Alex Thomas: Volunteering (子ども食堂)

My CIP was working at a Kodomo-Shokudo (子ども食堂) at St. Mary’s Church under Fujiwara-san. My time there was priceless and extremely gratifying! Of course at the beginning I was very nervous because I felt like my Japanese was not up to par enough to help everyone out, but it ended up being a much more relaxed and familial atmosphere. Leo Chau a friend and fellow KCJS study abroad student and I volunteered at this same church which made the experience even more enjoyable! The first day at the Kodomo-Shokudo we noticed there was already a huge number of staff there cooking and preparing the area for everyone to eat, so Leo and I were told to play with the kids. From then on Leo and I would go to the Kodomo-Shokudo every week and play with the kids for 2 and a half hours, and in my case I would always end up being sore the next day! Together we ran around playing tag (鬼ごっこ), while I pretended to be a monster and chase them around the church. I definitely wasn’t prepared to be worked out that much, but the kids had so much energy that I ended up having to bring sweat pants to volunteer! After playing with the kids we would all help set up the tables, chairs, and serve the food! Then Leo and I were able to have a short break as well as talk with everyone. Originally, I thought that speaking with kids would be easier and amazing practice because they would probably use simpler words. But, I ended up know less of what the kids were saying, and it seemed like they spoke to me as if I could actually speak the language fluently. I also noticed that the kids used completely different vocabulary from anything I learned in the textbooks which made me have to ask them to repeat everything a billion times. Despite this though, I think that this was an incredible eye opener for me, and I was able to understand more the differences in speech style as well as the type of vocabulary kids use as opposed to adults. Over the weeks I got to speak more and more with everyone and I definitely started feeling more comfortable speaking Japanese with everyone there! I learned a ton, played a ton, and I’m pretty sure I lost weight from all the running and carrying kids! It was an incredible experience and I am very grateful I had the opportunity to volunteer at this Kodomo-Shokudo!



4 thoughts on “Alex Thomas: Volunteering (子ども食堂)

  1. Playing with kids sounds really fun. I experienced this in my CIP too, but it’s really interesting getting to interact with kids since that’s usually not an opportunity we would have as language learners. What kind of stuff did the kids like to talk about?

    • Well the kids would talk about how their day was going and what they did as well as random things like what their favorite foods are or a show they watched! It was really fun hearing what they had to say but also so difficult to understand them!!!

  2. The time you spent at the Kodoshokudo sounds so amazing! To me, working with kids is always such a great time, and reading your blog post reminded me of all the fun I had during my CIP at the Jidoukan.

    Although you spent most of your time working with kids, did you have any opportunities to have a conversation with any of the adults at the Shokudo, such as staff or other volunteers?

    • Yes I actually had quite a few chances at the beginning too because not as many kids showed up, and we have a lot of staff cooking and serving for the kids! We talked about topics from my classes like environment and religion too which was really interesting!