For my CIP, I volunteered at Niconico Tomato (Link), an organization focusing on creating events for hospitalized children at Kyoto University Hospital. I went to the volunteer office every Thursday to help with event preparation and occasionally participated in afternoon workshops to play with children. My tasks included making holiday cards, delivering items from the basement to the playroom, taking photos during the event and cleaning up after events ended.
What has caught my attention was how professional Niconico Tomato is. The professionalism of the organization can be seen from the following aspects: the attitude in which members approach their work, the variety of workshops and activities, and the attentions paid to those hospitalized kids. Members always take their tasks very seriously. For example, when the group was making Halloween cards, if any minor fault occurred, say the double-side tape stuck out a little bit, members would take trouble to fix it until the component they were in charge of looked perfect. Workshops range from science experiment session to balloon modeling session. Besides workshops, the organization also incorporates large-scale events such as bi-annual bazaar and Christmas café for fundraising purpose. The variety of events enables kids to explore their interests and to enjoy their ward life more cheerfully. These children definitely mean a lot to Niconico Tomato. The organization shows its care by updating the photo wall weekly with photos taken from events, displaying paintings and calligraphy pieces done by kids and designing a yearlong work plan in advance to ensure everything proceed smoothly. Although having participated different volunteer groups in China and in U.S., I have never seen such a high level of professionalism as Niconico Tomato has achieved.
How has such a high level of professionalism developed in Niconico Tomato? Based on my interview with the founder and my observations, the professionalism comes from members’ sincere love towards those children who are suffering from illness and the solidarity among the group. Starting from a small group comprised of only the founder and several of her friends, Niconico Tomato has attracted many more people who expressed interests in bringing happiness to hospitalized children and the group has become an 80-people team in the past 20 years. Among the 80 people, half of them have volunteered to design and lead workshops, making workshops available to children almost every weekday through out the year. In addition, these members deeply dedicate themselves out of pure love. For example, during the Halloween parade, a 50-year-old member wore a Godzilla costume for the entire afternoon and played with children in order to cheer them up. Later she told me that the costume was too warm for that day yet witnessing how children smiled when they saw her made her effort completely worthwhile. In addition to members’ good intentions, their solidarity helps achieve efficiency and complete wonderful works. The event preparation always splits into smaller tasks; each member voluntarily takes their parts and works very hard for the team purpose. The constant efforts from each member congregate and enable the group to operate in an efficient way. Overall I feel impressed by what Niconico has achieved and proud to be part of the team in the past four months.
This sounds like it must have been a lot of work! It’s awesome to hear that an organization like this exists, though. 🙂 From your description, you sound like you played a pretty crucial role with your volunteer work. Considering how seriously Niconico Tomato takes its duties, did you ever run into any challenges communicating in Japanese? If I were in your situation, I would probably be intimidated by the high standards… >.<" What kinds of things did you have to understand/say in Japanese on a weekly basis?
Hi Jared ^_^
Thanks for your comment! In fact, the volunteer work itself was not that challenging and did not involve lots of uses of Japanese. Basically I just needed to understand instructions, such as where to put decorations for the Christmas event and how to make origami boxes, etc. In terms of understanding/speaking Japanese, the chat during the lunch break was the most difficult part. During the break, most of the members talked with each other in Kansai-ben, which I found hard to understand. So unless they asked me about my experiences in Shanghai or in U.S., I usually hided in the corner and enjoyed all the snacks provided by the office.
Abby! ε٩(๑> v <)۶з
I'm jealous! You seemed like you had tons of fun with your CIP! Anyways, in regards to the professionalism of the organization, I remember my host mom (who is also a part of Niconico Tomato!) saying that she was worried about its future, what with the coming retirement of most of its more exuberant workers. Do you think they would be able to continue doing the great work they're doing right now, even with the loss of their senior members?
Michele! ε٩(๑> v <)۶з
Thanks for your comment and your cute emoji! I think that even though the three most active members are leaving next year, Niconico Tomato will be able to keep up with its current great work. The group has already settled down into a routine of how to organize workshops and events. In addition, more young people are joining the group and participating in the event preparation regularly. So it should be alright. 🙂