[ SOCIAL AND PASTORAL BULLETIN No. 138 / Jun. 15 .2007 ]

Last April our center published a new booklet on psychological issues, "Kokoro no Nayami O Uketomeru tame ni" that has already reached 1,200 copies. We were forced to produce again 500 copies to meet new demands. The team that produced the booklet met often for two years to prepare its publication. As part of the team, I hunted for reference materials that had been practically written by persons implicated in mental and psychological issues. They explain the reasons why mental suffering has become a big problem in today's society. The book, Leaving Home and Becoming Independent, is a special report produced by a person working for the self-support of young people that keep indoors.

Why is it a report from the supporters' side and not from the persons involved? In the cover of the book the following words of recommendation appear. "Don't look anymore for the reasons why people keep in doors, refuse going to school or become part of those Not in Education, Employment or Training (NEET). What is really important is how many adults really confront face to face each one of those young people that wander lonely from place to place searching for a place to survive. What is the real meaning of self support? I would like people to know this life-size reality."
Since I am working in the social apostolate field these words were quite provocative to me. In my opinion, the basis of social apostolate is to look for the structural causes of social problems as the key to their solution. But, this book affirms, "let's stop searching the causes...Do you really want to confront face to face people?"
Of course, it is clear that is not good to stop looking for the causes, but from the point of view of persons in the field, theories alone can not save people.A supporter said, "It's enough of scholars and bureaucrats.
People can build up nice theories with case studies and statistics, but we, people in the field, are dealing every day with living persons often changing. Usually, nothing moves following theoretical patterns."
One supporter says about his boss "I, certainly, learned much by working next to the Chair of the Board... but, even if I tried to imitate what I learnt there, I could never do it. The result is: pull down the most important elements and then do it yourself following your own methods."
In fact, this book presents a series of organizations that provide support to the young in vary different ways and places. For instance, in the rural areas of Toyama there are groups mainly promoting rural activities and the improvement of the quality of life. In Tokyo some organizations stress adaptation to social life and job support through house cleaning and the recycling of cans, and leave to each one the style of living. In Nara active groups living in solitary areas concentrate on agricultural activities and methods of etiquette. In Aichi there are organizations that are dedicated to improve personal relationships by doing house cleaning and selling 'oden' in regatta centers. This is also unique.
But what attracted more my attention was that, more than 20 years ago they had established a network to develop their businesses and to exchange mutually information. They do not think of the support of young people as 'volunteer work.' Unless they take a business outlook such activities will neither develop nor continue. As a consequence, they collaborate with scholars and at the same time approach bureaucrats. An outcome was the establishing of an enterprise for the self-reliance of young people, in 2005, with a budget of 980 million Yen. This new enterprise assists 20 NPOs that work to seek jobs for young people, providing over 300 thousand yen to cover the boarding expenses of a person for a period of 3 months. Of course, this is not long enough, but it is a breakthrough as an important policy that focuses on the support of young people and aims to stabilize the local assisting businesses.
In spite of such efforts, daily activities are simple and the results proceed on slowly. But, what lies behind that dedication to obtain self-reliance? One of the supporters says, "Because I was totally disappointed I became astonished at the results. Really, persons are able to change by the efforts of other people! This kind of activities might be interesting." In conclusion, interest in people is most probably the only thing that remains.

(Shibata Yukinori, Jesuit Social Center, Tokyo)

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