Michigan 4-H Japanese Exchange Program: What is Labo?

Many individuals ask “What is Labo?” The World of Labo and the Michigan 4-H Japanese Exchange Program.

Labo is a family-based Japanese youth organization that has been compared to the 4-H Youth Development organization. Compared to 4-H Club membership in the USA with youth ages 5- to 8-years (called Cloverbuds) and ages 9- to 19-years; youth in Japan between the ages of 3 to 18 are members that join Labo to learn the English language and about other cultures. 4-H Clubs in the USA are led by adult 4-H volunteers; in comparison, Labo Party Clubs are led and organized by adult volunteer leaders called Labo Tutors. There are over 2,000 Labo Parties throughout Japan, led by these Labo tutors with more than 20,000 members.

If you speak with someone involved with Labo from its beginning, they would say that Labo was the acronym for Language Laboratory. The Labo Teaching-Information Center was founded in 1966. The four decades of discovery provides a historical overview of Labo. The Labo Teaching-Information Center is headquartered in Tokyo with 11 branches throughout Japan. The center organizes local Labo Party clubs, trains tutors to lead clubs, oversees the Labo Camps throughout Japan, develops curriculum and coordinates with the non-profit Labo International Exchange Foundation to provide international exchange opportunities for Labo members. There are five Labo Camps that are similar to 4-H Camps in the USA: Niseko, Zao, Kurohime, Daisen and Yutsubo Labo Camps. These camps are expensive and run much stricter in comparison to traditional 4-H Camps.

Michigan 4-H International Exchange programs participate with Labo in one-month inbound and outbound summer exchange programs and year-long inbound programs. The Japanese delegates have participated in the States’ 4-H International Exchange Program, learning about the cultures, customs and lifestyles of Americans by living with host families through a home-stay program. These international youth exchange programs promote cross-cultural understanding through the development of personal relationships between members of different countries and cultures.

Michigan 4-H is currently recruiting host families interested in opening their home and hearts to 45 Labo Japanese youth this summer, July 27 through Aug. 23. The Michigan 4-H International Exchange Programs website contains information on this life changing experience. There is also a Facebook page that you can visit. Contact your local 4-H Program Coordinator and fill out the Host Family Application to get started.

Additional information regarding the Michigan 4-H International Exchange programs can be accessed at http://4h.msue.msu.edu/4h/international_exchange_programs. A host family application can be completed online at http://www.states4hexchange.org/become-a-host-family/choose-state.aspx or can be obtained by contacting Brian Wibby with Michigan State Univesrity Extension at wibby@msu.edu or by calling 906-475-5731.

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