Jayden Fedoroff: Volunteering at Bazaar Cafe

For my CIP, I volunteered at the Bazaar Cafe, which is right down the road from Doshisha University. The volunteer work consisted of primarily helping out in the kitchen. I would wash dishes, clean up the kitchen, and during down time, I would chat with the other volunteers and customers.

I thought that volunteering at the Bazaar Cafe was very fun! The volunteers and staff are incredibly friendly and the atmosphere was very laid back. Some of the days, the cafe was very busy, and during those times I had to wash a lot of dishes and there wasn’t as much time for chatting. However, when the cafe became less busy, I was often treated to a free lunch and I got to have some very nice conversations with the other volunteers.

I would highly recommend this CIP to students that really want to practice speaking casual Japanese (and Kansai-ben.) The volunteers are very laid back and kind, so they’re very easy to talk to. However, I would recommend also checking what the available times are for volunteering. I volunteered on Wednesdays from 12-2PM, which is when the cafe would occasionally become busy. If you would prefer a time that is less busy, I would recommend volunteering in the afternoons (around 2-4PM.) They are also very accommodating, so if you can’t come in during your usual time, if you let them know in advance, you can just come in the following week or reschedule for another time that week.

Bryan Wang: Yoshida Daycare

I  had actually started out working at a cafe, but after a couple weeks I ended up switching to working at a daycare. I mostly just helped around the daycare and played with the kids, who were all super sweet. They were all very curious about me and American culture as well, so it was fun talking to them about that. One challenge I faced was communication. A lot of the kids spoke very quickly and with a lot of slang, so it was hard to understand them at times. But the kids were surprisingly patient with me and kindly explained what I did not know. The senseis I worked with were also very kind and accommodating and were happy to help with anything I had questions about. My biggest piece of advice is to not be afraid to ask questions. Even if you end up embarrassing yourself, you’ll inevitably learn something!

Joyce Wu: ナルバ子供食堂

My CIP was volunteering at a children’s cafeteria called Nalba. I really enjoyed my experience. My responsibilities included playing with the students and helping out with cooking here and there. I was able to learn a lot of new recipes that I plan to try out after returning to America. The kids were also really fun to interact with and I made a lot of precious memories. I would definitely recommend this activity!

Santiago Chamorro: Volunteering at St. Maria’s Children’s Dining Room

For my CIP, I volunteered at St. Maria’s Church to help its members set up and manage a dining room for children. This activity mostly consisted of helping prepare food, setting up tables, and interacting with the children that come to visit. This CIP is filled with kind and patient volunteers who helped me with my tasks, and allowed for me to practice Japanese through conversations we had while working. The children are also great. They are energetic and very nice, and although the speed at which they speak may be a challenge, they always  cheered me up with every visit. Apart from preparing the food, you also get to share a meal with the volunteers and children, which gave me a great experience to enjoy some homemade Japanese food and to practice Japanese with the people I sat with. In this CIP I not only got to practice my speaking in a very active environment, but I also got a deeper understanding of this small sect of Japanese society. For anyone interested in this CIP, I recommend to be ready to interact with children and adults, and to communicate in a bit of a busy environment. It can be a little challenging at times, but it is very fun!

You Wu: Volunteering at Kyoto Institute of Technology Museum and Archives

My CIP is volunteering in a museum archive that specializes in posters collection. My main job was to organize museum posters from recent years in Japan or help my supervisor Wada-sensei with some hands-on museum work.

It was highly pleasant to just look at various posters with all ranges of excellent artistic designs. I also got to work on different kinds of posters, including the poster (ポスター) collection books from Shōwa era. However, it could get a bit boring after several weeks, since archive work is repeated and I usually worked alone. Therefore, it’s important for volunteers to reach out actively to ask more about museum work or politely address our own requests. After reaching out, I found myself being much closer with my supervisor! She is also nice enough to show me around various curation works that were in progress and gave me some different work that fitted my interests. People here might seem to be introvert but are actually friendly and helpful!



Dale Yu: Volunteering At Nalba (子供の食堂)

My CIP activity involved volunteering at Nalba, a children’s after-school cafeteria. However, Nalba serves as much more than just a cafeteria for many of these children; it functions as an after-school program where they can learn how food is prepared, interact with peers, and engage in creative play. The children are primarily elementary school students, ranging from first to fifth grade, which introduces a wide variety of personalities to work with. I spent most of my time playing and conversing with the children, which provided excellent practice in listening and speaking. Frequently, there are opportunities to assist adults in preparing dinner, alongside children who are curious about food preparation. The children are generally welcoming and express excitement each week upon your arrival. This enthusiasm makes you feel appreciated as a volunteer, especially when they seek your assistance with various games, tasks, or even resolving conflicts with others. Some of the kids even get attached to seeing you every week which makes the times at Nalba memorable for you and the children. Overall, I would recommend Nalba to future students seeking an experience where they feel valued as part of the community.

