Barbara Shenk and Dannie Otto (since August 2017 to July 2019)
For Barbara Shenk, moving to Hiroshima to the World Friendship Center will almost be a homecoming. When she was four years old, her family moved to Tokyo where her parents began language studies to prepare to be Mennonite missionaries. Barbara spent most of her growing up years in Hokkaido in the towns of Shibecha and Kushiro.
Prior to coming to Hiroshima, Barbara has had three careers. After college, she was a music teacher and choir director in Pennsylvania and Oregon. For her second career, she worked for 13 years at the University of Illinois as a curriculum development specialist for high school teachers of Japanese. Most recently, Barbara has been a Special Education teacher for grades 3 to 5 in the public-school system.
Barbara’s interest in Hiroshima and the effects of the bomb goes back to her early childhood in Japan in the late 1950s when her family arrived in Japan. She first visited Hiroshima as a teenager and has returned several times since. She took each of her two children to Hiroshima when they were in primary school. As a teacher, she used the story of Sadako and the paper cranes with her students each year and taught the students to fold paper cranes, which were mailed to the Peace Park. Barbara brought the cranes from her final class of students when she moved to Hiroshima in August.
Dannie Otto’s life also made a major change when he was four years old, although the move was not geographical. He was born into an Old Order Amish family in Illinois and at the age of four, his family changed churches and became Mennonite. Dannie thought he had left farm life for good when he left home for university studies. His graduate studies in the history of philosophy took him to Notre Dame University, the University of Toronto, and the Pontifical Institute of Medieval Studies.
With the birth of their son, Eli, Barbara and Dannie moved back to central Illinois to the farm where Dannie grew up. For 17 years they operated a 500 acre grain farm while each simultaneously pursued other careers. For Dannie, that included teaching philosophy for 23 years at Eastern Illinois University. Their daughter, Sophia, was born on this farm. Sophia is currently teaching English in Sapporo with the JET program but will be leaving Japan, as her parents arrive, to pursue graduate studies in Brussels, Belgium.
For Dannie, interest in Japan developed with his relationship with Barbara and her family. In 1984, the second year of their marriage, they spent four months together in Japan, which included a trip to Nagasaki to see the bomb memorial there. Dannie is also a lifelong, committed pacifist and coming to serve at the World Friendship Center will allow him an opportunity to continue to educate on the folly of war.
Both Barbara and Dannie look forward to serving for two years at the World Friendship Center.
Bilingual Office Staff:
Working Hours: 10:30～15:30
Tuesday~Thursday — Naomi Kurihara
Friday — Miho Ikeda