After experiencing setbacks when entering her dream career in the social sector, a young Japanese professional volunteer in the Dominican Republic re-sets her sights on her true calling. Learn about this emerging leader's path and her vow to never lose her sight of her commitment to being a global change agent.
The Personal Benefits of International Volunteerism
It was both humility and courage that led 28-year-old Naoko Shodai, a volunteer with the Japan Interchange Cooperation Agency (JICA), to realize working as an esthetician wasn't where she was destined to be.
"I wanted to change my life as I grew tired of the routine job. I studied international relations and wanted to work in The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, but I failed the exam."
Devastated at the perceived failure, Naoko went through a dark period where she felt lost. Fortunately, international volunteerism is where she ultimately found happiness.
Originally from a city right outside of Tokyo, Naoko relocated to the UK at 20-years-old to volunteer on environmental projects. She found personal fulfillment working in environmentalism. "It was a special and precious experience-the most beautiful moment in my life."
Continuing on her path of international volunteerism, Naoko relocated to the Dominican Republic in December 2014 to volunteer with JICA, the Japanese version of Peace Corps. She recently completed language and cultural training at Entrena earlier this month.
At Entrena, she has not only sharpened her Spanish, but has also learned the history and cultural significance of DR, and has partaken in Bachata dance classes! So far she finds the people of DR to be kind and friendly, a slight difference from Japan. While Japanese people are also friendly, she said Dominican culture is distinctive as they are exceptionally talkative and open.
Now set to teach environmental courses at a university in La Vega, a province in DR, she's looking forward to studying the use of pesticides in fruits and vegetables. Through her research, she found the agricultural industry there to have a higher trend of usage.
Her story is an inspiration to the growing group of young individuals who take the risk to travel the world and give back to underserved communities. We wish her luck on her journey!