Our featured volunteer this week is Sam Barrett! Sam came to us as a volunteer while studying Business at the University of Southern Maine and went on to study abroad in Japan. He is a great example of the young talent Friends of Aomori is proud to have helping out! Check out his Q&A below.

Volunteer Spotlight: Sam Barrett



Q: Tell us about yourself!

A: My name is Sam Barrett and I have lived in Southern Maine my whole life. I recently graduated from the University of Southern Maine with a Bachelor’s of Science in Business Administration. However, I am currently pursuing teaching as a career, with a focus on English as a second language. My goal right now is to travel to different countries and teach English. My first planned stop is in Japan. I have always had an interest in Japan ever since I was a child fantasizing about being a samurai or riding on the Bullet Train. During my teen years that interest never disappeared, but it dimmed slightly. However, during my college years I began watching a show called Begin Japanology on YouTube. This show got me really interested In Japan again. After watching, I started learning the language and eventually ended up studying abroad in Japan for 6 months.

Q: How did you get involved with Friends of Aomori?

A: I started helping out Friends of Aomori in late 2015 thanks to a connection with my University’s International Office. I only helped out in a few events before I left the country and went to Japan myself.

Q: What kind of volunteer work do you do for Friends of Aomori?

A: Simply put, I am helper. While I might not have an active part in the planning process for events, I have had many chances to speak with individuals on the board and offered advice here and there. The biggest event I helped with was the initial set up of the print gallery in Portland. During the event I acted as a guard for the hand-crafted Neputa that we set-up occasionally. I also ran an information booth at a cultural event on the University of Southern Maine campus.

Q: What was your favorite moment from volunteering?

A: Considering I only did very little, I think that my favorite moment was when we set up the entire gallery for the big print reveal. We had to paint the area and hang all the prints. Working with everyone and being able to admire the art before everyone else was pretty fun. During this time we retrieved and set up the Neputa as well which I enjoyed. So basically everything with the Print exchange event was fun, because I liked guarding the Neputa as well. Wearing a Yukata for the first time and keeping the Neputa safe was cool.

Q: What will you take with you from Friends of Aomori?

A: First would be the people and experiences. Everyone working with FoA definitely has a passion for Japan and they do what they can to facilitate cross-cultural understanding. It may sound like a lesson that should be learned when you’re younger, but the lesson that volunteering is just a group of like-minded people do something for the benefit of others and themselves. I think that lesson is very evident with the work-ethic and passion of everyone involved in this group.