For my CIP I volunteered at NicoNico Tomato, a Kyoto University Hospital volunteering organization dedicated to children who are unable to leave the hospital due to their illnesses. As someone who had the experience of volunteering in several schools, mental facilities and senior homes, I was expecting a somewhat similar experience at NicoNico Tomato. However, the volunteers at NicoNico Tomato had shown me a whole new level of commitment and care that made my experience at Kyoto University Hospital unique and unforgettable. From making small Christmas gift baskets for children to decorating the entire playroom into a Halloween themed photoshoot, the volunteers showed incredible attention to details and ensured that the children in the hospitals are getting the experience they would get if they were able to attend schools.
Although I did not get to interact with the hospitalized children as much as I would like to, I spent a lot of time making crafts and decorations with the other volunteers of the organization. We would often sit around the table and chat while we handmade gifts and cards for the children. At first it was hard to have conversations with the other volunteers because most of the volunteers at Niconico Tomato are slightly older and already know each other quite well. However, they were all extremely friendly and loved to listen to my stories as a 留学生 in Japan. Therefore, as I spent more time with them, having conversations became easier and more natural. They shared videos of their grandchildren and pets with me, taught me how to act appropriately when talking to elders in Japan, and even gave me advice on how to be a independent and happy young adult. These are the things that I never expected to get from a volunteering service in a hospital. As a KCJS student in Doshisha, you find yourself surrounded by people who are more or less similar to you. By joining NicoNico Tomato, I was able to step out of my comfort zone and meet some Japanese people who shared my passion and are more experienced in life. Their loving and compassionate personality not only made my experience in the hospital memorable, enriched my entire study abroad experience, but also inspired me to continue to devote myself to volunteering.
Hi Timi! You certainly participated in a very meaningful CIP. Though you said you did not interact with the children as much as you might have hoped, what kinds of interactions did you have with them? Did you form any bonds with any of the children? Volunteering in a hospital environment with such sick children is surely emotional work, and I commend you for doing this, especially in a completely different language. 🙂
Hey Dylan! Thank you for your comment! <3 NicoNico Tomato plans different events for the kids every day, so depending on the day, we would have different kinds of interaction with the children. Unfortunately I was not able to form any special bonds with the children. It was actually quite difficult to communicate with the kids because they talk a lot faster (adults talk slower when they know you are a gaijin).
It is commendable that you were able to volunteer your time this semester working at Kyodai Hospital. I’m sure that the staff and fellow volunteers appreciated your time and commitment throughout the semester.
What is some advice you would have for future KCJS students who may want to get involved in a comparable activity?
Hey Joseph, thank you for your comment! I would recommend future KCJS students to interact more with the other volunteers. I was a little shy at first so I waited around for people to talk to me, so it took me a while to really get to know everyone. All the volunteers in NicoNico Tomato are super nice so don’t hesitate to talk to them!
Hi Timi, your CIP sounds amazing, and it sounds like you are really making a difference in the children’s lives! I was wondering if you had any chance to talk with or play with the children you were caring for, and whether you did so with the other volunteers? It must have been quite challenging at the beginning to interact with strangers from all walks of life, especially in a foreign language, but it looks like you have accomplished so much and really become a member of a Japanese community. 🙂
Hey Yupei! I did interact with the children during various events. However, I spent the majority of time with the other volunteers in the volunteer room making gifts for the children. It was actually really difficult and challenging at first but the experience is definitely worth it!
Hi! I’m currently a student at Doshisha University and would want to do some volunteer work at hospitals for children. May I ask how you applied? Thank you!