Oleander Initiative presented at MIT and the Japan Society

It has been a busy conference season and UME has been spreading awareness about the Oleander Initiatives throughout the US.

Among the highlights were a conference presentation at the the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) that featured speakers such as US Congresswoman Barbara Lee from California and Former US Energy Secretary Ernie Moniz.

The UME Executive Director also presented at the Japan Society of Boston. The Japanese Consul General of Boston, Rokuichiro Michii was in attendance for this presentation. 

Please click HERE for a summary on the Japan Society website. 



Oleander Activities in the MENA Region

Dear UME Community,

I just returned from Morocco where I was truly inspired by the work of our Oleander Initiative alumni.  Less than four months after they left Hiroshima, Brahim, Layla and Samia are already spreading the message of the Oleander Iniative far and wide in their schools and communities. 

My first stop was in Marrakesh where Brahim organized a "Hiroshima Peace Day" for over 60 of his students. In Casablanca, Layla and Samia conducted a teacher training for 54 Moroccan teachers on how to implement Oleander inspired lesson plans in their classrooms. 


"Hiroshima Peace Day" in Marrakesh 

Brahim, a 2016 Oleander participant, gathered over 60 high school students for a "Hiroshima Peace Day"in Marrakesh, Morocco. This conference featured peace education activities and student directed drama plays around the theme of peace and nuclear weapons.

In an amazing constellation of cultural influences, these thoughtful and creative plays featured the 1945 atomic bombing of Hiroshima, and also tackled contemporary issues of conflict and violence within the MENA region. 

  An old man tells his grandchildren about Hiroshima                                                     An "angel of peace" halts violence in the MENA region 

To view scenes from these student directed dramas, as well as other Oleander based educational activities in Marrakesh, please click HERE



"Peace ELT Practices" Train the Trainer Workshop in Casablanca

Layla from Tunisa and Samia from Morocco had great success in implementing their Oleander lesson plans within their classrooms this fall.  In December, Layla and Samia shared their unique lesson plans with 54 Moroccan teachers during a day long teacher training workshop in Casablanca

Samia presenting her educational activity based on the story of Sadako and the 1,000 paper cranes  

This full day workshop provided 54 English teachers with practical, readily implementable lesson plans utilizing the bombing of Hiroshima as a teaching platform for peace education and conflict resolution. With an average of over 250 students per teacher, Layla and Samia's teacher training has the potential to impact over 13,500 students. 

To view the full training sesssion, complete with Hiroshima-based lesson plans click HERE

Many thanks to BrahimSamia and Layla for their fantastic work!

Best Wishes,

Ray Matsumiya

Executive Director

A Summer to Remember in Hiroshima!

After a year of preparation and hard work, the University of the Middle East Project is proud to announce the successful implementation of the Oleander Initiative in Hiroshima, Japan. 

Oleander Participants and UME Staff at Hiroshima Peace Park after August 6th Memorial Ceremony

13 educators from 11 countries in the MENA region, the US and Japan spent a week together in Hiroshima with the mission to design educational projects that raise awareness of the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons.  The Oleander Initiaive was implemented during August 2-9th, coinciding with the 71st anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima.

After a night in Tokyo and an Opening Dinner hosted by the Sasakawa Peace Foundation, the Oleander Initiative officially began with an orientation session at the Hiroshima offices of the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR).

Image result for unitar logo

Oleander participants met with the head of the UNITAR Hiroshima office, Mihoko Kumamoto and her staff who welcomed them to Hiroshima and gave a presentation entitled the "Rebuilding of Hiroshima." 

UNITAR Head of Office, Mihoko Kumamoto with Oleander participants at Hiroshima UNITAR offices

With a stunning view overlooking the Genbaku Dome and Hiroshima Peace Park, the UNITAR offices was the ideal location to convey the "power of place" that was at the heart of the Oleander Initiative.

