Easing the Plight of the Homeless

Easing the Plight of the Homeless
Easing the Plight of the Homeless

by Nasci Lobo, Director of Communications and Marketing

Our Service Learning Program, which supports organizations locally and internationally, is comprised of grade-specific initiatives for all grades as well as of groups from the various school levels. The Middle School Chiku Center Service Club is one such group. The group provides assistance to the Kotobuki Chiku Center, located in Kotobuki-cho, Yokohama, just a short walk from Ishikawa-cho Station. The group's description, taken from our website's learning page, states the following:

Do you want to be involved in making a positive difference to people that live in Yokohama? Are you interested in learning more about the issues of poverty and homelessness in Japan? We work together in small groups to raise awareness about issues that people in our community deal with. We will make regular visits to the Chiku Center to help prepare and serve food to homeless people in the area.

Kotobuki-cho is one of the three largest areas for day laborers, known as yoseba, in Japan. Its inhabitants are only temporary residents, albeit long-term residents, many of whom are elderly, on welfare and too old to work. The number of residents in their twenties and thirties, however, is also increasing. They seek nightly shelter in flophouses - hostel-like accommodation with cramped rooms paid for by the night, should they be lucky enough to have been chosen by a company to work during the day. Those who are not lucky enough to get work for the day linger in Kotobuki-cho's streets or park, seeking solace in the company of their neighbors or in the goodwill of the neighborhood's Chiku Center, whose work is solely dependent on donations.

The Center provides food and clothes and helps the residents deal with the welfare system in Japan. Along with attempting to provide the necessities of daily life, the Center also deals with the residents' associated health and mental problems. The MS Chiku Service Group lends a helping hand by raising funds to provide food for the people dependent on the Center, and by serving food on-site monthly.

For example, on a recent morning before school started, students and staff, including Head of School, Craig Coutts, donned their face masks and created assembly lines in the cafeteria to mix rice and form and wrap just under 400 onigiri, rice balls, for the Center. Several days after that, they purchased 400 bananas for what they call a fruit-drop to the Center. The group does this 3 - 5 times per year.

The work of the Group is a consistent part of the service the Chiku Center provides. The Group's success, of course, is dependent on their time and effort and on the caring generosity of the YIS community. Their main source of funds is the annual Red & White concert, to be held in March 2019 in this school year, with smaller initiatives at the Food Fair and throughout the year. Through their work, the students learn about the struggles of their local community, the impact they have on it and build what is known in Japan as kizuna 絆, strong bonds of community support. More importantly, they make a practical and useful contribution to easing the plight of the homeless of Kotobuki-cho.

This is the fourth 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.

Donations of food and clothing to the Kotobuki-cho Chiku Center can be made at:
3-10-13 Kotobuki-Cho, Naka-ku, Yokohama 231-0026
Tel/Fax: 045-664-7141
Email: chikucen@nifty.com