Volunteering in the Community
Some of the volunteer students only come on days when we directly interact with kids, but in order for these activities to be held, there is much preparation done behind the scenes. I not only interact with children, but I also do much behind the scenes work. For example, every Wednesday we hold meetings. Here we decide what we will do with the children on the day of the activities. First, with the season of the activity in mind, we brainstorm. Next with practicality and the children in mind, we decide what to do. Also, we look back on recent activities, and think about the children’s reactions, what was good, what could be done batter, and we share these things with the other members. Other than that, we decide who will be the leader and assistant leader of the upcoming activity.
Sometimes, I myself become the leader. Before the day of the activity, the leader and assistant leader meet for approximately 5 days, and organize the specific details of the day, decide what is needed, purchase those items, and make the plan needed. For example, once it had been decided that during craft time the kids would make “pop-out fireworks”. From there, with the advice from the NPO staff, we decided exactly how we would make a pop-out firework, how to prepare it ahead of time, what parts to have the children do, and what is needed to be done ahead of time in order for the children with special needs to be able to make it. After these things are decided, we make the plan showing how to make the craft, prepare the materials needed, and make the sample pieces. We also do things such as decide how long to allot for craft time etc., and plan the children’s seating, considering the children’s attention span and compatibility.
Connecting with the Community
In addition to preparing for the activities with children, it is important to recruit and train new students, in order for the organization to continue to serve the community. This keeps us very busy, but it is definitely fulfilling. Through being deeply involved, not only am I able to contribute something to the community, but my communication skills with Japanese are polished, I am able to see how Japanese organizations function, and my time alone drastically decreases. Also, through being in a dance team at my university, and I had studied how leaders act, how meetings are held, and the relations between juniors and seniors. Now, in this volunteer organization, I am able to put into practice what I had learned about these things.
Since coming to Japan and attending university, I have not only spent time in my university, but I have also actively interacted with the community I live in. Though this, I have learned many things I could not have learned in university, made relationships I could not have made in university, and I have experienced many things I could not have experienced in university. By taking part in volunteer activities such as this, my university life has been further enriched, and I feel I have acquired knowledge and abilities that will be useful in the future. For example, in preparation for job hunting, I have participated in several short term “internships”. By using the skills and knowledge I acquired at “Sora”, I was better able to contribute during group projects.
I encourage other international students to also get involved in their community. It is okay to start with something small, even a onetime activity. Not only can you contribute to society, but you will also be able to grow much through the experience.