English Site

  Notice:  Kamakura site moved to  https://amnestykamakura.jimdo.com/

 AI KAMAKURA  Monthly Meeting

 Time: usually 4th Sunday of the month (except August)
 Place: Kamakura Shogai Gakushu Center
(3 minute walk from Kamakura Station, beside the main post office)

 Next Meeting Jan.21st(Sun)17:00〜 New Year's Party at member's house

 Interested people are always welcome to attend our meetings and learn more 
 about our activities.
 Contact us: to Inquiries

 What's Amnesty International ?

Amnesty's work
 is based on the principles described in the Universal Declaration 
 of Human Rights, which was adopted by the U.N. on Dec.10,1948.
 There are over 2.8 million Amnesty members in over 150 countries and 
 regions in the world. 
 As well, there are Amnesty branches in over 80 countries and regions 
 all over the world. 
 Amnesty Kamakura is one of the 79 groups in Japan which works with
 the Amnesty Japan branch.
  Introduction to Japan Amnesty International, Kamakura Group (#103)

-In late 1989,
 We started the group with about 12 members. Many of them were mixed
 couples, one spouse Japanese and the other American, British, Kiwi, etc.
 and a few singles such as myself. (My husband was Japanese, but never
 became a member.)Over the years, our numbers grew, and shrank, and
 now we are ten, consisting of one American, two Canadians, and the rest
 Japanese (Three men, seven women). Ages range from mid forties to late
 sixties (I’m just guessing here), a “mature” group, much in need of
 some young blood.

 Most of us live in or near Kamakura, which, if you’ve ever visited Japan,
 is a tourist center, home of the big outdoor Buddha. We meet once a month
 at a community hall, and our two-hour meetings seem to whiz by with our
 busy agenda. Our coordinator, on whom we have relied for many years, sets
 up the agenda and does most of the planning. However, much of the work is
 done by other members, such as treasurer, letter writing, some yearly
 events, etc. to lighten the coordinator’s job.

 Our activities now consist of the following:

 -Letter writing
  Four or five letters are prepared by one
  member, copies for all members are made,
 and we discuss them, and sign and address
 them, usually producing about thirty lett-
 ers a month.
 Recent cases include prisoners in Iran,
 Iraq, and North Korea. Some of the letters
 are on behalf of ongoing cases our group
 has been assigned and others are based on
 urgent action cases.

 -Postcards- Last summer we had a visit from a young American AI member, who
 told us about his project writing postcards to prisoners in Guantanamo Bay.
 We have been following this up, sending two or three postcards each to
 individuals chosen from a list provided by our visitor, including simple,
 non-political or religious messages letting the prisoners know we are
 hinking of them.

 -Speaking tour- Every other year the Japan office arranges for former POCs
 or other activists to do a speaking tour in Japan. We try to host one of
 these talks, either by ourselves, or with other groups in Kanagawa
 Prefecture. This year we co-hosted a woman from Afghanistan who is working
 on shelters for women in Kabul and other cities.

 -Daibutsu Bazaar- This annual event is sponsored by Kamakura City and inter-
 national groups which are based here. Each group has a booth for selling
 goods and promoting its activities, and there is live entertainment such
 as Japanese taiko (drumming), Bali dancing, karate demonstrations, etc.
 all taking place outdoors under the eye of the Buddha.

 -Annual concert- Working with the other Kanagawa Prefecture groups, we hold
 a fund/conscience raising concert in Yokohama every year. Well known
 musicians, such as cellist and former POC from Czechoslovakia, Vladan Koci,
 offer their talent and time at minimal rate to Amnesty and perform for sold-out audiences.

 -Other activities include taking part in NPO festivals, Human Rights Day
 events in Yokohama, putting up Amnesty PR displays in public places,
 taking part in the annual Japan AI general meeting, etc.

 However, it is not all work and no play. We have an annual
 New Years party in January, usually a pot-luck supper at
 someone’s home, and occasionally socialize after events.

 I hope this has given you a bit of a picture of our group and
 Please feel free to contact us if you are interested in visit-
 ing us during a meeting or in taking part in an event.

Monthly meetings
 Time: usually 4th Sunday of the month (except August)
 Place: Kamakura Shogai Center
 (3 minute walk from Kamakura Station, beside the main post office)

 The following is a story by one of our group members

A School in Cambodia Part 1

Every year for the past 13 years, I have visited Cambodia. My first visit was in order to try to fulfill a dream of setting up a free school for some of the poorest children in that country, and the next two visits were to see that dream come true. Subsequent yearly visits have been to help manage the school, teach the children, train the local teachers, and learn to become a part of the community.

