For the past 8 months I have been volunteering at Niconico Tomato, a volunteer group at Kyoto University Hospital. I have had the opportunity to help kids staying long-term in the hospital. Most of what Nicotoma does is to create events for the children. At Nicotoma we often create intricate cards, do crafts with the kids, and have sales to raise money. I’ve particularly enjoyed created various crafts and using my hands to create something beautiful that a kid can enjoy. I am really glad to help the children have fun and I want to continue to do similar things in the future.
Since I am leaving soon and returning back to America, I often think about how I can continue to help children in America with a similar program. I know there are programs at hospitals in the US, but they are often very different. The ability to play with the kids as a volunteer is the same, but often fun activities and events are lacking. I also find the attention to detail to be lacking as well. At Nicotoma, all seasonal decorations are taken care of very carefully and used year after year, where in the US new ones are often bought or old ones are easily damaged. Also, at Nicotoma every craft is organized and planed out in advanced, which allows the cards we make to be intricate, but very easily put together. I don’t imagine American programs to be as detailed and they would probably be bought. From what I’ve seen and heard from friends in the US who have volunteered in similar programs, the kids usually make crafts but rarely receive them from staff. Also, the regulations and rules for American programs are very strict and can restrict the fun the children can have. For example, a lot of the events we have at Nicotoma give the kids a lot of sweets. In America, since childhood obesity is a big problem, I don’t think we could do similar activities.
Either way, if I do become a doctor I want to continue to help however I can. I also want to maybe take what I’ve learned from Nicotoma to improve any program I’ll participate in the future. One idea I have if I am able, is to maybe set up a pen-pal system between American children and Japanese children. I think it would be a very cool activity for kids to talk to each other around the world, especially ones with similar situations. So hopefully I can accomplish that goal.
One thing that remains the same between the two countries is the energy of the kids, and I want to protect their hopeful outlook on life. I’m a little sad to leave Nicotoma, but I know they will continue to give excellent care toward the kids. I’m glad to have been able to make a difference, however small. I’m glad to have picked this as my CIP. I am also grateful to the kindness of the members of Nicotoma who were always helpful and generous. I had a lot of fun (and snacks!) and I am just very grateful for the experience.
First off, your CIP sounds like a really admirable (and enjoyable) way to spend your free time! I’m sure you raise their spirits just being a presence at the hospital. Out of curiosity, how old are the kids you’re doing the activities with?
Also, while I like the idea of having a pen pal system between Japanese and American kids, how do you think the language barrier could be bridged?
Thank you! For your first question, the kids range in age from infant (9 months) to teenager (maybe 13). Most of them are in the 5-8 range. Per visit I usually get to see around 5 kids.
For your second question, I would probably translate the letters, but also use them as a way to teach the kids about differnt cultures. For example, if a kid fom Japan mentions her favorite food is onigiri, then I can explain that to american kids and maybe create a fun activity or learning day around it. Also I can teach them simple Japanese and they can try to write a letter in Japanese. Simular to how kids in Japan leanr set phrases in english. I’m not sure exatly how it would go, but I know as a kid I would have loved something like this.