On Thursday, May 23, 125 guests attended our first JET Talks event at the Japan Information and Culture Center (JICC). The JETAADC Board joined JETAADC members, embassy staff and other guests for drinks and snacks provided by the Japan Commerce Association Foundation of Washington, DC (JCAW) and a screening of LIVE YOUR DREAM: The Taylor Anderson Story and a panel discussion.
The film tells the story of Taylor Anderson’s life-long dedication to Japan — from her first visit to an International food festival at a few months old, through elementary school Japanese lessons, a college mini-mester in Japan and, finally, acceptance into the JET Program. As a JET Program Assistant Language Teacher, Taylor flourished, using her zest for life to connect with her students and fellow teachers, right up to earthquake and tsunami. With harrowing footage and recounts of the earthquake and tsunami and the search for both Taylor and fellow JET participant Monty Dickson, there were, as the Anderson family would say, more than a few “leaky faces” at the JICC on Thursday night.
The film concluded, however, on an uplifting note as the Anderson family works to honor Taylor’s memory with the creation of the Taylor Anderson Memorial Fund. Activities on behalf of Taylor and Taylor’s Fund to date include:
“Smile Together Ishinomaki” which will provide PTSD training and sessions, Youth Leadership training and programs and “Voices of Tohoku”, the recording of individual’s stories from the earthquake and tsunami.
Built “Taylor Anderson Reading Corners” in seven of the Japanese schools where she taught English.
Donated English language books to 29 schools in the region and the Kessenuma Community Center.
Supported the Asahigaoku Gakuen orphanage in Kessenuma through the Smiles and Dreams: Tohoku Kids Project, including 25 children who attended the English Adventure Camp during the last two summers.
To make a donation to the Taylor Anderson Memorial Fund visit www.st.catherines.org/tayloranderson.
If you missed our screening, catch a glimpse of LIVE YOUR DREAM:
The film screening was followed by a panel discussion, moderated by JETAADC’s own Shana Tischler, the 2013 JET Talks Chair. The panel featured:
Andy Anderson founded the Taylor Anderson Memorial Fund in memory of his daughter Taylor – the first confirmed casualty of the tsunami last seen helping her students after the earthquake. They continue to travel to Japan to administer projects for the fund.
Shelley Fredrickson was the guardian of her two younger brothers, including Monty Dickson who was the second American killed in the tsunami. She is a Board member with Japan Relief of Alaska, which has raised more than $90,000 for Japan Red Cross. She also started the Montgomery Dickson Cultural Fund.
Regge Life is the Director/Producer of LIVE YOUR DREAM: The Taylor Anderson Story. LIVE YOUR DREAM is his fourth film in Japan. His previous trilogy includes STRUGGLE AND SUCCESS, DOUBLES and AFTER AMERICA..AFTER JAPAN. He is a former Fulbrighter, Commissioner for Japan-US Friendship Commission and a Creative Artist Fellow in Japan.
The audience had several interesting questions about Regge’s motivation for making the film and how he made it. Regge noted that he had previously produced films on natural disasters and loss, such as in Haiti, and he had been following the story of the JETs lost to the earthquake and tsunami. The audience posed questions to Andy and Shelly about Taylor and Monty and how they are coping with their loss. Both agreed that discussing the lives of Taylor and Monty help keep their memories alive, and Andy and Shelley learn something new about their loved ones each time they talk about them to an audience or people who knew them.
Thank you to our photographer, Milan Padilla of Lvx Photography (www.lvxphotography.net).