At the beginning of the year, a group of our High School students paid
a visit to Osaka's daily workers' town, Kamagasaki, accompanied by Miss
Kim Jin Hee, a Korean volunteer who has been living in Yamaguchi prefecture,
under one-year contract from Japan's Youth Volunteer Association. Her enthusiastic
impressions upon her return from Kamagassaki made a great impact on all
When the group arrived in Kamagasaki they received a strange impression
at the sight of a mountain of rejected bananas in the streets. They asked
for the reason for this. They were told that the bananas had been sent
by people as relief food-stuff. The bananas were yellow and looked ripe
and delicious on the outside, but when you peeled off the skin they were
rotten like mush. They were not eatable at all. Seemingly, they were processed
foodstuff, and not meant to be ordinary eatable food.
They met a male volunteer university student and asked him the reason why
he had come to Kamakasaki. He said that he wanted to succeed in life. This
was his second visit to the town and he thought that he could find among
the workers some that had failed in their lives. His experience in Kamagasaki
could teach him not to become a dropout. Miss Kim was about to tell him
not to visit Kamagasaki any more, but she said she refrained herself from
Was not what this Korean volunteer saw in Kamagasaki a reflex of our own
Japanese appearance, beautiful on the outside but rotten inside? Her experience
made me reflect about the meaning of volunteer activities and the practice
of welfare education.
Volunteer action in Catholic schools is, definitely, different from ordinary
volunteer activities. Using the example of Kamagasaki, that will mean to
recognize Jesus Christ in the daily workers, because Christ is specially
present in the weak and the little ones. I would like Xavier High School
volunteer action to be like this.
|1. From Services to Welfare Education and Volunteer Training
Xavier School is a small girls high school with 340 pupils. "Truth,
Good, Beauty" together with "Love and Service" are the motto
for school discipline, and since its foundation all students and teachers
have been committed to volunteer service activities.
Our school welfare education has gone through 2 different turns in unison
with changes in society. For two consecutive years, 1979 -1981, Xavier
school was designated by the Social Welfare Council of Yamaguchi prefecture,
a "School for Volunteer Cooperation". That happened during the
International Year for the disabled when volunteers started to be recognized
by society in general.
From activities of service the concept changed to Welfare education. Our
links with the Social Welfare Council were also strengthened.
In 1993 and 1994 the school was elected by the Ministry of Education as
an institution of research for studies of volunteer activities. Hiroshima
Gakuin Junior High School received a similar designation during the same
period and we took the opportunity to review the welfare education with
the concept of Volunteer education. In other words, a change was made towards
stressing the autonomy and subjectivity of young students.
The School, from its beginning, organized itself in such a way so that
all students and the whole staff of the school will have a common program
of an official visit to a welfare institution, once a year at the end of
the academic curriculum year. This provided an occasion to the students
for thinking about welfare possibilities and needs. There were many instances
where such experiences became important milestones in the life of the students.
On the other hand, about 7 or 8 years ago, remarks from the teachers were
heard concerning the "unwelcome attitudes" towards volunteers,
like "just once-a-year visits do nothing but bring about confusion....",
"this is not a volunteer service; all it does is to bring embarrassment
to the institutions where the students go..".
Most of the remarks stressed that such volunteer services broke the rhythm
of the normal life of the welfare institutions, that the students were
not really answering any needs there, that, different from continuous volunteer
activities, the communication with the personnel of the institutions was
not going smoothly. Among the many problems brought up, there was a concern
that because students were forced to do volunteer activities, they tended
to become passive and lacked vividness. The reflections showed that such
passive attitudes were one of the main causes for mannerism.
This resulted in halting the official visits to a welfare institution,
and instead of the slogan "Let's participate, at least once a year,
in volunteer activities", the school now encourages students to plan
and administer by themselves their own activities. Teachers assist them
to do that. We aim at students coming out of themselves to direct their
own activities, instead of having direct teachers' leadership, but, in
fact, this still provokes many problems.
|2. The Realization of Volunteer Activities
During the orientation period after the entrance examinations, we give
an outline of the policies of the school with regard to volunteer training.
We let everybody know that each one must perform some volunteer action
once a year, that the selection of volunteer activities is done through
a publication about volunteer experiences and that everybody must hand
in a report on the activities done.
- (A) Visits to Welfare Institutions
- A small group of students pays monthly visits to two old folks institutions,
"Kusunoki Garden" and "Kochiho Garden" where they wash
the wheel chairs, converse with the patients and help in the tea room.
Students themselves look for helpers, fix the dates of the visits and re-schedule
the time table in direct coordination with the institutions. There are
also places where they are asked to help on culture days and other activities
run by the institutions.
- (B) Local Activities in Coordination With the City Council for Social Welfare
- The Social and Welfare Council of the city of Onoda (Shishakyoo) is the
organization asking for more volunteers. One of the events for which many
of our students collaborate is the Sports Competition of the Disabled,
but there are also other activities, like the "Calendar Bazaar"
to introduce Japan to the outside world through the sending of calendars,
where our School has undertaken an important role.
- For activities like helping to serve meals for the elderly or practices
as home-helpers, the cooperation of the "Shishakyoo" is absolutely
necessary. By participating, in such activities the students are able to
learn about the practice of social welfare and thus reinforce the theoretical
knowledge of the classroom.