The Genbaku dome in view behind Elizabeth Gruenfeld,                                Oleander Participants at Orientation Session                               Oleander Academic Co-Director 

Oleander educators attended a Kagura performace after the orientation and experienced their first of many Japanese cultural activities. To see the same performace as the participants, click HERE

Kagura actors performing Tokagushi - Yama (Tokagushi Mountain) at the Hiroshima
Prefectural Citizen's Cultural Center

Oleander participants had the opportunity to meet the actors and try on the Kagura costumes after the performance.


The first full day at the Oleander Initiative featured a morning lecture entitled "Facets of Hiroshima" by Prof. Ron Klein of Hiroshima Jogakuin University. Prof. Klein's lecture provided an overview of the history and aftermath of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and then focused on the constantly changing meanings associated with the city since the end of World War II. You can view Prof Klein's powerpoint presentation by clicking HERE 

Perhaps the highlight of the Oleander Initiative was the powerful hibakusha testimony by Mr. Horie Soh.

Soh-san was five years old and less than 1 1/2 miles from the hypocenter when the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. On that day, the atomic bomb blast blew him off his feet as he walked to school. Despite his proximity to the bomb, Soh -san remained unharmed because his elder sister protected him from the blast with her body. He vividly described the terrible aftermath of the bomb - terribly burned children that sought shelter at his house and the many family members who succumbed to cancer, a likely result of the massive doses of radiation they absorbed. Soh-san is one of the very few surviving hibakusha who can give is testimonial in English and we feel lucky and grateful that he shared his testimony with us at the Oleander Initiative.  

                  Soh-San's testimonal                                         Oleander Participants with Soh-San outside the World Friendship Center
Among the highlights of the Oleander Initiative were the many opportunities to interact with the Japanese students and teachers in Hiroshima. UME enjoyed a particularly close relationship with Jogakuin High School  whose students led a tour of Hiroshima Peace Park in English for the Oleander educators. 

Jogakuiin High School Students with Oleander educator in Hiroshima Peace Park

The guided tour by the Jogakuin high school students ended at the Honkawa Elementary School Museum. The Honkawa school was the school closest to the hypocenter of the Hiroshima atomic bomb.  Due to its reinforced concrete structure, the building survived the blast and currently serves as a museum that houses various artifacts and commemorates the over 400 students and teachers who lost their lives that day.

                Oleander Educators wtih Jogakuin High School Tour Guides  in front of Honkawa Elementary School Museum

The relationships between the Oleander educators and Jogakuin students and teachers deepened during our school visit on August 6th, the anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. Approximately 350 teachers and students lost their lives when the atomic bomb was dropped in 1945 and the Jogakuin High school implements an annual "Peace Forum" for students from thoughout Japan, Asia and the US in order to honor these victims. 

Jogakuin High School Memorial for the 350 teachers and students who lost their lives during
the atomic bombing of Hiroshima

The students at the Jogakuin Peace Forum this year had the unique opportunity to meet with Oleander educators and engage in a rich cross-cultural session about the MENA region. 

"Peace Forum" students with Oleander educators 
at Jokaguin High School 

Oleander participants had the opportunity to attend the Memorial Ceremony hosted by the City of Hiroshima to commemorate the 71st Anniversary of the atomic bombing of the city on August 6th.

The Releasing of the Doves at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Ceremony

As part of the 50,000 attendees at the ceremony, Oleander participants were fortunate to be seated in one of the front lying seating areas with a clear view of speakers such as Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Hiroshima Mayor Kazumi Matsui and the Hiroshima childrens' declaration of peace. Participants also placed flowers at the Memorial Cenotaph that housed the names of all the people who were victims of the atomic bombing and took part in the floating lanturn ceremony at the Motoyasyu river during the evening. 

      Oleander Participants at the Cenotaph                                  Oleander Participants at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Ceremony

While in Hiroshima, Oleander participants attended the Gensukiyo World Conference Against A + H Bombs . This conference includes nearly 10,000 attendees from over 50 countries and is the largest conference of its type. First established in 1955, it is credited as the venue to first give voice to the hibakusha victims of the atomic bombs in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Oleander participants attended various panels and discussion sessions focusing on nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation.  Both Ray Matsumiya, UME's Executive Director and Leila Ben Said, Oleander participant from Tunisia had a chance to address the conference attendees. 

