Plenty of volunteer abroad programs are available for us, university students. If we want to, we can always go overseas to “catch glimpse of poverty in the world”, believing that we “learn” a lot about the hardships the needy face in their daily lives. However, as a career, organizing a charitable foundation might no longer come as a first option. When we meet those who chose to dedicate their life to charity work, we might wonder how they can “help” the needy even if they face risks or how they continue it for so long as a career. This time we interviewed two people who support those struggling to make ends meet. We then gave some thoughts as to what helping others really means, and furthermore, what makes our lives worth living.
The first person we interviewed is Mr. Ishii, who visited the Philippines on a volunteer program and saw severe poverty with his own eyes. Although the government of the Philippines, NGOs and NPOs have managed to alleviate poverty to some extent, there is still a long way till the needy obtain financial independence. After graduating from university, he first got a job in a Japanese NPO and then in 2018, he established a NPO named Home for Hope (HH) by himself in the Philippines. HH implements workshops and job trainings for the young who do not have enough time to plan their future due to family circumstances. Trainings are aimed at cultivating confidence required for finding jobs and building a community where they stay in touch even after venturing out into real society.
The second person we interviewed is Mr.Yamada, who also visited the Philippines on a volunteer program. After graduating from university, he noticed the inadequate environment where children of immigrant workers are brought up in Japan. He developed a sense of crisis after encountering situations where parents cannot take care of their children as they are busy working night shifts and sleep during daytime. After running a nursery for 4 years, he now supports foreigners to master Japanese at YSC Global School.
-Both of you started your own business. Why did you choose to do it on your own?
Mr. Ishii: I have long believed that creating something that did not exist before has some meaning, even if it is small. Of course you can join an already-existing organization and be part of that, but that would not make much difference. I mean you would contribute to the 10, the full, but if you start something totally new, it adds one more to the 10.
Mr. Yamada: Much needs to be done regarding the various social issues surrounding children of immigrant workers in Japan. For young kids, multicultural childcare, which meets children’s cultural needs is very limited. Considering the situation, I had almost no choice but to start it by myself. In addition, I believe it is a duty as a Christian to step forward for those who fall out from the social safety net and cannot go to church. I wanted to cast the faith into shape.
-What motivates you to “help others”?
Mr. Ishii: (He plans the job trainings interactively by having interviews with its participants.) Being able to clearly see the differences I made drives me onward. I am also delighted purely because I achieve what I aimed for. Of course having a vision is cool, and can be a motivation, but I am going to be tripped up if I focus too much on it. That’s why I try to do with the task at hand to the best of my ability.
Mr. Yamada: (about the nursery school he started) There would be nothing if I did not open the nursery school. Children who were crying moments ago are meeting new friends, chasing each other around full of smiles. Seeing it is very rewarding. It is not impossible to do this as a part of a large organization, but in terms of satisfaction, I could attain it fully and am going to do the same in the future. That’s why I had to do it. (He got an idea from enterpreneurship, which he learned during studying abroad in Canada.) Some people may try to create great impacts over society. That’s a good thing in one way. Even so, there is no point in doing so unless you make changes to someone beside you since our society consists of individuals. I suppose realizing the changes I made steadily is happiness for me and those who work with me. Connecting and expanding these small changes consequently creates a better society. I believe in the significance of these grass-roots movements.
-Overlaps: life and career
Mr. Ishii: I have been to the Philippines so many times and every time I go, I am convinced that Filipinos who are hard up are mentally satisfied. They do not question the purpose of their lives even if they live in an impoverished state and have only a few choices. They are well aware that they live for their families, even if it means supporting them by gathering salable garbage. Meeting those people, I feel that kind of life is good and what I have done (his career supporting others) may not be wrong too. I am curious about what happens to us in the modern age where we live longer than ever before but with less work to do due to technological advancements. I guess, in the future, connections with others are going to be the priority and companies that do not create value may face bumpy roads ahead.
Mr. Yamada: The other day, I talked with my father. He underwent the bubble era working in desperation. The same group of people now have plenty of time and money, yet ask themselves “What is the reason for me to live?” and “What do I do after retirement?”. From my perspective, they call for being needed by somebody. Unlike in the Philippines, starvation is not an issue frequently observed in Japan. Therefore, one does not work purely for subsistence, but for finding purposes in life as well.
After the interview, we were overwhelmed by the power brought out in the words of those who live humanly. We observed that for the two, giving a helping hand or supporting the vulnerable is not something socially significant or remarkable. Instead for them, helping others is to share and directly experience happiness, and is the purpose of life itself.
Then let’s look at how the positive effects of giving link to the society we now live in. In the midst of numerous social issues, we can raise isolation as one of them. Even though we can easily connect with someone who we have never met on SNS, we tend to lose companions with whom we have heart to heart conversation.
Ever-increasing mental isolation can be inextricably associated with the concept of living together and sharing happiness by heart. The concept springs from giving, and is what moves our lives forward, as it is for the two we interviewed. However, we tend to underestimate significance of giving in actual society. Are we inclined to gain satisfaction passively from things and people around us such as through getting many likes on SNS and convenient services? In such a world, helping others drops a hint for both givers and receivers to feel alive and be connected to each other.
We won’t give but get authentic lives from helping them.
Written by Manae Otsuka, Honoka Nakayama, Kensuke Sakata, Ayaka Sato
Edited by Maggie Lai