Staff Interview: Miki GOTO (Laos & Sudan Projects)

[Original by Toko ODATE, 2022 Public Relations Intern (March 22, 2023); Translated by K. Takemura/A. Taguchi]

In this issue, we focus on the careers of JVC staff members and trace their paths to becoming NGO employees. We hope it will provide some hints for those who are interested in pursuing international cooperation as a career in the future.

First of all, please introduce yourself.

My name is Miki GOTO, and I am in my first year at JVC. I am in charge of the Laos and Sudan projects in the Tokyo Office. My hobbies are jazz dancing and camping. I got my car license in order to go camping (laughs).

Please tell us more about your current work at JVC!

My specific duties include: (1) arranging accounting reports sent from the field to the accounting department, (2) dealing with supporters (grant applications and reports, sending thank-you letters and receipts), (3) reporting on activities in the field, and (4) managing the Laos volunteer team.

Allow me to get to the point and ask you about your background up to the present. First, please tell us how you became interested in international cooperation.

I first became interested in international cooperation when I was in elementary school and read a biography of Mother Teresa at the library. When I read the biography, I was shocked by the fact that there are so many people in the world suffering from poverty and conflict, and I wanted to do something to help those in need. I was also shocked that I didn’t know that there were people who didn’t have the opportunity to study at school and eat a full meal every day. I wanted to know more about it, so I researched and found out that there is a field called international cooperation.

What did you major in at university?

I majored in children’s English, partly because I love children. When I was in school, I used long vacations to go abroad. In the U.S., I worked as an assistant to a kindergarten teacher in a predominantly immigrant neighborhood in Los Angeles. In Cambodia, I assisted the sisters at an orphanage created by Mother Teresa and taught Japanese and English in an open-air classroom. I also volunteered to give English lessons to children in the areas affected by the Great East Japan Earthquake.

Japanese language class in an open-air classroom

What kind of career did you pursue after graduation?

For a year and a half after graduation, I worked for a venture company that offered English and dance lessons to children. However, I became ill due to my busy schedule, so I resigned. At the same time, I also worked as a member of the English volunteer team of JVC for about two years. During that time, I came into contact with the Palestinian issue and became interested in it, so I went to Palestine. During my 10-day stay, I helped the project to sell embroidered goods, participated in tours, learned about Palestine, and did some sightseeing. After returning to Japan, I had a debriefing session on my experiences in the JVC Palestine project.

After that, I worked as a secretary at the Yemeni Embassy in Tokyo for one year through the introduction of the JVC staff. My experience at JVC was helpful since the application requirements were English proficiency, interest in the Middle East, and practical knowledge of the Middle East. After working at the embassy, I worked part-time for a year while still keeping my desire to work in international cooperation in mind. I then applied for a position as a staff member of JVC which led me to my current position.

In front of Banksy’s mural in Bethlehem

What were your first impressions of JVC? Also, what are some of the challenges you feel JVC faces?

My first impression of JVC was that it is quite friendly. I hope more people get to know about the people inside JVC and hope young people take an interest in it. The good thing about JVC is that it has a spirit of history, tradition, and enthusiasm, but I also think it would be good to be more flexible and change with the times.

Finally, please give a message to those who want to be involved in international cooperation.

I think it is important to continue to be interested in and involved in what you do. Keep your focus on yourself and take the first step forward!

After the interview

I am sure that there are many people like Miki, who want to pursue a career in international cooperation from a young age. I was actually one of them, but it is not so easy to work for an NGO or other organizations without any experience. However, through this interview, I was reminded that to “never give up” is necessary to grasp one’s dream. In addition, consistency in interest and experience would be an advantage when looking for other jobs, too. I hope this interview will be of some help to readers who are interested in building a career in international cooperation. (Odate)

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