Mrs. Haruko Komura
President of the Asia-Pacific Ladies Friendship society
—ALFS stands for Asia-Pacific Ladies Friendship Society. Could you please tell us about the motivations and goals of the society?
This Society was established in 1968 by former president, Mrs. Mutsuko Miki and since then has been pursuing the goal of helping Asian women and children in need by raising their standard of living and promoting friendship and better relationships among the ALFS’ member countries.
When this Society was established, Japan had very little understanding of the lifestyles of other Asian countries and almost no cultural exchange. The Society, therefore, was formed to provide opportunities to meet with Asian women to deepen the understanding of each other’s respective cultural traditions and ways of life.
—Regarding the L for Ladies, why is it important that ALFS is a women’s organization?
When this association was first established, men held most of the leadership roles in every society. Additionally, at that time the political and economic epicenter was mainly in Europe and the U.S.
When Mr. Yoshio Iwata, the founder and the first president of the Asia Center, observed that the wives of Japanese leaders were also focused mainly on Europe and the U.S, he realized the need to disseminate the stance that “Japan, situated in Asia, must make friends with other Asian countries”. He therefore sought help from Her Imperial Highness, Princess Mikasa, who along with the wives of key government and business leaders, bureaucrats, and the wives of the Asian Ambassadors established this organization with Mrs. Mutsuko Miki, the wife of the Foreign Minister at the time, as the founding president. Thus was the beginning of the Asia-Pacific Ladies Friendship Society.
—Where did the charity bazaar idea come from?
The charity bazaar was established in order to share common concerns in relation to the lack of sufficient financial support for the well-being of women and children as well as children’s education. This began as a small initiative, but today it has grown to such a scale that each participating country can utilize the distribution of approx. 1 million yen towards people in need.
Based on the idea that peace is easier to achieve when there are smaller differences in standards of living, we want to continue helping people.
—According to the List of institutions in 2015, which received donations from the ALFS Welfare Fund, each member country received more than 1 million yen. How do you decide among the various institutions which to give donations and how do you monitor their spending?
The bazaar is our major activity. Funds gathered through charitable activities are aggregated and then distributed to participating countries. The Ambassadors’ wives make the decisions as to how these donations are used. There is no interference in the process of money distribution. However, the countries that received donations need to report on their spending by providing receipts and photographs.
We also hold Friendly Tours to the member countries to see how the donations were spent. Two years ago, we went to Singapore, and this year we will go to Indonesia.
Next to the charity bazaar, we also organize a charity golf tournament once a year. This year it is scheduled to be held on October 31st. Each year, around 2 million yen in donations is collected from about 160 participants, producing a great deal of revenue from this one-day event. This event is also organized in collaboration with embassies.
—ALFS is lot about mutual trust, understanding, and friendship. How is this achieved? What is the first step to a mutual friendship?
Good friendships are formed ahead of the charity bazaars through embassy members and the ambassador’s wives. Developing a good mutual understanding leads to the building of trust.
ALFS has a program called the “Small Interest Groups” (SIG), where members have an opportunity to participate in a variety of activities. This enhances better understanding and friendship. This all leads to the building of trust and peace throughout Asia.