Colonia, Yap-- It started off as a typical ceremony to hand over a check for a grant from the Japanese government, but it ended with the audience of Yap Catholic High School students and Yap State officials leaping to their feet and whooping and applauding for more. Not more money. More singing from His Excellency Ambassador Ryoichi Horie and his wife, Madame Yuko Horie.
But maybe I’m getting ahead of the story. The hot, humid afternoon began earlier with a much more sedate ceremony at Yap Memorial Hospital where Ambassador Horie presented a check for $61,640 to Gov. Henry Falan for an incinerator that will upgrade the sustainability of the hospital’s waste disposal system.
The grant is one of three types of Official Development Assistance grants provided by the Japanese government, Amb. Horie explained. The first is for large projects like the purchase of cargo and passenger ships. FSM’s national ship, the Caroline Voyager, whih provides service to the country’s outer islands, is one example, as is the expansion of the airport in Pohnpei and road construction projects.
The second type of ODA grant is for “non-projects,” or things like heavy machinery including construction equipment, garbage trucks and patrol boats. Each of FSM’s four states, Amb. Horie noted, receives an amount every year to purchase whatever they need from a total allocation of $2 million to $3 million that is divided equally between the four states. In 2018, Yap opted to use some of their portion to purchase a glass crusher for the waste management facility.
The third grant category is for “grassroots projects” like the hospital’s incinerator that generally average around $100,000. Earlier in the day, Amb. Horie and his delegation had visited two past projects that received grassroots funding – the still-to-be-completed Yap Women’s Association building in Colonia and a security fence around Rumuuq Elementary School.
The projects are two-way, the ambassador said during his presentation. Recipients of the grants must participate and ensure completion of the projects. If they are not completed, no more assistance to the country or state is provided until the money is used as designated.
After the requisite document signing and photos of the ambassador and governor exchanging an enlarged check for the many clicking cameras in the room, the ambassador and his delegation, Gov. Falan, Lt Gov. Jesse Salalu and other national and state officials decamped and drove to Yap Catholic High School to present a check for $120,520 for the installation of a new gymnasium.
The students greeted the guests with traditional flower crowns called “nunus” and led them to their seats on the basketball court. Master of Ceremonies Julia Piyon Ranganbay, Class of 2019, began the proceedings in the normal way with the national anthems of Japan and the FSM, a presentation of flags, and an opening prayer by Reverend Kelly Yalmadau, Episcopal Vicar of the Catholic Church of Yap. Yap State Senator Nicolas Figirlaarwon, who is also chairman of the school’s board of directors, gave the welcoming remarks followed by the YCHS director, Reverend Richard McAuliff, who noted the many millions of dollars in grants provided to Yap by Japan since 2011 alone. He also charged the students to think about three questions: 1) Why is Japan doing this for YCHS? 2) What are we doing at YCHS to help others? 3) What can I do as a graduate of YCHS to help others?
Amb.Horie was next up. As he approached the podium, he noticed a student holding a guitar and, nodding in her direction, said that he would borrow the guitar later to sing a song. No one knew he was serious and laughed along with him. During his brief, formal presentation, Horie referred back to Father Rich’s question, “Why is Japan doing this for Yap Catholic High School,” and responded that following the last world war in 1945, the World Bank provided a large amount of money to assist Japan in the construction of roads that linked its cities. “So, we think it is Japan’s turn to assist other countries.” With that assistance, he said, those countries could one day also provide assistance to others in need. He ended by expressing his hope that the graduates of YCHS become the type of men and women who will one day assist their friends, families, state and country, as well.
Next came the school’s choral group led by faculty member, choral director and former actor and singer, Alex Greenshields. As a closing song, Greenshields, performed a rousing solo of the Nigerian song “Betelehemu,” with the students providing choreographed backup vocals. The crowd went wild.
But the best was yet to come.
Ambassadorial performance. Photo by Joyce McClure
It was announced that the ambassador and his wife would now give their own impromptu performance. True to his word, the ambassador claimed the guitar and joined his wife at the podium. The first song they chose was “The Rose.” The ambassador began slowly until a few bars in when Mrs. Horie took over with a soaring, clear soprano that brought the crowd to a crescendo of gasps, hoots and loud applause.The couple ended their crowd-pleasing performance with a rendition of “Over the Rainbow” that resulted in many misty eyes as the students swayed gently to the music.
Principal Michael Wiencek had the unfortunate job of following the warbling duo from Japan with closing remarks, but he didn’t attempt to sing them, citing singing as being absent among his many talents. However, he did offer to dance on the concrete slab that will soon be the school’s new gymnasium, then thought better of it and ended the program with the school’s heartfelt thanks to Japan for their support.
All agreed it was the best check presentation ceremony ever.