Hints on how, where to help
There are so many people who are struggling to survive in Japan – from the homeless to the elderly, people with disabilities, people affected by disasters and children in orphanages. Reaching out and wanting to help is a great way of making a difference in people’s lives.
You may be concerned about what is socially and culturally appropriate. This is a great question. Too often, people race straight into helping without stopping to consider what the person really needs, what is respectful and what skills or information they themselves might need. Often with the best intentions, volunteers can find themselves creating more stress for both themselves and the person or group they want to help.
Connecting with a NPO (non-profit organization) or organization that provides volunteer opportunities, training and support is important. There are increasing volunteer opportunities in Japan for the English-speaking community: organizations such as Second Harvest (http://2hj.org/english), which provides food to the homeless and elderly; O.G.A. for Aid (www.ogaforaid.org) provides opportunities in Tohoku; and Hands on Tokyo (www.handsontokyo.org/en) and of course TELL (www.telljp.com) are just a few options.
At TELL, our volunteers frequently comment that their lives have been changed in so many positive ways they never imagined simply by becoming a volunteer and helping others. I’m sure this gentleman you pass by would be more than grateful for any food or warm clothing as the winter approaches.
Answer courtesy of TELL. If you need to talk, they’re here to listen. Call the TELL Lifeline at 03-5774-0992 from 9am-11pm, 365 days a year. Or visit their website at www.telljp.com
Organic Okinawa welcomes any volunteer interested in meeting Japanese people who passionate about keeping Okinawa beautiful to join them on Trash Runs to gather recycled building materials and clean up every second Sunday of the month 11 a.m. to noon.
American Red Cross on Camp Foster and Kadena Air Base offer a variety of volunteer opportunities ranging from administrative to hospital volunteering. You can even bring your dog to the hospital to visit patients.
Camp Foster: 645-3800; CampFoster@RedCross.org
Kadena: 634-1294/1979; Kadena@RedCross.org or americanredcrossokinawa.org