NPO Youth Community

Youth Community, a non-profit organization based in Ota Ward, provides learning support and places to get together for children in the community. Through cooperation with local residents, Youth Community aims to provide a learning environment for children with difficulties and to realize a society in which adults helping children in need becomes natural. This time, we spoke with Hamazumi-san, Youth Community’s Representative Director, as well as volunteers Nakama-san and Sakurai-san.

Staff providing learning support

Please tell us about your career and how you started Youth Community.

During a breakout session of a symposium I attended while working in a labor union in my previous job, I heard about the educational gap, especially the economic difficulties of single-parent families, and became interested in volunteer support for children and families in such situations to provide learning support and study spaces. It may not be well known, but according to a survey conducted by Ota Ward, 12.8% of people live in poverty and more than 20% of families receive school assistance. At that time, I learned for the first time that activities for providing learning support and study spaces were actually being conducted in my neighborhood. It is an activity carried out by volunteer caseworkers in Ota Ward. As I participated in the activities as a volunteer, I saw firsthand and learned a lot about the difficulties of the environment surrounding children. From there, I had the opportunity to receive a grant from Ota Ward in 2012 and established Youth Community.

Representative Director Hamazumi-san

Can you share us about a most challenging as well as a positive experience?

On the one hand, the setup went smoothly as members who I had met before establishing Youth Community joined the organization. On the other hand, in order to encourage children living in metropolitan or ward social housing to participate, we initially posted flyers; however there were times when it was very difficult to attract participants. In aiming to become a warm cram school run by a NPO, we have work closely with case workers and the government to build trust. We were able to attract many volunteers providing learning support, and they were able to support the children on a one-to-one basis, gradually establishing conditions for acceptance in the community.

I now realize that I am making a positive impact on children through my activities, and I often encounter situations that provide me with emotional support. For example, working volunteers who participate in our activities have to balance commitments in their day job; children understand this and appreciate their support creating a relationship of trust that is unique to the NPO environment. You hear children say things like: "The teachers here always come after a tiring day at work to look after our studies and worrying about us. So I have to do my part properly." These comments provides us with the motivation to continue our activities and maintain a positive attitude.

We asked volunteer staff about their experiences at Youth Community.

Nakama-san (university junior year student): I started volunteering when I was in the second grade in high school and thought that my volunteer activities would reflect positively in the university entrance exam. When I first started, I didn't plan to continue for a long time; however after going out with other staff and becoming acquainted, this place became rather close to my heart, and now I participate in the activities as a volunteer leader. When I hear from my children that they passed the entrance exam or won the competition, I'm happy to feel their growth. Also, I work part-time at a convenience store, and through my volunteering activities I have learned how to deal with children who come as customers.

Sakurai-san: I work for an IT company, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic, I started working from home; I wanted to interact with people and try new things in an environment different from my work place. I joined Youth Community because of the good atmosphere of the learning environment and ease of balancing work and volunteering. It's been six months since I joined and I feel that the children in Tokyo are very international. I myself am from Miyazaki prefecture, but here I interact with children from a completely different environment compared to elementary school days; I do learn a lot. Since I had so far no experience in the education field and wondered how to deal with children with learning difficulties. I read books related to education and became interested. The first time I was really happy about volunteering here was when a child I taught said "Oh, I got it!". I also enjoy daily activities like drawing pictures and just talking with children, and I feel that this is an environment where I can learn how to interact with children.

Representative Director Hamazumi-san (front row center), Sakurai-san (back row third from left), Nakama-san (fourth from left), and FIT 2023 Organising Committee members Shima-san, Ryoyama-san, Sato-san and Yamamoto-san.

How are the donation from FIT used?

In implementing activities to support learning and create a place for students, we use the donations for the development of educational materials, especially those used to support students to enter high school. We will create effective contents in accordance with the curriculum focusing on metropolitan high schools and develop educational materials that allow multiple staff members to share records such as students’ progress, something that is essential for the way we are set up.

What kind of activities do you plan to expand in the future?

I would like to expand the creation of a community-based study places and learning support system. For example, we can help communities in the Ota Ward taking a leading role in these activities by providing training and support to develop staff to support activities in communities such as town councils.

We believe that community issues need to be addressed by the community. In contrast to activities that are standardized and rolled out nationwide, localized activities run by and for each community are more sustainable. For this reason, we are focusing on Ota Ward, but we are also interacting with similar organizations in other wards in order to expand our efforts to support learning and create spaces for children.

What kind of support can we provide?

I would appreciate it if you could provide venues for us holding the "Jiyujuku" a study place. If we can increase opportunities to rent available spaces such as meeting rooms and cafeterias of companies and organizations, children who participate will also feel attached to a study place provided by a NPO.

Youth Community has a high staff retention rate, making it a learning place for participating volunteers. It provides working people with an alternative community in which they can talk freely. We are currently looking for new volunteers as well as volunteer leaders.

Finally, please send a message to those reading this article.

I would like to create a warm society in which adults naturally reach out to children and support their learning.. It is important for everyone to understand and participate in activities such as learning support and children's cafeterias that are taking place in our communities. For example, there are non-profit organizations that operate children cafeterias serving meals for a small fee and these can be used by anyone. By participating in these activities, you will learn a lot about social issues and how to make your own contribution in addressing them.

Group photo at the campChildren and volunteer staff participating in learning support

NPO Youth Community