MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan --
A U.S. Air Force Airman with the 35th Fighter Wing received recognition for her contribution to the local community, April 21, 2021.
During an all-call, Ishi Numata, the social welfare vice president of the City of Misawa, presented a letter of appreciation to U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Hannah Tatum, a 35th Communication Squadron radio frequency transmission systems technician, for regularly attending and supporting Misawa’s “Jido-kan”, or after-school program, for Okamisawa Elementary School.
Tatum volunteers at least once a month, lending her experience as an English speaker to the Japanese children so they can practically use the English skills they’ve learned and get a first-hand experience with American culture.
Receiving the individual award is a rare occurrence, as the letter from Misawa’s Social Welfare Council is usually addressed to the whole program. Tatum is only the second person to receive the individual award.
“She’s been doing the program for a long time,” said Hajime Sasaki, the Jido-kan coordinator for Misawa Air Base. “She has been working very hard. The children love her.”
Tatum attended Jido-kan for the first time when a coworker invited her to go after her arrival at Misawa AB in 2018; and she’s been going ever since.
“When we showed up, they told us, ‘Hey just sit down with kids and start reading English books.’” Tatum said. “At first, it was intimidating. Once I realized they knew English, it was great. The children are very excited, so you don’t need to do too much. Just be there and be happy.”
Overseen by members of the 35th Civil Engineer Squadron, volunteering with Misawa’s Jido-kan consists of reading to children and interacting with them in and out of the classroom.
Tatum was the driving force behind a socially distanced Trick or Treat event at the classroom, utilizing volunteers’ car trunks for the kids to participate in while adhering to COVID-19 safety procedures.
Once every summer the program invites the children to the base to give them cultural and friendship opportunities.
“When we bring them on base, we usually have them for almost the whole day.” Tatum said. “One time it was at the Weasels’ Den. We had different stations where they played games, allowing the kids to let loose and play with service members.”
Sharing unique cultural experiences through outreach strengthens Misawa and helps the community come together to grow stronger.
“What always drove me to volunteer is every time I do, I learn something different while benefiting others,” said Tatum. “The children have definitely motivated me to continue going as well. There are days where I’m either mentally or physically tired, but I’ll get there and have a great time. Suddenly, my day isn’t bad.”