         UME Executive Director, Ray Matsumiya speaking at Opening Panel              Gensukiyo Conference audience at Hiroshima Green Arena

                  Japanese "Peace Walkers" at Gensukiyo Conference                 Leila Ben Said at the "No Nukes" Women's Forum at Conference 

The groundbreaking nature of the Oleander Initiative generated tremendous excitement and support in Hiroshima and attracted both local and natonal media coverage in Japan. In addition to several regional newspapers, the Oleander Initiative was featured in the Yomiuri Shimbun, the largest national newspaper in Japan, and with a circulation of just under 10 millon readers, the largest circulated newspaper in the world. 



The main objective of the Oleander Initiative is to promote awareness of the humanitarian consequences of nuclear war to young people in the MENA region.

During the week long Oleander Initiative, participants continually modified and refined Hiroshima themed educational projects for the students in their home communities.




The working space at the Oleander Initiative was donated by the City of Hiroshima and located within the Hiroshima Peace Museum. The "power of place" of the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum that powerfully displayed the tragic humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons, gave the participants additional impetus for their important work.


Tricyle of a 3 year old victim of the atomic bomb on display at the
Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum

Mr. Yasuyoshi Komizo, Chairman of the Hiroshima Peace Culture Foundation , a body under the auspices of the CIty of Hiroshima paid the Oleander Initiative a visit on the last day of the program. Mr. Komizo was the former Ambassador of Japan to Kuwait, as well as the Special Assistant to IAEA Director General Mohammed El Baradei. Mr. Komizo stressed the importance of the Oleander participants' work, the great value of cultural exchanges and engaged in a lengthy question and answer session with the participants.

Many thanks to the Otterman Foundation, Japan Foundation, Sasakawa Peace Foundation, the Samuel Rubin Foundation, and the City of Hiroshima for making this program possible. Special thanks to our facilitators, Galia, Liz and Michelle, and our program coordiantors Rie and Era for all their support and expertise. 

Please contact me at if you have any questions or would like additional information about the Oleander Initaitive. 


Ray Matsumiya
Executive Director

Letter of Congratulations from Sen. Ed Markey

Greetings from Hiroshima where I am making the final preparations for the Oleander Initaitive. In a little more than a week, teachers from throughout the Middle East and North Africa will gather here for the launch of our ground breaking program that we hope will raise awareness about the humanitarian consequences of the use of nuclear weapons to young people throughout the region. 

In advance of the start of our program, I am happy to announce that we have received a letter of congratulations from Senator Edward Markey, one of the leading political figures in nuclear disarmament, non-proliferation and nuclear weapons control. 

Senator Edward Markey of Massachusetts

Senator Markey's bio:

After serving in the U.S. House of Representatives for 37 years, Ed Markey was elected to represent Massachusetts in the U.S. Senate in 2013. In the 1980s Markey was involved in the national Nuclear Freeze movement and his amendment to ban all underground nuclear testing passed in 1986; in the 1990s he fought to tighten controls on global trafficking in nuclear technology. Since then, Senator Markey has continued his work on nuclear nonproliferation, successfully enacting new restrictions on exports of nuclear and dual-use technologies to countries designated by the U.S. as state sponsors of terrorism and pressing for stronger nuclear nonproliferation conditions on all future nuclear trade cooperation agreements. As founder of the Nonproliferation Caucus, Senator Markey continues to spearhead efforts to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons to safeguard the future for generations to come.

His letter praising the Oleander Initiative can be found below. 


USA Today Publishes UME Director's Op-Ed

It is a great pleasure to announce that my Op-Ed, "Hiroshima Taught Me to Look to the Future" was published in USA Today. 

USA Today is the #1 circulated newspaper in America.

This piece recounts how three generations of my family have adopted a "lesson of Hiroshima" in response to the atomic bombing. It concludes with the Oleander Initiative that will take place in Hiroshima this August. 

Please click HERE to read the complete article. 

Mayor of Hiroshima Endorses Oleander Initiative

Oleander Initative Update

It is a great pleasure to announce that Mayor Kazumi Matsui of Hiroshima has officially endorsed the Oleander Initiative.


