange

By: Nick Mordowanec | Fraser - Clinton Township Chronicle | Published July 21, 2014

CLINTON TOWNSHIP — The exchange between Clinton Township and Yasu, Japan, has been a huge success in terms of social advancement and cultural integration.

Every year, a group of interested parties travels from Clinton Township to Yasu, or vice versa. They immerse themselves in not only what each community has to offer, but also what each nation offers.

This is the 21st year of the Sister City exchange. This year brought locals from Yasu into Clinton Township and Macomb County. Twelve visitors flew to the United States this time around, landing July 11, and they were to return home July 20.

Visitors from Yasu have enjoyed the usual assortment of recreational activities, from visiting Greenfield Village to attending a Detroit Tigers game downtown.

Nieves McRoberts-Lukasik is the current president of the cultural exchange. It is her seventh year, and she still enjoys it, but she said that younger participants in the exchange program are needed to keep the strength of the intercontinental relationship.

She mentioned two younger residents of Shelby Township and Macomb who went to Yasu last year for the 20th anniversary, and the two individuals enjoyed the experience so much that they are now attending Michigan State University and Western Michigan University to major in Japanese studies.

One of the highlights occurred July 15, when the Clinton-Macomb Public Library hosted the Japanese Festival in the library’s auditorium. Guests’ ages ranged from 12-62. Clinton Township Supervisor Bob Cannon spoke during the opening ceremony of the festival, as did the general of the Japanese Consul from Detroit, Dr. Kazuyuki Katayama.

Cannon said he has hosted numerous people from Yasu in the exchange’s history, explaining that he and people like his son have experienced first-hand the amount of knowledge and compassion that comes from the program.

“The program that we had at the library was phenomenal, with all the families hosting and the visitors,” Cannon said. “We greeted them, and (Administrative Aide) Debbie Staller accompanied them to different locations. (Township Assistant Director of Cable TV and Communications) Joe Peruzzi filled their first day’s activities. Basically, it’s just thanking people who are involved and appreciating the positives aspects of having young people in the program.”

Cannon was one of the early supporters of the Sister City program. The original trip featured 43 people, with usual tallies between 15 and 18 people, depending on who wants to go and whether they can afford the economics of the trip. Cannon called the people from Yasu “delightful,” noting their intelligence, manners and positivity.

“You cannot possibly tell anyone or replicate the experience you’ve had by us staying in their home or they living in our home,” Cannon said. “A big part of the program is to break down any stereotypes to understand we are all the same.”

McRoberts-Lukasik echoed Cannon’s sentiment, telling how people gained new life experiences by living vicariously through the very visitors they have hosted.

She said that the program is important because it offers a first-person perspective of morality and diversity, showing that all people from different backgrounds can get along if they are aware of one another’s differences and similarities.

In other words, kindness goes a long way — even from the other side of the world.

“It’s so fulfilling to see them,” she said. “When you see the spark in their eyes. … Every country has its own way of doing things, and it’s nice to see others who share and understand and make the world a better place to live.”