Emi Kawamura is the Children and Youth Formation Organizer at OEP and a first-year student at Oberlin College in Ohio as a prospective Psychology major. She is an alumna of the Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange Program, a scholarship from the U.S. State Department, which gave her the opportunity to live in Sofia, Bulgaria as a citizen diplomat last year. With a passion for working with children and diversity education, she received a Community Engagement Grant from OEP for the Borderless Relations Committee (BRC), a project she founded with two of her peers in 2020. A project that originated based on a reflection of her experience as a Japanese-American who struggled with accepting her identity due to a lack of conversation about differences and belonging in classrooms growing up, BRC conducted workshops with students in 3rd through 5th grade about accepting and identifying differences, celebrating differences within themselves and others, and how to be respectfully curious. She is immensely grateful for the OEP community and her experience as an intern.
Why did you apply to On Earth Peace? What drew you to the organization?
I applied to On Earth Peace because of my experience as a Community Engagement Grantee. As a grantee, I was inspired by OEP's sense of community and endless support. Through my two years working with OEP, the people we met and interacted with from OEP endlessly inspired me; they challenged us to see avenues we had never considered and allowed us to think of and do things as BRC that we had never thought were possible. My time with OEP showed us a community of people who pushed and walked beside us through some of our greatest challenges as a group -- people who unfalteringly lead with love and support and are dedicated to making the world a better place. I applied to this position at OEP to pass my experience forward and guide the new Community Engagement Groups to have the same empowering experience I had.
What are your favorite projects that you’ve worked on?
My favorite (and main project so far) has been promoting the Community Engagement Grant and meeting with people across cultures who have astonishing and inspiring ideas for making their communities a better place. I have been inspired by the work and the passion of the youth and advisors of the Community Engagement Program every step of the way, and I am looking forward to working with them to make their ideas possible! I am so excited to see what our youth accomplish, so please cheer them on and support them throughout the upcoming months!
How has OEP affected your future aspirations?
I feel that OEP has empowered me to think beyond the limiting mindset of "what I have the capability to do" and instead, to question "what COULD I do?" Before OEP, I often remember having ideas and shutting them down immediately as I felt those ideas were too far-fetched or "advanced" for me. I felt that OEP has taught me to question and brainstorm beyond that mental block and has provided me with the support and tools to make those ideas become a possibility, empowering me to do things I never would have imagined doing. I feel that OEP has taught me to delve into ideas that I instinctively think are not possible and to simply try, dive in, and explore the uncomfortable unknowns (which often lead to surprising results like moving to Bulgaria for a year). OEP has also taught me the importance of dialogue and how to talk to those whom you don't agree with -- a skill that I learned the importance of through my work with OEP during BRC and have continued working on and value, allowing me to experience really beautiful moments with people that I otherwise may not have had.
What would you like people to know about OEP and yourself?
On Earth Peace is truly like a family. Even though we are fully online, I feel connected to and immensely supported by the other interns I work with. For example, our intern meetings are always filled with laughter, smiles, shared wisdom, and inspiration and I always find myself looking forward to them! OEP is one of the only places where I have found myself looking forward to meetings–whether it be with my supervisor or the group. OEP is truly an interconnected network of passionate, dedicated, kind-hearted, motivated, and supportive people who are open and excited to better the world for the next generations. If you ever have an idea (no matter how small) that you have to better your community, please reach out to us! Even if you don't know where to start, we will help you to the best of our ability make that idea happen. This is the type of community OEP is!