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Striving to provide direct support to the conflict-torn area of Somalia
Establishing the only Somalia student support organization in Japan!

Yosuke Nagai

With food scarcity and the deterioration of public order caused by severe famine combined with escalating civil war, the Federal Republic of Somalia (hereafter, simply "Somalia") is on the verge of an extreme humanitarian crisis. In this dangerous region with one of the worst security situations in the world, where even the U.N. has sensitively intervened, there is a student organization from Waseda striving to coordinate with local youths and provide Somalia with assistance – the Japan Somalia Youth Organization, led by Yosuke Nagai. Says Nagai, “I questioned the absurdity of the world's most troubled country being left behind while a helping hand was extended to countries which were easy to provide support to, and resolved to create an organization which would work directly with Somalia.”

A commemorative photo of participants at the completion ceremony for a project to reform youth gangs, groups of young individuals who engage in violent crime.

Nagai made this resolution during the summer of his first year at Waseda. By chance, a brother and sister orphaned in the conflicts in Somalia entered Waseda University at the same time. Nagai proposed the idea of creating a support organization to them and, in September 2011, the JYSO was founded. Although Nagai says there were many negative voices when the organization was first established saying that students did not need to risk danger to provide support, Nagai, for whom an awareness of the issues and a sense of responsibility serve as motivation, did not waver in his resolve. “I believe that the only people who can talk with the youths who engage in suicide bombing on the same level is us, youths of the same generation, and because everyone is looking away there is a need to face the issue.”

Nagai’s beliefs have moved many people. Soon after the organization was founded, ICO, a Somalian refugee support organization composed of 14 Somalian youths, merged with JSYO. In Japan, the organization has gathered students not only from Waseda by other universities as well. Currently, the organization has expanded to 45 members, with 24 Somalian and 21 Japanese.

As the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs has recommended that people evacuate Somalia, the JYSO is based in Eastleigh in Kenya, an area with many Somalian residents. The organization has received support from government officials and local NGOs and is engaged in several projects. Of these, the one that the organization is putting the most effort into, is a project to improve public order by reforming youth gangs in Eastleigh. The project is an initiative aimed at guiding members on the edges of youth gangs into returning to society and supporting them in becoming community leaders. For its third run in the summer of 2012, the project had gathered 22 Somalian youths for a six day program. Although Nagai felt some progress had been made in this outing, he was also were acutely aware of the difficulty in engaging in discussion with the youth gangs. Nagai, however, has by no means given up hope. "We rolled up our sleeves, dove in, and lived with them. This is one of the things that only we can do."

In the summer of 2013, the organization received support from the African Union Mission to Somalia and entered Somalia for the first time. While there, Nagai encountered an act of terrorism which killed 32 people and experienced dangers sufficient make him go weak at the knees. Nagai, however, says that meeting people working towards the restoration of Somalia on the front lines helped give him support, and he drew courage from seeing the local people.

Talking about his future, Nagai says, "After graduation, I want to study conflict resolution and disarmament in British graduate school and return to Somalia as a professional in these disciplines." Believing that peace will come to Somalia, Nagai will continue working towards that goal.

Together with a youth with whom Nagai became close to in Somalia.

Nagai received recognition and support from the ambassador of the Somali Embassy in Kenya.

Nagai appeared as the first ever student speaking guest at the 7th UNHCR Refugee Film Festival.

(Offered By:WASEDA WEEKLY)

Yosuke Nagai
Third Year, School of Education

Originally from Kanagawa, Yosuke Nagai graduated from Tohrei Gakuen Fujisawa High School. While studying for entrance exams, Nagai learned of the Rwandan Genocide and travelled to Africa in his first year of university. Learning of the difficult situation in Somalia, in contrast with the growing peace in Rwanda, Nagai established the Japan Somalia Youth Organization (JSYO).