Dorset’s longest running exchange programme is going from strength to strength after interest from five more applicants.
The news comes after the exchange saw its youngest ever applicant in July, 13-year-old Tess Griffiths from Beaminster, who was encouraged to sign up following an article in The News.
The programme, co-founded by Arthur Woodgate, sees young people in Bridport, Lyme Regis and Beaminster welcome Japanese guests to the area in summer, before having the chance to visit Japan themselves the following year.
The exchange programme is now in its 18th year and is funded through the efforts of the young people involved, their families and volunteers from the charity Bridport Young Persons Action Trust (BYPAT).
The news of five more applicants coincided with a visit to Bridport on August 11 by Mr Shiro Yonekura of the Koyamadai Educational Foundation, the charity’s Tokyo-based partner organisation.
Mr Yonekura met with charity volunteers, including trustees Martin and Maggie Ray, and Arthur Woodgate.
He said how impressed he was by the work carried out in the community by the relatively small local charity, founded in 1993.
Mr Woodgate added: “One strength particularly important to us is that young people who have been on the programme are willing to come forward to take responsibility as future leaders.
This happened in 2011 with Tosh Blake, and it is happening now with James Lathey.
“It will happen in 2015-16 with Ben Spicer, and I’m delighted that Phoebe Taylor has agreed to lead the 2017-18 group – which includes our youngest ever applicant, Tess Griffiths.
“Phoebe will be only the second female leader in what will then be the 21st year of the exchange.”
Apart from the exchange, the BYPAT charity offers support to disadvantaged young people, and also works with local groups to help make their ideas a reality.
Recently, these have included the skate park, the ZEST! Music project, Bandits Motor Project and the West Bay play area.
Over the years more than 70 young people have visited Japan as part of the exchange.
Places for the 2015-16 programme have already been filled and applications have already been received for the 2017-18 programme.
For details email Arthur Woodgate at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 01308 423767.