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People with disabilities to benefit from new sister city exchange

11 February 2005

The first two participants in a new Christchurch/Kurashiki sister city exchange for people with disabilities will arrive in Christchurch this Sunday.

Mitsunobu Hirata, 23 and Hiroaki Oshima, 21, who will be in Christchurch until 26 February, will be the first to take part in the new Independent Fisheries sponsored exchange.  Their visit is being supported by Air New Zealand and organised by Christchurch City Council, the Christchurch/Kurashiki Sister City Committee, KiwiAble and The Halberg Trust through Sport Canterbury. 

As well as sightseeing in and around Christchurch, Mr Hirata will play in the New Zealand Wheelchair Tennis Tournament, while Mr Oshima will visit Papanui High School and join local students on the Christchurch Challenge Ropes Course.

Independent Fisheries director Kevin McDonnell said, “the aim of the exchange is to offer young people with disabilities a chance to experience full cultural immersion.  There is nothing that compares to living in a different culture to widen your view of the world.”

During their stay, the men will be billeted with a host family for one night.  Mr. Hirata will spend this time with former Paralympian Councillor Graham Condon and his family.

It is hoped that the exchange will take place annually, alternating between Christchurch people with disabilities visiting Kurashiki and vice versa.  Independent Fisheries intends to continue supporting these exchanges, Mr McDonnell said.

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