UME Executive Director, Ray Matsumiya met with Mayor Matsui at Hiroshima City Hall during the last week of his feasibility study trip in January, 2016. Mayor Matsui showed tremendous enthusiasm for the Oleander Initiative stating, "The goals of this project are exactly the same as desires of the citizens of Hiroshima. I hope this idea will be cultivated, take root and blossom throughout the world." Mr. Matsui warmly welcomed UME's Middle East and North African teachers to Hiroshima this summer.

A translated version of Mayor Matsui's written endorsement can be found below. 

Mayors for Peace

(Executive Office)   1-5, Nakashima-Cho,  Chuou-Ku,  Hiroshima  730-0811

(Foundation)  Division of International Peace Promotion,  Hiroshima Peace and Cultural Center

Tel: 082-242-7821     Fax: 082-242-7452     E-mail: mayorcon@pcf­


To Whom it May Concern:                                                                                          February 2, 2016

Mr. Ray Matsumiya, Executive Director of the University of the Middle East Project is planning to hold the “Middle East Oleander Initiative” in Hiroshima.  In order to support this project, I would like to convey the following message.

On August 6th, 1945, a single atomic bomb turned Hiroshima into a ruined city. Tens of thousands of people were burned by the flame, and a total of 140,000 people died before the end of the year.  Some escaped immediate death from the bomb but nevertheless died within a few months from their wounds.  The lives of numerous other people who narrowly escaped with their lives were also severely affected.  In the aftermath of the bombing, these victims suffered physical and psychological damage from the bomb’s radiation, as well as faced discrimination from other people.  Nuclear weapons are inhumane and their use should be recognized as an absolute evil.

Mayors for Peace consists of mayors from over 6,900 cities in 161 countries.  They share the same motivation of making sure the suffering of the atomic bomb victims never occurs again. These mayors call for the total abolishment of nuclear arsenals and the absolute evil that they represent, as well as the creation of an eternally peaceful world through cooperative activities.  Therefore, I, as the president of this movement, pay my deepest respect to Mr. Ray Matsumiya, his associates, and their project that will invite high school teachers from the Middle East to Hiroshima, in order to help them intimately understand the threat of the nuclear weapons.  I think that this project is of utmost importance because it can spread awareness throughout the world, and provide momentum for the abolishment of nuclear weapons.  I fully support the Oleander Initiative.

It was said that it may take 75 years before any vegetation could grow out of the burnt soil of Hiroshima.  However, shortly after the bombing, oleander flowers blossomed and greatly encouraged the surviving citizens of Hiroshima.  The “Oleander Initiative” bears the name of this flower. 

I sincerely wish that this project will be fruitful. I hope that this project blossoms and the participants bring back what they learned in Hiroshima to their homelands. By spreading what they learned to the young people who will decide the future course of their countries, I believe that we can take steps towards the realization of a more peaceful world without the threat of nuclear weapons.

The goals of this project are exactly the same as the desires of the citizens of Hiroshima. I hope that this idea will be cultivated, take root and blossom throughout the world.


                                                                                      Kazumi Matsui

                                                                                      President, Mayors for Peace

                                                                                      Mayor,  Hiroshima City 

NEW UME program! - The Oleander Initiative

UME is proud to annouce the launch of the Oleander Initiative, a series of programs and workshops designed to promote nuclear non-proliferation in the Middle East and North Africa region. This initiative is made possible by the Bernard and Sandra Otterman Foundation,  a private foundation that supports global educational initiatives to foster sustainable peace, justice and coexistance.  UME is tremendously excited to be working on the implemention of the first pilot program - a seven day workshop for TEI alumni in Hiroshima, Japan in August, 2016.

A brief description of the Oleander Initiative can be found below. A Japanese translation follows the English description.

Please contact Ray Matsumiya, UME Executive Director at for more information regarding this initiative. 


