I think the biggest difference I’ve noticed between volunteering in America and volunteering in Japan is definitely the sense of responsibility that each volunteer has towards the group. I think that sometimes, in America, especially within the college community, people just choose to join volunteer groups at random, coming and going at will. However, at Nico Toma, it seems that most of the volunteers at Nico Toma have had personal experiences related to the Kyoto University pediatrics ward. In any case, it is clear that, while the atmosphere may be very cheerful and light, they are all very devoted to this particular group. Though this may just be a result of the nature of the volunteer group, I feel that Japanese volunteers are much more dedicated to their tasks.
I’ve also noticed that the volunteers at Nico Toma are very particular about small details. Each detail of the project at hand is discussed by the group, down to the color and thickness of the pipe cleaners used to make the handles for the tiny bags that will hold candy to be distributed at the children’s art exhibition. While in America, these details might be overlooked and considered irrelevant, I found it refreshing and fun to work on simple things so thoroughly, since our hard work made the final products something that we could all be proud of. Furthermore, I found it interesting that this level of attention to detail was a given in any project, be it pricing used goods for the bazaar, or coloring next month’s calendar, or hanging up seasonal decorations in the children’s ward.
Overall, while I may not have necessarily been accepted as a fully fledged member of the group, I did enjoy my time at Nico Toma as much for the insight into Japanese culture as for the empathy for and awareness of these children’s situations that I feel I’ve gained, even if only a little. At the risk of sounding cheesy, I hope that I was able to help these children even if it was in a small, indirect way. Thank you, Nico Toma!