Minggu, 24 Agustus 2014

Ashwin Cresswell*s letter to Japanese orphan sparks meeting with former PM Naoto Kan (ABC)

Ashwin Cresswell holds a copy of the letter he sent to former Japanese PM  Naoto Kan.ABC Ashwin Cresswell holds a copy of the letter he sent to former Japanese PM Naoto Kan.

To meet one world leader by the time you are 11 years old is unusual, but for one Perth boy a simple act of kindness will lead him to meet his second. 

When eight-year-old Ashwin Cresswell picked up a pen to reach out to a Japanese orphan whose family were killed in the 2011 earthquake, he had no idea what the world's reaction would be.

"I didn't think it was going to get into the newspapers," said Ashwin, who is now 11.

The Parkwood Primary School student was struck by the heart-wrenching story of nine-year-old Toshihito Aisawa, whose parents were swept away in the tsunami that followed the magnitude 9.0 quake.

As the full extent of the quake's devastation unfolded - more than 15,000 people were killed and thousands more injured or displaced - Toshihito's poignant story was reported in the international press, putting a very human face on the disaster.

Toshihito spent weeks searching shelters for surviving family members, holding hand-written signs with their names and a simple message: "I will come again tomorrow". 

After hearing about the young orphan's plight, Ashwin wrote a letter to then-prime minister Julia Gillard asking her to pass on his offer to share his toys and home in Perth with Toshihito. 

Ms Gillard met with Ashwin in Perth and then passed the letter on to her counterpart in Japan, Naoto Kan.

The international media spotlight fell on the story of Ashwin's generous offer of friendship across the waves.

Ashwin ended up travelling to Japan on the anniversary of the earthquake and met Toshihito, who now lives with his uncle and cousin.

The two boys still exchange letters and gifts.

Ashwin will meet Mr Kan in Perth on Sunday night.

Mr Kan is travelling the country speaking at a series of anti-uranium events and urging Australia not to increase exports of uranium.

The tsunami caused a series of meltdowns at Japan's Fukushima reactor, contaminating the surrounding area with radioactive material.

While in Perth, Mr Kan asked to speak to the Perth boy who so generously extended his hand of friendship in a time of crisis.

"I'm going to talk about the letter I wrote, and then I'm going to give Mr Kan a gift my mum and I made," Ashwin told the ABC.

"I'm excited because I've only met one [prime minister], most people don't even get to meet one, so meeting a second one is quite exciting."

Ashwin said he believed it was important to concern yourself with the plight of others, no matter how far away they may be.

He said he hoped to grow up and work in a job where he could help others.

His mother, Verna Cresswell, was also surprised by the attention her son's simple offer generated. 

"What surprises me most, is we think the story has come to an end, we can put the book away ... then something new happens," she said.

"Ashwin has quite a strong intolerance to injustice.

"He doesn't tolerate injustice ... and he will go in to bat for people who can't bat for themselves.

"I don't think it's anything I've taught him, I just think it's his personality."


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