How did this happen? Why Cambodia? And where did the dream come from?

In 2000, my 48 yr. old husband passed away from cancer, leaving me devastated and seriously wondering about the purpose of life. If it can be taken away so early and easily, I wanted to leave something behind besides my family, preferably by helping people worse off than me. Living in Japan put me relatively close to several very poor countries in need of aid, and since Cambodia was the poorest, I chose it to start my search. Also, the fact that it was a Buddhist country, and therefore should be relatively easy for a single woman to move about, and it was well known as the recipient of much NGO largesse unhindered by bureaucracy, made it an easy target.

On my first trip there, I met a monk who was teaching local kids for free at a large temple on the outskirts of Siem Reap. Many foreign tourists had stopped there on their way back from Anchor Wat, and his detailed records of their donations and his enthusiasm while teaching drew me to him. We seemed to agree with each other in everything we talked about, as if we were reading from the same script; a free school for kids, teaching English as most areas have some kind of public school for other subjects, away from Siem Reap as it is already the target of so many other helping organizations, etc. etc.
In the 30 minutes or so that we talked, I knew that here was a person I could trust, and could work with, or at least I was willing to take a gamble with him. We arranged to keep in touch by email, and make something happen.

The first step was buying some land, which Sovann (my partner, the monk) arranged to do. He bought some land from his parents, and the cash I sent over enabled them to move their house off the corner of their property which we had purchased, and also to build a small brick building housing a bath/shower and their first indoor toilet. No more bush toilets for the family!

The next step involved another visit by me to Cambodia, about eight months after our first encounter. The school was to be built on the family compound in a village called Popiae, situated one and a half hours north of Phnom Penh by motorbike. The purpose of this visit was to design and get a builder for the school building. I had imagined a straw hut like so many other local buildings, but Sovann told me they don’t last long, and a reinforced brick building was the best design for the climate. In the end we decided on one large classroom, and two smaller rooms for an office and bedroom for me or other visiting teachers. An architect cousin of Sovann’s drew up a professional plan, and we found a local builder who needed the job and could do it quickly and cheaply. Of course there were problems and glitches, which I won’t go into here, but the main thing is that the building did get built and was completed eight months later.
Another major part of that second visit was meeting Sovann’s wonderful family, seeing the town and meeting some of the local kids. It all invigorated me and assured me that I was doing the right thing.

                            Heather W.

 The following is a story by one of our group members

A School in Cambodia Part 2

My third visit was in mid August, 2005, in the middle of the rainy season. Flying in to land in Phnom Penh, the whole country seemed to be underwater, making me wonder how I was going to get to the school. However, Sovann picked me up on his motorbike as usual, and the roads were wet but passable. The school building was almost complete and we were starting to enroll students. More than 200 children had applied, but Sovann had to limit the number to 120. (I thought 80 students would be even better, keeping the classes at around 20 students each.) We decided on four to five classes a day, starting at 5 pm and ending at 8 pm, with students coming five days a week. Since all the students went to public school for other subjects, we would only teach English. I felt that learning English would encourage the students to stay in public school, at least through high school, give them an advantage over other students in their schools in English classes (which begin in junior high), and possibly help them get tourism related jobs after graduation. Otherwise, their future lay in working in the fields or the ever increasing factories, neither of which could free them from the existing cycle of poverty.

Sovann and I worked on English content, teaching methods, getting teaching materials and planning classes and the opening party in September. Unfortunately I wouldn’t be there for that or the first classes. However, we accomplished a lot, and I left with some degree of confidence that the school would soon be on its feet.

I returned the next March, and every year between January and March since then. Besides Sovann, we have had many local teachers teaching one or two classes every day. We have had a few women teachers, but mostly men, friends of Sovann. Teacher quality is often a problem. For example, poor pronunciation gets passed down from teacher to students, teaching by rote and repetition seems to be the Cambodian way, and light physical punishment is acceptable. Changing these habits is one of my many chores during my visits, but I have seen lots of improvement if I have been able to show a better way to teach and run the classes. Things are definitely more fun now, and we can see more progress in the classes.

Family-wise, Sovann quit the priesthood shortly after the school opened, got married, finished high school, and now has three children. His parents now have 13 grandchildren, and Sovann’s younger brother will soon graduate from university, the first in his family. This is very important in their village, as he can probably get a good job with a decent salary, the much needed cash inflow that can support the family, especially in times of trouble, such as severe illness or accidents.

