Japanese volunteers learn from San Diego ARC work therapy

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It’s a long way from Sakurano Seibo College in Fukishima, Japan to The Salvation Army ARC’s recycling warehouse in downtown San Diego. And it’s not just the distance in miles–for the 25 university women exchange students who came to volunteer recently, they found a world of difference: culturally, sociologically and personally.

They also saw a uniquely American operation at work, and expanded their own volunteer experience in a setting unlike any in their homeland. The students were here as part of PeopleLink’s home-stay program, which includes English immersion classes, excursions into the community and one volunteer activity per stay.

Enter The Salvation Army. The local teacher-guide, Christine Kirk, chose the Army for this group’s foray into community service, because of its international presence and its reputation for effective charity programs.

“We paired the Japanese women with women in the ARC’s recovery program whose work therapy jobs help process the tons of donated material that come into the warehouse each day,” said Major Doug Williams, San Diego ARC administrator.

They were soon immersed in sorting, tagging and hanging some of the 13,000 pieces of clothing handled that day, as well as wrapping and carting other household items destined for sale in Salvation Army thrift stores.

They concluded their volunteer day with a stint at San Diego’s newest boutique and family store. As they stocked merchandise they learned how store sales support the rehabilitation program. The students saw first-hand how recycling reusable goods can help recycle people–giving those recovering from alcohol and drug addiction a second chance.

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