Oleander Initiative Description

Months after the atomic bomb was dropped over Hiroshima, Japan, a small patch of red oleander flowers bloomed out of the irradiated rubble. Since then, red oleander has symbolized both the dangers of nuclear war and the hope of a more peaceful future. In a similar spirit, the Middle East Oleander Initiative will share the lessons of Hiroshima with educators from the Middle East to foster a deeper understanding of the threat that nuclear weapons pose to humanity. In turn, the Oleander Initiative participants will bring these lessons home to their students across the Middle East to foster a greater awareness of the humanitarian consequences of nuclear war.

Program Description: From August 2 - 9, 2016, up to twenty high school teachers from the Middle East will gather in Hiroshima to learn first-hand from atomic bomb survivors about the horrors of nuclear war and from global experts about the basic issues of nuclear weapons - how they work and how to reduce the probability that they will ever be used again. The 2016 program will leverage "the power of place" of the city of Hiroshima - the first city to be devastated by a nuclear weapon - to generate awareness and inspire personal calls to action. In turn, teachers attending the seven day workshop will design educational activities specifically suited to their local contexts to raise consciousness about the perils of nuclear war. The 2016 pilot program in Hiroshima is the first of a series of educational programs, workshops and student activities designed to educate a broad foundation of future decision makers across the Middle East region. 

Program Activities:

  • Academic instruction for curriculum enhancements, classroom lesson plans and after school activities from top UME faculty from schools such as Harvard, MIT, Tufts and Boston College.
  • Presentations from local NGOs in Hiroshima involved in nuclear non-proliferation activities.
  • Testimonials from hibakusha atomic bomb survivors from Hiroshima and Nagasaki
  • August 6thatomic bombing memorial activities
  • Site visits to the Genbaku Dome, Hiroshima Peace Museum and other atomic bomb sites of memory
  • Educational collaborations with teachers and students from Hiroshima
  • Ongoing evaluation and in-country follow on activities after the conclusion of the works

Participants: The Oleander Initiative will include up to 20 highly vetted secondary school teachers from throughout the Middle East. All teachers are fluent in English and have attended UME's flagship program in Boston sponsored by the US State Department-- an initiative with an acceptance rate of less than 5%.

Contact: For more information, please email UME Executive Director Ray Matsumiya at



広島に原子爆弾が投下されてから数ヶ月後、被爆した廃墟の中から小さな赤い夾竹桃の群落が花をつけた。その時以来、赤色の夾竹桃は核戦争の危険性と同時に、平和な未来への希望の象徴となっている。それと同じ意味合いで「中近東夾竹桃計画(Middle East Oleander Initiative)」は、この広島の教訓を中近東の教育者と共有し、人類に対する核兵器の脅威に対するより深い理解を培う事を目的としている。その結果、夾竹桃計画への参加者はこれらの教訓を自国に持ち帰り、学生たちに核不拡散の理念を植え付けることになるであろう。



○UME (University of Middle East Project) に参加しているハーバード大学,マサチューセッツ工科大学、タフツ大学、ボストンカレッジ等の教授によるカリキュラム向上、教科内容及び課外活動のプラン作成に関する講義。













このプロジェクトに関する詳細についてRay Matsumiya(レイ・マツミヤ)UME事務局長(RayMat@ume.orgまでご連絡下さい。



UME Executive Director presents UME at the Cyrus conference at Harvard University

UME Executive Director Ray Martsumiya presented at the Cyrus conference at Harvard University between April 24-26. He presented the "Making of a Social Entrepreneur" which told the story of how Samira, an UME alumna helped create the Somerville-Tiznit Sister cIty partnership. He explored how a combinatin of factors including Samira's exceptional qualties, UME's national and international networks and the support provided by UME's alumni association that enabled this initiative to impact thousands of people and resulted in Samira winning the prestigeousState Department Alumni of the Month Award.   

UME successfully implement the Dalton Morocco Program with Envoys

UME is pleased to announce the successful implementation of the Dalton Morocco Program in partnership with Envoys , a Cambridge. MA and Bogota, Columbia based educational organization that specializes in educational exchanges for high school students to develop cultural competency and a global perspective.


The program ran between March 9 and March 19th and included 10 students and 2 teachers from the Dalton School in New York City. Students engaged in a variety of cross cultural activities with Moroccan students and civic organizations in to Rabat, Fes and Marrakesh.  All activities were jointly implemented with the Association for Moroccan Alumni of UME (AMA).


