September 12, 2018

Momoko Washituka; adapting and evolving in Kiribati.

Momoko Washituka’s table tennis mission is at the halfway point, and she is already planning her next trip.

As part of a program run by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA),  Momoko has dedicated two years to growing table tennis in Kiribati. She is now one year in to a placement which saw her leaving Japan for the very first time. For someone used to the hustle and bustle of Tokyo, there was a culture shock; but it’s one that has changed her and left a lasting impression.

“I tried to get some information on Kiribati before I came here, but I couldn’t find much so I was unsure what to expect when I arrived,” says Momoko.

But it’s been a transformative process.

“There aren’t many foods, pastimes, shops, or gadgets here. So I have become person who can find happiness even in tiny things, like taking a shower or using electricity.”

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Momoko hopes she is making similar change in the lives of those in Kiribati.

“There are not many pastimes in Kiribati, so people who play table tennis begin to look really happy because they have something new to challenge them in their life.”

Momoko has seen first hand that opportunities to learn and improve in sport are key aspects to development.

“A community’s atmosphere is brightened through sport,” says Momoko. “If people in the community play sports, those people feel happy, and then people who watch are happy too.”

With one year left to go, Momoko’s sights haven’t turned back to Japan. Instead of heading home, she has already set her sights on continuing to work overseas through table tennis.

“In Kiribati I’ve have had so many new experiences. My horizon has broadened. So I’m searching for ways that I can live and work overseas.”

Kiribati may just be the first stop in Momoko’s mission.