Some of our first students are in university now. This is a huge step for them, as they have had to pay for cram schools, pass difficult entrance exams, and pay for tuition and living expenses, as most of them have had to move to Phnom Penh to study. Many of these former students have thanked me personally for letting them study English for free at our Butterfly School and encouraging them to stay in school. The name of the school comes from the small, flitting light that a butterfly adds to an otherwise dreary scene, in hopes that our school can add a ray of light and hope in otherwise desperate lives.

                            Heather W. 

 The following is a story by one of our group members

   An extraordinary and unusual adventure at ADADA

Amnesty International`s mandate is to research, publicize, and campaign against human rights abuses around the world. My story is an “animal” story but I don`t want to suggest that it is Amnesty`s responsibility to be at the vanguard of the movement for animal rights too. Our own species is enough to put on one plate.I chose to post my story on this site because, at base, decency, justice, and compassion are decency, justice, and compassion, for all animals, human and otherwise, who live together on this lovely earth.

One day in May, my friend Koichi, pulled out his Japanese newspaper to show me an article about a donkey sanctuary in France. There was a small photo of a woman, Marinette Panabiere, 75, standing in a pasture with two donkeys, in the small town of Ambert, in the area of the Massif Central. By coincidence, I had been pondering the idea of walking with a donkey in this very part of France in response to a fantasy I`ve held since childhood . . . but I somehow couldn`t get sufficiently motivated. I had already walked across north Spain and this part of France, along the ancient pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostela, but not with a donkey.

The article told the story of Madame Panabiere, who, with the close assistance of her husband, is the driving force behind this sanctuary, called ADADA, home to over 300 donkeys from all over France who had been tortured, maltreated, neglected and abandoned.

Donkeys, a usual presence in rural France all through the country`s history, have habitually been the victims of abuse not only as work animals (made to carry too much weight and to work too long and hard), but more recently, as pets. The appealing picture of a family in the past traveling on foot through the verdant countryside with their long-eared pal, inspired a donkey pet boom in more recent times. However many owners lost their enthusiasm along the way which resulted very quickly in staggering numbers of donkey casualties, not unlike what happens in the pet business everywhere, in which all varieties of animals, many from pet mills, are discarded in one cruel way or another by pet shops and pet owners. So, ADADA sanctuary was founded in 1968, and Marinette has been at the helm for the past 20 years, or so.

I went for a walk and many thoughts surged through my brain. I wondered if I could volunteer at ADADA, reasoning that it would be of mutual benefit; while helping out at the sanctuary I would learn something about taking care of donkeys, which would be useful preparation for my walking adventure with a donkey after that. I contacted Madame Panabiere and it was arranged that I would volunteer for a week or two. Koichi and another friend, Masao decided to join me for the first part of the trip.

The bus let us off in Ambert on a quiet evening in early August. The Panabieres live on the edge of town and their home acts as ADADA office and headquarters. When we arrived at 9 the next morning, there were several people in scraggly work clothes, smoking and chatting on the sidewalk. A friendly “bonjour” was exchanged and we learned that they were donkey caregivers at ADADA. Soon they all went inside for their brief morning meeting with Marinette while we explored outside.

There was an atmosphere of heartwarming chaos. We could see that the Panabiere home was haven also for animals besides donkeys. There were cats upstairs, and dogs downstairs, and a little fenced-in universe on the front lawn where three tortoises were going about their day. One poked it`s head out the doorway of its shelter, a miniature country cottage. The only donkey we could detect so far was brown fuzzy two-month old Garance, who has run of the meadow behind the house along with an odd assortment of other hard luck creatures. We later learned that Garance`s mother was too young to know how to take care of her, and it was now necessary to bottle-feed her every 2 hours, day and night, for another month or so, a task taken on by Monsieur Panabiere despite his very bad knees.

Eventually the caregivers came out and we were assigned to Hugo, chief on the ground. The three of us squashed into the back seat of his beat-up car piled high with distinctly donkey-related materials . . . tubes of creams and jars of ointments in brightly-colored plastic dishwashing bins, donkey brushes, leads and bridles, and alfalfa pellets and strands of dry hay all over the floor . . . and we raced off at near uncomfortable speed. The car swung through the narrow winding roads in the hills outside Ambert, and finally, after a couple of chore stops, we arrived at a pasture about 20 kilometers away. As soon as we got out of the car, Hugo lit a cigarette and chatted with Renaud, the young caregiver responsible for this pasture, and then took off in a rush to attend to some matter, promising to pick us up later. We would see on numerous occasions, that Hugo, who had a tossed off boisterous air,was indispensable, and everywhere all at the same time, dealing with this crisis and that annoyance, of which there were many.

