Save the Children Japan has been running a children-led community building project, “Speaking Out From Tohoku: Building Better Communities Through the Participation of Children!” since May 2011. As a part of this project, the Children-led Club Leaders Tour 2014 was held from the 8th to the 10th of August 2014 in the Tokyo metropolitan area. A total of 39 members of the Children’s Community Building Clubs in Yamada Town and Rikuzentakata City, Iwate Prefecture, and Ishinomaki City, Miyagi Prefecture, joined this field trip. By talking with other children of around the same age in the Tokyo metropolitan area, they learned how they could improve the recovery effort and enhance community building. Let’s see what the members learned during this trip!
■ Day 1: Club members reunite after 3 months ■
The last time members of the Children’s Community Building Clubs from three Tohoku regions got together was at the Children’s Community Building Clubs of Tohoku Summit held in May 2014. There were nine new members who have never participated in a leader tour before, and three Children’s Committee members from the Ishinomaki Children’s Center. Given the new membership we started off the tour with an orientation so that the participants could mingle and get to know one another.
After the orientation, all the members discussed the purpose of this trip. This was followed by a lecture from Mr. Nagata, Director of Plus Arts, regarding community building. He has experience of community building in areas such as Kobe and also holds the post of Vice Director of KITO that we visited during the tour. After listening to his approach to community building, members showed their eagerness to learn more by asking him questions such as: “Now that you work in the field of community building, is there anything you feel like you should have studied?” and, “What did you lean about children by working with them?”
The members told us afterwards, “All we have been doing is to convey our ideas and messages to the government or the public, but I think we should incorporate more ideas from community members into our message. We need to involve more community members into our community building process.” Then the members attended a briefing session and reported on their recent activities to their supporters in the Tokyo metropolitan area. This was important as the supporters have been sponsoring the Children’s Community Building Clubs, but so rarely get to meet the children in person.
In their own words the members expressed how they have been involved in the community building processes and how it has affected their personal growth. When asked to describe what the Children’s Community Building Clubs means to them using one Kanji character, they picked words such as “Principle,” “home,” “revolution,” “smile,” “bond,” and “luxuriant.”. After listening to the real voices of the children, the supporters who attended the briefing gave us positive feedback. For example, one supporter said, “Through their presentation, I can see how their activities could be a path to the future. I was also glad to learn of the positive changes that took place in each member through the panel discussion.” Both the children and adults eagerly exchanged their opinions.
■ Day 2: Let’s find ideas that we can utilize for our own community building through fieldwork ■
On the second day, the members were divided into three groups for separate study tours. On each tour the group visited a facility and held discussions with children of around the same age who have been involved in community activities. They came away with new ideas they could utilize in their own communities. The club members actively interviewed and exchanged opinions with the other children they met.
Some feedback from some long-term club members was:
“I really liked the fact that Tachikawa MANGA Park was considerate to not only the children but also their parents, and that it serves as a place for parents to have close communication with their children. I would like to have such a practical place in Yamada Town to cheer up our community.”
“Exchanging opinions with the members of Nakano High Teen Meeting was stimulating as I got to hear opinions that are very different from my own.”
The new members of the clubs also left positive comments, such as:
“I would like to work on my own agenda to create items or develop plans to revitalize the community.”
“By interacting with people in the Wako Children’s Café, I learned that we can have a fun meeting by having discussions in a fun manner, which could be very helpful.”
“I found things that can be applied to our library.”
The members all seem to have learned something that they can take home with them and utilize in their club activities.
■ Day 3: How are we going to continue running our club activities in the long term? Let’s make good use of our talents ■
On the last day, the members discussed what needed to be done to continue their activities after the recovery relief is over. First they thought about each member’s strengths by talking and listening to one another. Second, they shared the issues that each community is currently facing and talked about how they can tackle each of those issues by taking advantage of the members’ strengths and talents.
After the discussion, the members seemed determined to continue working on the recovery of their communities as you can feel from this member’s comment:
“I am very glad that we had the opportunity to talk about our future activities. Hopefully, we will combine our strengths to make our activities better.”
■ By utilizing what was learned through the tour, we will keep Speaking Out From Tohoku! ■
The club members worked hard together over the past three days, transcending differences in their ages and where they come from.
“I would like to make good use of what I learned here, like how to cooperate with others and how to call people together.”
“I would like to strengthen our relationships with members of the community and the government in order to get involved in the recovery and rebuilding of our community.”
After providing such positive feedback, the members returned to their respective communities.
We would like to say thank you so much to all those people who allowed us to visit their communities and received us with open arms. We would also like to thank those people who provided their support for our tour. Without your help, this field trip would not have been possible.
We are going to upload and share video footage from this tour with our supporters, so please check back with us again soon!
A special thanks to: The Children’s Dream Park in Kawasaki, Tachikawa MANGA Park, Nakano High Teen Meeting, Mini Sakura, Musashino Place, and Wako Children’s Café.