Adam Bollt: Volunteering at the Doshisha University Historical Archives

My activity was volunteering at the Doshisha University Historical Editorial Office and History Archival Center. I got to participate in and learn about numerous tasks the university carries out in order to preserve and promote its history. One week, I was helping arrange an exhibition for the university, and another, I was handling precious historical objects that belonged to famous figures in Japanese history. It was a truly unique experience to see Japanese historical conservation from the inside out, and to meet and talk with other people fascinated by history, whose perspective on history was necessarily shaped by growing up in a culture and historical environment wildly different from mine. I believe that any experience as a study abroad student has contact and interaction with new perspectives as a primary objective, and this historical-related activity was perfect for that – indeed, history is all about perspective! The volunteer activity felt mostly very informal, so one could really choose to do what was personally interesting if one spoke up – though there were certain moments of sudden formality, so one could get a taste of a whole gamut of types of experiences. So be flexible enough to go with the flow and enjoy every moment for how unique it is!

Jena Denney: Volunteering at the Food Bank

My CIP was volunteering at the Kyoto Food Bank, sorting donated food into categories by type and expiration date to get the food ready to donate. There were also events that the food bank would participate in, like having a booth at a festival, taking and giving donations, and recruiting new volunteers. I was able to get to know people from many different backgrounds, as volunteering at the food bank is a great way to connect with the local community and feel like you’re making a difference. 


My advice to incoming students who want to do volunteer work or work with the Kyoto Food Bank would be to learn vocabulary that you think you might use while you’re working. For example, at the food bank, it’s important to know words like “expiration date” and the words for various foods that would be relevant and important for communicating with the other volunteers. Speaking of, it’s also important to take every opportunity you can to get to know the other volunteers and attend any special events that your volunteer work may offer! These events help give you a chance to get to know people more deeply and really engage with the community.

Anastasia Maggiolo: Volunteering at Mitsuba Kindergarten

playstructure at the kindergarten

During my CIP, I volunteered with a few other KCJS students at Mitsuba Kindergarten. Located a short 10 or so minute walk away from campus, the kindergarten is a great place to volunteer if you don’t want to travel too far after classes.

My duties there were pretty much the same as everyone else’s- namely, playing with the kids! I was surprised to see how much more freedom Japanese kindergarteners are given in comparison to American children- rather than having sit down classes, the kids are mostly given free reign to play with some group activities occurring earlier in the day. The kids are shockingly extroverted, and extremely interested in new teachers, so expect to have a couple kids on you at all times!

If you’re thinking of volunteering at Mitsuba or any other kindergarten, I think it’s important to make sure you’re really comfortable with kids. The children range from around 3-6 years old, and thus haven’t really learned about personal space yet. Additionally, although they are cute, I often found myself leaving the CIP much more tired than i went in- the kids are super rambunctious and you will be being dragged around by them. Compared to the other lesson based CIPs, this is definitely more like unpaid work, so keep that in mind! Overall, my experience was really great and I had a fun time running around and playing with the kids during my volunteer time.

Meraly Morales – Volunteering at Bazaar Cafe

The Bazaar Cafe’s mission is to create and provide a safe space for people who are part of minority groups (sexuality, religion, age, nationality, etc.) by giving them a space to express and share their values. The people who work at the Bazaar cafe are often those who are unable to find employment in other places, due to various prejudicial reasons. Through volunteering at the Bazaar Cafe, I have met amazing people with different walks of life that have all been very accepting and interested in my individual ideas and values. By listening to their discussions about the cafe’s next steps (which include an effort to reduce the distance between college students and conversations about alcohol-related issues) at the beginning of the semester and then manually helping in the kitchen during the second half of the semester, I have been able to connect with a lot of the staff, and felt like I have contributed to the work done in the kitchen of this small but mighty cafe. Before beginning my CIP time at the Bazaar Cafe, I was warned to not be shy and instead be open to talking at the cafe. As someone who is nervous to speak in Japanese to Japanese people in fear of making mistakes, I also advise anyone who decides to volunteer at the Bazaar Cafe in the future to allow yourself to try and be open to expressing yourself. The cafe became a place where I could practice the language with locals without fear of judgment.