For my CIP, I’ve continued volunteering with the Higashi Kujo Children’s Soup Kitchen located at Kyoto Southern Church. When I returned from summer break and stepped into the soup kitchen, I was immediately greeted by some of the other volunteers from last semester who still remembered my name and who I was. That experience alone encapsulates why I have grown to love the community so much.
The organization was founded three years ago by the pastor Baekki Heo, a third generation Korean born Japanese. He and his wife do a fantastic job fostering a community while providing affordable and home-cooked meals to families who need them.
While last semester I helped with a variety of tasks each week, this time around I was pretty much assigned a permanent station of expediting the food and taking it to the customers. The girl who was almost always stationed with me was always so patient with me even though I often make mistakes with the arrangement of the food on the tray. She and all the other volunteers were always patient with me when I didn’t understand something, and would take the time to explain it to me.
Over the course of the semester it has been really great seeing people who were really shy at first gradually become accustomed to joking around with me and not feeling like they have to tiptoe around me. Every week is filled with a plethora of hilarious, informative, and sometimes embarrassing anecdotes as I get to speak with everyone and find out more about their lives. From celebrating the soup kitchen’s third anniversary to getting to speak with the older people in the community and practice my keigo, my time with the Higashi Kujo Children’s Soup Kitchen has truly been one of the highlights of my experience abroad.