by Nasci Lobo, Director of Communications and Marketing
In the early years of school, one of the core ideas students learn is that they are part of a larger group of people living and and working in their local community. Their most immediate community is the people at YIS, followed by the people surrounding their home or neighborhood. Gradually, they interact with other groups of people they would not see regularly, through, for example, field trips, guest speakers and visits from other students. By working with the MS Chiku Service Group, students in Grade 1 learn about what the older students do in school and how they themselves are part of a co-operative group that helps other people in their wider community - that of the city of Yokohama.
YIS has a close connection to the Kotobuki-cho Chiku Center, a soup kitchen/resource center not too far from Chinatown that attempts to provide temporary relief to the homeless people in the area. The neighborhood is a hub for day-workers, both old and young, who don't earn enough money to afford permanent housing, regular meals nor daily necessities.
The students in Grade 1 help the MS Chiku Service group make onigiri (rice balls) for the Kotobuki-cho Center. Together, they have had two onigiri-making sessions, making approximately 350-400 onigiri at each session. The MS group takes the food to the Center, and assists in distributing the food to the patrons. The Grade 1 students often decorate the wrapped rice balls with colorful hand-drawn stickers of happy faces, hearts and peace signs, the cuteness of which is fully appreciated by the grateful patrons.
The delivery and enjoyment of the food is the end result of a long process, of course. Money first has to be raised to purchase the ingredients for the project. The eager young students raised the necessary funds by organizing and holding a Fun Fair for parents and students, providing simple games for them to play and win prizes. The MS group then acted as mentors, purchasing the ingredients from Dragon Dining, who also cooks the rice for the project.
The learning from the sessions extends past the actual physical work and organization involved in their execution. The curious students also foster compassion and understanding for the homeless, and learn about what they actually need to live instead of relying on what we think they need. The initiative possesses an additional aim - encouraging the students to positively influence the attitudes and actions of their family and friends.
By working with many groups to execute the project, the first graders develop a sense of place in their community, and grow to understand that their community consists of other groups who all rely on each other. This awareness establishes a base for continued service learning as they progress through school and work with groups further afield, both nationally and internationally.
This is the seventh article in a series documenting the grade-specific and group activities of our service program. Learn more about our program on the Service Learning page.