College President's Award Ceremony Speech By Mr Ku Ka Tsai  
Contributed in November, 2011

Good afternoon one and all. My name is Ku Ka Tsai, and I am a third year student in the Faculty of Law.

It is a great honour to be a recipient of the College President’s Award. I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Dean of the Faculty of Law, Professor Yamashita, as well as the International Student Advisors, Ms. Takano and Ms. Iizuka, for having recommended me for this prize. Thank you very much.

Originally, I was to talk about my volunteer activities in Tohoku. However, today we have with us many volunteers with whom I have had the honour to work with at the disaster areas over the past few months. They have done far more than me, and it would be shameless for me to talk about what I have done in front of them. As such, I would instead like to take this opportunity to talk about the lessons I have learned from volunteering since March. However, before that, I would like to talk just a little bit about a charity concert that I held with my friends in Singapore, the aims of which were to raise funds for the tsunami victims and share with the public our experiences.

I have summarized the event preparations from the 15th of March to the 2nd of April over the slides. As such, I will not speak further on the details. Please do take your time to look over the slides.

Date Event
Mar 15 Begin organizing the event via e-mail
Set up the Planning Committee
Mar 16 Return from Japan
Mar 17 First meeting of the Planning Committee
Mar 18 Get approval to use Concert Hall in Hwa Chong Institution
Call for participation of the bands
Mar 21 Meet Singaporean who was in Iwaki-city, Fukushima at the time of the Earthquake
Report on the current progress of the event and present the Singaporean’s impression of the Earthquake at the event
Mar 23 Complete audition for bands to perform at the event
Confirm the participating bands
Mar 24 Confirm Economic Development Board, Singapore to be a sponsor of the event
Publish the flyers of the event
Start advertisement via website
Mar 25 Contact to Embassy of Japan in Singapore
Invite Embassy of Japan to the event
Announce to Embassy to make donations raised from the event
Mar 26 Advertise the event by students in Hwa Chong Institution
Mar 27 Press Release
Mar 29 Final confirmation of leaflets, postcards, etc, and publish them
Apr 1 Final meeting of the Planning Committee
Apr 2 Rehearsal(in the afternoon)
Concert(in the evening)
Apr 3 Press report on the event
Apr 4 Return to Japan (Start new semester)
Apr 5 Mr Ng Ying Jian, President of Singapore Students' Association Japan (SSAJ) meet Ambassador Suzuki, as a representative of Planning Committee
Donate S$20,150(About 1,330,000 yen) to Embassy of Japan

With regards to the event, there is only one thing that I would like to say. That is, were it not for the selfless contributions of each member of the organizing committee, this event would never have succeeded the way it did. In addition, I have to thank profusely the teachers from my alma mater, Hwa Chong Institution, as well as Ms. Kusaka Yuko, formerly of the Japanese Embassy in Singapore, who is here with us today. Their support was crucial to the success of this event.

This is a picture of the event organizing committee. Excluding me, five of us are here today, but there are also people who are working or studying in Singapore. To all in the organizing committee- thank you very much for a most meaningful and valuable 18 days of cooperation. It is an honour that I could have spent this time with all of you.

From this point, I would like to stop talking about my volunteer activities, and focus instead on my thoughts since March 11th.

(Photo: Ku Ka Tsai, 3rd July - Lunch Box Shop in Kamaishi-city)

This award definitely is an honour to me. On the other hand, I feel uneasy, and also slightly regretful about it. I have only done what I should be doing in the first place. That it should lead to an award makes me feel uneasy. Also, that I should have only come to rethink my life after a disaster of such proportions, after the sacrifice of so many lives, makes me feel very remorseful.

Since the awardees for this honour was announced, I have received many congratulations from friends. However, by praising volunteers, it may become easy to overlook the fact that volunteering itself should be an integral part of our lives, and should not be considered as something noble or for the special. At least, in the case of volunteering, as long as you have a heart and hands, and as long as you make the time, the effort you put in will lead to a larger change in the lives of the people you try to work for.

(Photo: Ku Ka Tsai, 3rd July - Collapsed coastal area in Kamaishi-city)

Of course, when volunteering, there are a lot of tiresome questions that you have to ask yourself. ‘who am I working for’, ‘what am I doing’, ‘how do the others feel’. Yet such questions have always been asked. Even 100 years ago, I’m sure our ancestors had to face such questions, and they solved them even if no easy solution was in sight at first.

It is in this vein that I feel that we, who are living the present, have come to forget the necessary difficulty of solving the problems around us. Right now, everybody says that Internet is making change easier; on the other hand, the process of linking disparate individuals may have become easier, but the problems at the core remain unchanged. We can click countless links on the Internet, but that will not solve our troubles. What is important is actual action, and a concern for others rooted in reality.

(Photo: Lai Ying Loong, 9th October - Rubbish at the river area in Otsuchi-city)

And of course, sadly, action is not a simple thing. Since starting my volunteering in Tohoku, many people have told me that they have been moved by what I have been doing. To be blunt about it, to move people is easy. To move people to action, on the other hand, is extremely hard. Action requires perseverance, concentration and planning, but to be moved for a fleeting instant requires none of the above attributes.

Yet the question remains. What does modern society ask of us at this very moment? Is it simply to be moved, or to be moved to action?

I think that the answer that we offer to this question will determine the fate of society in general.

(Photo: Lai Ying Loong, 16th October - Group photo at the Orahono Market for recovery in Ishinomaki-city)

I have said far too many things that smack of self-importance, but I have just two final things to say before I end. Firstly, for those volunteers with whom I have had the honour of working with in Tohoku, I would like to say this- thank you very much for teaching me the importance, and also the difficulty, of doing something for other people. I don’t know where we’re next going to meet- might be the disaster zones, or the temporary housing, or the embankments of cluttered rivers- but I look forward to the next time when I’ll get to work with you at Tohoku.

Finally- I have always insisted that the core of volunteering knows nothing about nationalities- but, as an international student, I have one last thing to add. I have been in this country for close to four years, and I have been the beneficiary of countless acts of kindness by the Japanese around me. Also, I have had the good fortune to tour Tohoku approximately half a year before the Tsunami struck, and I have nothing but good memories of the place.

I pray for Tohoku’s speedy recovery. Also, while the road to recovery is still a long one, I believe that the day of full recovery will come. However, to pray, and to believe, will not lead directly to the recovery of the region. It is in that sense that this award, to me, is both a responsibility and a new beginning, and I hope to continue volunteering in whatever way I can up in Tohoku.

Thank you for your time.