Social and Pastoral BulletinNo. 88Feb. 15, 1999


Oomagari Nobusuke
(teacher in charge of volunteer and welfare education)

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 of us.

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 saying that.
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 Volunteers".
(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 our school.
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 attend.
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 action.
(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.

3. Last Remarks

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.