I have been volunteering for the Meguro After School program in Tokyo, Japan that takes care of disabled children when their parents need someone to take care of them while they are busy at work. When I decided to commit my 30 hours of community service to this organization, I was optimistic, telling myself that this is my chance to finally learn how to take care of children and meet new people in Japan. Before I knew it, I was in front of the building where I would be volunteering for 30 hours, which seemed unbelievable at the time.
When I first stepped into the building and saw children with various disabilities, I sighed quietly thinking this was going to be the roughest 30 hours of my life. I’m bad enough when it comes to taking care of normal children, so I only had pessimistic thoughts of what my experience would be like with disabled children. After completing all the required hours at this organization, contrary to my original belief, I realized that these were in fact the best 30 hours of my life.
While I was focusing on all the negative aspects of volunteering here, one of the kids came up to me and offered me a cup of tea. I was extremely surprised because this boy seemed to be able to walk and talk normally. He came to introduce himself to me before anyone else and it was very evident to me that this boy was working hard to be seen as a normal person.
The best part of my experience here was being able to take care of the children that I soon came to love. There were about ten children that came every day and I was able to learn most of their names on the first day. For the first two days I went to volunteer there, I was given easy responsibilities such as feeding the kids lunch and snacks, washing the bowls and cups they used, or putting away all the toys.
Something the children especially liked about me was how I could speak English. Some of the kids loved simple English songs such as Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, Jingle Bells, or Yankee Doodle. I had the pleasure to sing those songs for them and they stared at me intensely while I sang. By the end of the day, all of them had taken a liking to me. They’ve never met someone that could speak English. They were really surprised and intrigued that I could speak English even though I was Japanese like everyone else around them.
On the third day, my supervisors were nice enough to give me the privilege to take the children out to a nearby park where I would play with and supervise them. It was an honor for me to have the kids entrusted to me, but it was also challenging. Some of these kids burst with energy as soon as we got to the park. They started running towards strangers and so I had to run to stop them and ensure they didn’t bother other people. Some of them wanted to lick the swings and the poles around them, so I had to hold them back and teach them that these things are dirty and that they don’t want their mouths anywhere near it. Some of them got so excited to be outside that they got on my back and started shrieking from excitement, which was extremely adorable but also threatening to my ears. There were many more challenging moments. Despite all of these challenges, I was grateful to be able to spend time with these children outside of the building because they were much more lively outside and I loved seeing them so enthusiastic.
Spending time with these children made me realize how fortunate and privileged I am to be able to go out whenever I want and to be given athletic talent that the children could only dream of having. These children motivated me to work harder on academics and athletics because even if they do want to study hard for something or start playing sports, it’s highly unlikely to happen because they just weren’t as fortunate as me when they were born.
The 30 hours of community service at this organization flew by in the blink of an eye. I thought to myself “Why do I never work to accomplish something to the best of my abilities and take everything for granted when these magnificent kids aren’t given the capability to work towards something as hard as me?” I felt tremendously selfish for not using this blessing that was given to me to the best of my capability when some people around the world aren’t even given this. Until I met these children, I didn’t realize how truly lucky I am for being born into the person I am today. I didn’t realize that activities that seem normal to me were impracticalities for some people around the world. I didn’t realize how fortunate I am to be able to go to school and learn for the sake of learning and to be able to complain about difficulties in certain subjects or how the workload in some classes is excessive. I am sincerely grateful that I found this organization online, that my supervisors decided to allow me to volunteer to assist them, and that I met these wonderful children who gave me more motivation than I have ever felt before and a new perspective on life.