- Since last year, under the assignment of the Volunteer Center of Yamaguchi
Prefecture, we were able to perform together with the "Shishakyoo"
practical live-in seminars for teaching high school students how to take
care of elder people. The students learn first at the school the techniques
of how to take care of people. Then, following the directions of the Ministry
of Welfare, they practice in welfare institutions, staying there over night;
they learn how to lend wheelchairs and motor-operated beds for study purposes,
as well as how to mediate between the institutions and people and how to
establish communication among them. We always ask the "Shishakyoo"
to help in this.
- (C) Fund Raising
- There is a tradition in the school, since its very beginning, to have all
students participate in the "Charity Fund Raising" at the end
of the year. Our students calling for funds on the streets of over 12 different
public sites of the prefecture has become a famous sight at the end of
the year. As for the procedures to obtain official permissions to do the
funding on the streets, each welfare organization takes care of them.
- The high school students also participate in other campaigns, like "24
hour TV Funding" and the "Community Chest Fund Drive", and
we are careful to make students aware beforehand of the reasons for the
campaigns and how the funds will be distributed afterwards.
- (D) Seminars and Exchange Programs
- The "Shishakyoo" organizes many study programs in which our students
freely participate. There are seminars for learning dactylology or braille;
study sessions for young volunteers and for learning recreation techniques;
exchange programs with students of nursing schools, etc.
- Several of our students are members of an executive committee of Yamaguchi
prefecture which plans a yearly event called "Gathering of Lifetime
- (E) Work Camps
- The "Children's Jamboree" where disabled and healthy children
come together for a few days has been practiced for the last 15 years.
This event that started on the initiative of the Welfare Council of Yamaguchi
Prefecture is now in the hands of an executive committee and is now a symbol
of Yamaguchi volunteers.
- The "Kamagasaki's Work Camp" provides a Catholic identity to
- High school students concentrate on the work camps in such a manner that
they become very fruitful and vivid volunteer experiences for them.
- (F) International Exchange and Overseas Aid Programs
- 1. The Sisters of the Congregation of Cristo Jesus,
- founders of Xavier school, were also working in the island of Mindanao
(the Philippines), and, as a result, our school established a "scholarship
educational fund" for Filipino/a children. The social conflicts in
Mindanao obliged us to cut, temporarily, those activities, but since the
situation is stable now, the Sisters could return to their former work
and, at the school, we reorganized the program of assistance establishing
an "Asian Forum". This Forum is not only based on the activities
of the students, but aims at becoming an open system for the local population
and the center of a network for gathering and sending out information.
- When we asked for participaters in the Asian Forum 20 students applied.
The students began study sessions on the Philippines and, for the time
being, initiated a campaign to send old clothing to ethnic minority groups
the Manobo of Mindanao island. The students themselves participate in free
markets and open shops of refreshments to cover the costs of sending the
old clothing to the Philippines. They set the issues and by moving from
searching for problems to finding solutions for them, I see them growing
all the time.
- From now on, imitating the ways how Jesuit Taisei school started activities
in East Timor, they also try to consolidate a scholarship fund to assist
the studies of children of Manobo minorities and to bring to realization
a work camp in the Philippines.
- 2. Some teachers of Xavier school
- act as the liaison office of an NGO group called "Human Ikiiki"
organizing study tours to Bangladesh which students of our school also
- Our school has sisterhood ties with Saint Mary High School in Pusan (S.
Korea) and on the occasion of school tours to Korea or exchange visits
of school delegates, students pay a visit to Nazareth Elder People's Home
in Kyong-Ju and "Francisco's Home" for the elderly in Chin-Ju,
where a Japanese FMM Sister, Sr. Oyama Takayo, briefs them about the situation
there. Those sites are fit for school tours and for learning about volunteer
- (G) Social Awareness in the School and Study Programs
- The school runs an information service on volunteer activities and looks
for the participation of the students. In cases of special activities the
official morning gatherings of the school are used to call on the students
or to report to them.
- At the end of the academic curricula a special date, called the "Day
of Students Activities", has been set up to reflect on all the volunteer
activities of the school, with a common sharing of volunteer experiences.
In listening to a lecturer and reporting publicly on their experiences,
the students get a deeper awareness of their experiences and there is hope
that, in this way, they can construct links between themselves and society.
- On December 3, the anniversary of the school's foundation, all classes
performed the "trade game" and the students were very delighted
playing the game. We try not to lose any opportunity to train them in the
volunteer spirit. We use also wheelchairs and eye masks in the Home Room
activities to educate them for welfare services.
- Thinking of the future, I think that there is a demand to link creatively
and organically the experiences of the students with subjects on civic
courses, religion and the Japanese language.
Volunteer activities of high school students are somehow socially useful,
although their greatest value is the "learning" capabilities
they include. Students form their own personalities themselves by those
activities. Smashing down their own small shells and going out to volunteer
and welfare experiences are the most valuable means to foster rich personalities.
As Fr. Kegawa of Hiroshima Gakuin wrote once, I, also, believe that the
"training of the heart" is the most essential aim of volunteer
and welfare education. I want to continue my own personal growth, in unison
with the live experiences of the students, training myself to enrich my
heart not only with words, but by learning from the little ones, getting
in contact with them and cultivating inside me the capabilities of sympathizing
with them in their suffering.