Renaud didn`t seem quite sure of what he was supposed to do with us. He pulled out another cigarette and leaned against a post puffing away and then went to the pasture and gathered up two very cute donkeys, Blanco and Ophelie. He told us that we`d be taking them for a walk, which they loved, and we all crossed the country road to the start of a path in the woods. Renaud pointed to some pretty flowers with yellow petals at the edge of the path and warned us that they contained a toxin that accumulates in the body of donkeys over time and eventually kills them, so we were to be careful our donkeys didn`t eat any. This was a chilling start to our donkey education. He showed us how to hold the lead, and how to tie it in a special knot around a tree when we stopped for lunch. I petted Blanco under the chin, which was like soft suede, and gave both a piece of carrot. There is no music more pleasing than the muffled crunching sound of a happy donkey demolishing a succulent carrot, and no sight more captivating, especially in donkey profile; but their perfectly round bellies comes a close second.

I took hold of Blanco`s lead tentatively, Masao of Ophelie`s, and we started on our way along the narrow path as Renaud hurried back to the pasture to do his day`s work. Both donkeys, used to people, didn`t seem to mind our company and knew the right turns through these woods. After a pleasant hour or so of strolling, singing, and whispering in the donkeys` ears . . . this is irresistible . . . we stopped for an early lunch and tied up the donkeys where they could enjoy a snack of grasses and leaves but none of those nasty yellow flowers. The walk was a very fruitful hands-on introduction to the world of donkeys, and the most pleasant job I`ve ever had.

It was clear when we arrived at ADADA the next morning that the three of us presented a logistical problem. Koichi and Masao didn`t want to be separated from me, their lifeline in this foreign linguistic landscape, but it was impractical. The ADADA vehicles, mostly acquired by donation, are small and well beyond their prime, like Hugo`s. Besides having to haul the mess of things we saw in his car, it`s necessary in the case of some of the poorer pastures, to carry water tanks, and heavy bales of hay, so there was no room for three extra people.

Luckily, Nic, a friendly Dutch fellow, could take the three of us on this particular day, but we`d have to deal with this snag one day at a time. From the looks of things, there wasn`t an organized program for volunteers in place and we were a bit of an anomaly. What a drag to think that we might be a burden instead of a help.

Nic is responsible for six pastures. As we approached the first of them, we could see several donkeys at the wooden fence, waiting it seemed, to greet us. I broke off chunks of carrot for each of them and Nic passed out some donkey biscuits, which they gobbled up greedily. Once we were inside the gate, Nic lit up a cigarette and told us their names and a little about each one.

They were a mixed lot with different histories, but all of them had suffered. Two of them, Paulette and Lulu, were longhaired and seriously matted. Lulu, a victim of extreme neglect, had been reported to ADADA by a neighbor who, knowing the farmer well, suggested that ADADA devise some kind of polite story to buy her, and it worked. Nic explained that this kind of though there is no exchange of money for the donkeys that come to ADADA.

Moustache, the youngest and newest to arrive here, was chocolate brown with delicate white outlines around his intelligent eyes. He was still afraid and aloof and sometimes the others taunted him, but Nic said it would work out fine in the end, once he adjusted to his new home. Pieta, a very cute dusty grey donkey had some nasty wounds on her back. Nic attached her to a bar and began to apply some white ointment. Dada, Sabine, and Ben, were friendly and seemed very happy. They were used to the good life here, but had suffered in the past and had no other place to go.

An old shovel and rake for collecting dung leaned against a wall inside the very urine-stinky wooden shelter. Two of us started gathering up the day`s dung spread out all over the pasture in little piles, while the other brushed donkeys. I had the rake and it could only be pushed, not pulled, because the rake part kept slipping off the wooden handle. A wheelbarrow would have speeded things up, but Nic said they couldn`t afford one in each pasture. I asked if there was another rake but there wasn`t. He rolled his eyes in frustration, saying it would take five seconds to fix this one but it never got fixed and was just one of a million nagging annoyances. We had already experienced the wobbly gate that needed new hinges. Things were too disorganized, tools got lost, there are too few workers, and no extra time even for simple, very manageable tasks like these. ADADA clearly was over-extended and underfunded.

The most serious problem was that pastures were generally small and spread out all over the outskirts of Ambert, because ADADA couldn`t afford to buy or rent large pasture space closer to town, where more donkeys could live together, and management could be more centralized and rational. Fewer wheelbarrows would be needed, for example, and tools for repairs would all be in one place. It`s a vicious circle; outrageously expensive in gasoline, car maintenance, and travel time.

