Extending a Helping Hand

Extending a Helping Hand

by Service Learning Team Sukui No Te

We write this as a storm brews outside with the rain splattering against my windows. We write this as we sip hot tea with the fresh aroma wafting around us. We write this as a pandemic ravages Japan with the walls of the house protecting us. We're privileged in many ways and not once have we ever considered the alternative. What if we didn’t have shelter from the elements? What if we didn’t have food on the table? What if we were at a high risk of contracting COVID-19? 

For many of us, these questions have never crossed our minds, especially since many of us perceive Yokohama as a bustling metropolis. From the outside, its cleanliness and high-rise buildings paint the false impression that it does not grapple with issues such as homelessness. The thought that there may be individuals who endure the harsh Japanese winters without food or protection is one that is foreign to us. It is a world’s difference from the lives we lead, the lives that we have grown so accustomed to. It exists solely as a figment of our imagination unless confronted by the harsh facts. 

We experienced this first hand when attending one of the patrols of Service Learning Team Sukui No Te, translated as The Helping Hand in English.  Our service club partners with a local organisation in the Kannai and Ishikawacho area that hands out daily necessities to the homeless weekly. These patrols serve as an opportunity to help experience the harsh realities of homelessness in Japan firsthand and to aid with a crucial issue. It was heartbreaking to see the living conditions of these homeless people: relegated to cardboard boxes in the areas surrounding Yokohama Stadium. What truly shocked us was the distinct difference between the bustling Kannai nightlife to my left and the desolate Yokohama stadium to my right; merely separated by four traffic lanes. In an area that seems so developed, such stark polarisation still exists and it puts into context the important work that our service club does. 

Patrols are essential to the work we do at Sukui No Te but it is only one aspect of our efforts. As leaders of the club, we wanted to further our outreach and truly make a substantial difference to the community we serve. That sparked our newest initiative, Onigiri Making Sessions. Partnering with Dragon Dining has facilitated the opportunity to make over 450 onigiri across two different sessions. These onigiri have allowed us to conduct the patrols with food that can be handed out to the homeless population, helping to ease the hardships. 

Whilst it would be great to continue this initiative and to make it an endearing one, this is simply not feasible without some fundraising by our team. This is why Sukui No Te needs your help. The cost to produce a single onigiri is ¥85 which means a donation of only ¥1,000 can help us provide 12 onigiri for the homeless population. To facilitate donations, Sukui No Te will be partnering with Dragon Dining to allow parents and students to donate a sum of money when topping up their lunch cards. Simply log in to your Dragon Dining account and click on the “Donations” option. Then, select “Sukui No Te Pay it Forward Program” to donate. An email by Dragon Dining will then be sent to you. To donate, select the view button in the body of the email.  We hope that you will consider donating to our service team and help fund the important work we do to combat an issue that hides in the shadows of the skyscrapers and cleanliness of Yokohama. If donating is not feasible, another method you can use to truly understand the privileged position we live in is by joining us on patrol. If you are interested, please contact hauetj@yis.ac.jp.