Ruriko Hatano / Yomiuri Research Institute Senior Research Fellow
Founder of the "Seed of Hope" scholarship for Vietnamese child victims of Agent Orange, Masako Sakata was brought face-to-face with the problem in a very personal way when her American husband died suddenly from cancer in 2003. A friend told her that it may have been his exposure to Agent Orange during his military service in the Vietnam War that ultimately led to his death.
Although 36 years have passed since the end of the war, the tragedy continues for many children in Vietnam who are born with congenital disabilities caused by Agent Orange, which was used by the U.S. military.
Touched by their plight, Sakata, 63, wanted such children to be able to have dreams for the future and so set up the Seed of Hope Scholarship.
Following a visit to Vietnam, she made a documentary in 2007 titled "Hana wa Doko e Itta? (Where have all the flowers gone)--Agent Orange: A Personal Requiem." Although it was her directorial debut, the film received several awards.
The funds that she raised at screenings of the movie were used in various ways to support victims of Agent Orange in Vietnam.
One day, a young Vietnamese girl told Sakata that she wanted to become a doctor so she could help victims like herself. This prompted her to establish the scholarship.
She found out that with financial support of about 2,500 yen a month, a young person can study at a vocational school or university in Vietnam, and such assistance will pave the way for Agent Orange victims from poor families to become independent.
Establishing the scholarship with sufficient funds to support 20 students for three years, she handed over some of the money at the end of January.
"Although it's a small amount for us, it means a great deal for the recipients," she said.
Sakata would like to hear from people who are sympathetic to her cause. For more information, visit www.seed-o-hope.com