I didn`t mind shoveling dung. It isn`t offensive because it`s dry and firm, like grassy Minor League baseballs, and there is no bad smell. Not surprisingly though, I especially loved brushing the donkeys, who nuzzled up to me greedily vying for my full attention. They also loved to have the leathery insides of their long ears massaged. At times I thought I`d get crushed like sandwich filling between two competitors, so I sometimes had two brushes going at the same time. I remained cautious because I had noticed a donkey butting and back kicking at Renaud`s pasture, though it was directing its message at one of its peers. The pastures vary enormously in quality. The second pasture we visited on Nic`s circuit was a long and narrow barren piece of land with no shade and no natural water. It was on a slant, and the donkeys came to the bottom to drink from a trough and eat from bales of hay, and then trudged up again to the small hut at the top for protection from the sun. We didn`t have to shovel dung there because it rolled down to the bottom on its own. The final pasture of the day, on the other hand, was donkey heaven; lush and shady, with a stream of cool clear water trickling through and lots of natural vegetation to eat. It had been donated to ADADA by the next door neighbor who loved animals.

By late afternoon, our first real work day at ADADA came to an end, and though our work had not been difficult, we were very tired, and looked forward to supper in town. The rest of our stay at the sanctuary would follow a similar pattern of brushing and shoveling, and since it was clear that no fancy language skills were required, we agreed that from now on Koichi and Masao could be without me, thus solving one problem.

The regular workers, however, have much more complex work to do, mainly concerning the donkeys with special needs under their care . For example, Poppy arrived with one gangrenous leg that had to be amputated at mid-calf, and her caregiver had learned to deal with her prosthesis. Other donkeys with chronic medical conditions require ongoing management, and some have special dietary needs. Happily, most despite their histories of abuse, recover completely.

One day, Gilles, the farrier was coming and I was excused from my dung slinging duties so that I could watch him trim donkey hooves. He even let me trim one of Babette`s front hooves. I was afraid I`d cause mortal damage, but Gilles guided me carefully and I managed the task. It took muscle to dig the giant shears through what felt like pressure-packed leathery cork, and I would not have had the strength for more than one hoof. Katastroff was last in line that day. He`s the most defiant of all the donkeys at the sanctuary and also very strong, but since all 300 plus must be “manicured” regularly, the challenge of Katastroff had to be met. Four experienced caregivers, ready for the inevitable drama, took their usual positions but Katastroff managed to dash off two times before they finally cornered him. He kicked and tried to bite, but Pierre took hold of his ears and twisted them, not violently or painfully, but firmly, which calmed him down. I learned that twisting their ears releases a substance in the brain that has the same effect as endorphins.

And then there are the unpredictable moments; accidents, sudden illnesses, and as we were about to discover, even crime. One morning as we were arriving for work, we could see everyone talking in hushed tones in front of the house. Marinette soon headed inside visibly upset. A young female donkey, Penelope, had been shot and killed in the night while resting in her pasture with the other donkeys, and nobody had a clue as to the killer or the motive. The weapon was military-caliber and the bullet, huge. The story made the front page of the local newspaper. By the time I left Ambert, the mystery was still unsolved.

But life is up and down. The ultimate goal at ADADA is to place donkeys in good permanent homes. It is very important that there be other animals around as companions for the donkeys because they are very social and go mad if they are alone. One day, several caregivers were bustling around Vodka, a young lively donkey, and there was a sense of celebration in the air. They were getting him ready to leave for his adoptive home and someone was adjusting a new bridle for him. Although everyone was sad Vodka was leaving, they knew a good life awaited him. He was definitely one of the lucky ones in that respect.

The future of ADADA is unclear, but no doubt it will continue somewhat on its present path. It must, as there is a great need, but who will take over when the Panabieres are no longer able to manage such a massive undertaking? It is a difficult problem because running the sanctuary involves enormous dedication, work and energy, with very little material return. More secure and stable funding would alleviate many of its problems and relieve it of its heavy dependence on volunteers and donations, but will more funding come? I truly hope so.

The time I spent at ADADA was invaluable preparation for the events that followed. My fantasy of walking with a donkey in the Massif Central actualized as two unforgettable walks, first with Bubulle, and then Rangoon, the sweetest companions one could ever imagine. The combination of volunteering and then walking came about serendipitously but turned out to be the perfect summer plan. The story of this second chapter is for another time. Quickly though, I want to recommend this kind of adventure to anyone who loves animals, yearns for the slow life, and enjoys walking where nature is allowed to breathe and flourish, where humans take a relatively benign stance within it instead of lording above it.

Visit ADADA online (French) at

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