UME's Sister Cities Connections Expand through the Monkeyhouse Performance Arts Group

I am pleased to announce the Somerville - Tiznit Sister Cities connection established by UME continues to expand through others. This time, it is led by Karen Krolack who attended both 2009 and 2011 delegations to Tiznit. Karen is the Artistic Director of Monkeyhouse a performance arts organization in Somerville. She has successfully organized a series of performances and workshops by Fluer d'Orange, a dance troupe from Morocco for the Somerville community A full description of the weeks events can be found below. Thank you for keeping this connection with Morocco strong and vibrant Karen! 

Connecting Communities to Choreography 

MH 2012 Header

Hind Benali of Fleur D'Orange

You've heard talk over the summer of our residency with Fleur d'Orange.  Well, it is finally upon us!  Hind, Soufiane, and company will be arriving in Boston in just a couple of weeks and we couldn't be more excited!  Since there are SO many Fleur d'Orange Residency events we will be dedicating this newsletter (almost) entirely to all things Moroccan.

Below is the basic rundown of events but you can get more information about any of them HERE!

We can't wait to see you at a workshop, the artist reception and the performance!
Best-- Nicole and All your friends at Monkeyhouse

Curator's Corner
by karen Krolak

Have you ever started on a walk or a journey and been surprised by where you ended up?  

Oddly enough, our Fleur D'Orange residency began with a series of walks. As you may remember, I ended my sabbatical in 2008 by attending the choreographers' workshop at Jacob's Pillow. I felt so emboldened by my experiences there and during my year off that I applied for a fellowship through the Somerville Arts Council. My proposal was to explore how walking through Somerville with various people and by myself might inspire new directions for my work. I was delighted and a tiny bit surprised that I was subsequently awarded a fellowship from the SAC in 2009. 

At the time, Jason was working for Actors' Shakespeare Project in the Armory building. During Open Studios, we walked up to the Armory and Jason introduced me to the staff at the University of the Middle East who suggested that we apply to be part of a delegation to Tiznit, Morocco as part of a Sister Cities project. The idea of walking around Morocco with representatives from Somerville, including Mayor Joe, was a little intimidating but seemed to be a fabulous way to culminate my year of investigation. My parents and Jason encouraged my to push beyond my insecurities and fill out the application. Once again, I was startled to be accepted into the delegation. Then the concern was how I was going to find funding to cover the transportation costs of getting to Morocco (the rest of the trip was covered through funds from the State Department and the City of Tiznit). Before I could even begin the fundraising process, my parents called to offer to pay the entire amount. because they were so proud that I was extending my creative focus to a project focused on person to person diplomacy. 

  Keep Reading » 

Fleur d'Orange Artist Reception
Come meet Hind, Soufiene and Mohcine!
Thursday, October 16th @ 6:30pm-8pm
Brickbottom Gallery, 1 Fitchburg St, Somerville, MA
What's in a Name?
Workshop with Karen Krolak & Hind Benali, Ages 8-14
Friday, October 17th @ 5:30pm-7pm
Center for Arabic Culture, 191 Highland Ave, Somerville
Workshop with Soufiene Karim
Hip-Hop Workshop, Ages 11+
Friday, October 17th @ 6:30pm
Impulse Dance Center, 5 Summer St, Natick, MA
Workshop with Hind Benali
Contemporary Workshop at CAC
Friday, October 17th @ 7pm
Center for Arabic Culture, 191 Highland Ave, Somerville
Workshop with Hind Benali
Contemporary Workshop at Endicott College
Saturday, October 18th @ 2pm
Endicott College, 376 Hale Street, Beverly, MA
Workshop with Soufiene Karim
Hip-Hop Workshop at Endicott College
Saturday, October 18th @ 3:30pm
Endicott College, 376 Hale Street, Beverly, MA
An Evening Length Performance
Sunday, October 19th @ 5pm
Arts At the Armory, 191 Highland Ave, Somerville
Pingree School Workshops
Private Workshops at the Pingree School
Monday, October 20th



Syndicate content