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8899: Sachiko Ozawa and the Friends of Haiti (fwd)
Med student wants to become doctor to help Haitians
KOFU, Japan, Aug. 17 (Kyodo) - By: Shinsuke Takahashi
Sachiko Ozawa is experiencing life as a college student for the second time,
this time as a medical student with a goal of becoming a physician to help
less fortunate Haitians.
Ozawa's interest in Haiti goes back to her encounter with Haitian boat people
in September 1994 when she took part in volunteer work in Florida when she
was studying sociology at Keio University in Tokyo.
Children among Haitians fleeing in boats and drifting about 1,000 kilometers
northwest to Florida told her the United States ''is a lot better than
Haiti'' and that they preferred not to go back to their country.
Ozawa felt it was odd that the children did not speak favorably of their
country, which at the time was in chaos following the collapse of military
After returning to Tokyo, she contacted the Haitian Embassy and met the
ambassador who was about to make a home-coming visit to Haiti. He suggested
she visit Haiti.
Ozawa and a friend founded the volunteer organization ''Friends of Haiti''
seven years ago and it has expanded to about 60 members.
The group has sold postcards bearing the works of a Haitian artist, using the
proceeds to buy 200 secondhand sewing machines and shipping them to the
Caribbean island nation.
Ozawa and her group also used the proceeds to set up a library in an
elementary school on the outskirts of Port-au-Prince in 1998.
Ozawa also held an exhibition of photographs of Haiti taken by Fuminori Sato,
a Japanese cameraman living in the U.S.
She visited Haiti in spring and saw a woman in a town working the pedal of a
sewing machine. The sight touched Ozawa, who thought it was probably one of
the sewing machines her group had sent.
''I ran into the thing that I can be so crazy about and for someone else to
be pleased to have it. The world would be much better off if many people find
their own (ways to do something for) Haiti,'' she said.
As of 1999, Haiti's population was about 7.8 million with per capita gross
national product of $460. Haitians' literacy rate is said to be 45% and the
average life expectancy is 54. The mortality rate among children aged five
and under is 12.9%.
Her voluntary activities are almost unknown in Haiti since she does not make
them public. ''I just want to be their friend,'' she said.
Ozawa, 27, is a senior at Yamanashi Medical University. Tying her long hair
in a bundle, she drives her blue car to the school. She sits on her
''reserved'' seat in the second row of the classroom in lectures that usually
last until evenings.
Her future plan is to assist Haitians in the medical field after her
graduation. ''I want to hang in there in Haiti at least for a few years,''
Having grown up with a father who was away for extended periods on company
assignments, Ozawa frequently traveled in Japan alone since her high school
days because her mother allowed her freedom to do what she liked.
Her curiosity and desire to learn about turmoil in Haiti led her to make her
initial trip there with her friend. A group of local people surrounded her
outside the airport when she arrived and one of them ran away with her
When she chased him, he waited for her in front of a car that was to go to
the capital of Port-au-Prince.
She found out that the man was unemployed and was actually carrying her
luggage for her to get some money. She thought he could have earned more if
he disappeared with her luggage.
Haitians, she concluded, were trying to live decent lives and were willing to
work full of energy. She wondered if she could be of any help to them.
She and her friend subsequently founded the friendship society. Ozawa's
turning point came when her mother was hospitalized while she was a Keio
University junior. She remembered the injured and patients suffering from
malnutrition dying in a Haitian hospital and decided to become a doctor.
In the next two years she graduated from Keio University and passed the
examination for admission to Yamanashi Medical University.
Ozawa keeps a photograph of her surrounded by Haitian children on a wall of
her room. It was taken when she visited Haiti two years ago. She looks at it
when she gets fatigued from the rigors of study.
''Oh, I want to go to Haiti,'' she says to herself.