An iLEAP minute in Tokyo

reLEAP Nov 2015

A reLEAP session in Tokyo with TOMODACHI Scholars


Every time I go back to Japan, my appreciation for our work at iLEAP becomes deeper. In early November, as I was waiting for another packed train in Tokyo to get to one of my numerous meetings for the day, I could see the need in Japan for the space and time to pause, reflect, share, learn, and grow that iLEAP offers. During my time in Japan, I was occupied from 9am to 10pm, which is very typical of Tokyo life. Having my time filled with meetings, lunch engagements, and events at various locations throughout Tokyo helped me to see again how valuable it is to have a place to be removed from the demanding life of living in Japan. Only a week after my arrival, I had already started to feel the challenges of being present in the moment and holding an intention for each of the appointments with this hectic schedule.

This personal awareness has always helped me to connect with our participants from Japan and understand their context. Our Japanese participants might have resources and connections, but they often do not have space to reflect on themselves, connect with who they are, and gain confidence in their decisions for their future vision. iLEAP offers this to our participants.

One evening I had an opportunity to offer a reLEAP session to TOMODACHI SIIS scholars. The scholars’ reLEAP was a chance for graduates to reconnect with the community and more importantly to reconnect with themselves. About 20 scholars from two cohorts showed up, some of whom had never met each other, but who instantly connected and appreciated belonging to this community. I opened reLEAP with a circle of silence, witnessing tears in some of the scholars’ eyes. Despite their current status as students or young professionals, many of the check-in words were not so positive — feeling rushed, not aligned, and disconnected. I deeply appreciated their honesty and vulnerability and I was glad to be there to hold a space for everyone to share what really matters to them. It was evident why they needed to be with each other at reLEAP.

After a few hours together, the space had transformed, filled with energy, warmth, joy, understanding, and hope.

With all the graduates we have and our continuing work, I clearly feel a strong iLEAP presence in Japan. This was not the case three years ago. It is exciting to see such a big transformation in a short time. Now people are actively looking for me to learn more about iLEAP and connect their work with the work we are continuing to do.

The growth and impact of the iLEAP community in Japan is very encouraging and humbling. I believe going forward it is vital to continue to assist the iLEAP community in Japan to stay connected and impactful through events such as reLEAP. Through community the possibilities for the future are without limit.

Kei Eriksen

Kei Eriksen

Kei is originally from Japan. After gaining her B.A. in Humanities, Kei worked at an adult education institute for several years, designing and implementing language study programs with international instructors for a mostly Japanese audience. During this time, Kei advocated for many of the instructors who did not have enough access to resources in Japanese society. This experience has led Kei to the realization that in order to create programs to deepen connections at a personal level, she needed to further her career and experience overseas. In 2009 Kei received her M.A. in International Education from SIT Graduate Institute in Brattleboro, Vermont.

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