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Amy MOYERS-KNOPP and Miho WALKER, Living Dreams Dream Makers, on ‘empowering orphans in Japan’

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APPLAUSE So, earlier this year, I saw a TV segment on everyday heroes, and one profile in particular really grabbed me. I think for it's sheer simplicity and execution, while at the same time possessing such tremendous power. The six-time marathoner from Philadelphia would wake up each morning and go for her run. And, on her route she'd run past this group of homeless men. And she thought, here I am every day I'm moving my life forward yet these guys are still stuck in the same place. And to quote her directly she said, "I'm cheating these guys." "Why am I running past them every day and just leaving them there?" So, after getting approval from a homeless shelter, securing donations of sneakers and clothes, she started up Philadelphia's first running club for the homeless. Such a simple concept, with amazing effects! So, here is this group of human beings bonding as they run through the streets of Philadelphia. And each one of them releasing endorphins, but even more so, getting that raw encouragement. "Come on, you can do it. One more mile, don't quit on me!" I admit that I may have been a little weepy at the end of the segment, which confused my husband because it's barely 8 o'clock in the morning. He comes in, he looks at me, looks at the TV and then asks if I was watching Oprah again. But to me it represents a powerful human connection without any labels. Even if for just forty-five minutes a day. And I remember thinking, this is at the very core of what kids living in children's homes need. And for those of you who may not be familiar with children's homes in Japan, also called orphanages, there are over 500, and some are privately funded, some are publicly funded. Typically, they are run in a very institutionalized fashion. And 50% of these kids often are placed into the homes, more than 50% are placed into these homes due to some form of abuse. Whether it's neglect, sexual abuse, physical abuse, or perhaps a parent is incarcerated, hospitalized, or it may even be a financial reason. So, living dreams is a unique NPO that really engages the community to provide these kids living in homes with enriching but continual experiences. And, we know that realistically speaking, we know not every child is going to attend university. And some kids are still going to struggle to get a job to pay for their rent. And sadly, some kids will still feel completely lost and unnoticed. And the fact is, the staff to child ratio is just not enough at most of these children's homes. And even further, you know, also they are not getting this consistent one to one adult mentorship. And further, their expectations are often managed down rather than up. And, this is a form of practicality that staff members oftentimes feel is necessary. So, here is where the real challenge is: How do we provide these kids with more of this intangible support? So more continual mentoring and encouragement that will take them through high-school and into university and through university into a decent paying job. And it is homes like the Saint Francis home that really need this kind of support to help foster a successful transition into adulthood. So the Saint Francis home there are fifty children and most of them have been abused. They do go to school like we do, or we did. They do after school activities and when you visit the homes they are really friendly. So, at first glance, it's really hard to see that they are having problems in their life, and they often don't want us to know that they have problems because they don't want to be labelled as orphans. They don't want to be, you know, they don't want people to know that they have been abused and abandoned and they want to be seen in the same way, just like anybody else. Now a few months ago I went to Saint Francis Children's Home and I spoke with Sister Kugimiya who is the nun who runs the home. She is one of the friendliest people, funniest people we've ever met. And I asked her a question. I said, "When the children turn 18 where do they go to?" and she said they all go university. So I said, "Oh really? Do their parents pay for the university, or do they get scholarships?" And she said "Scholarships? These children? Forget about it!" And she said, "No, we do part time jobs and give them money to go to university." And I said, "Oh, that's wonderful," I was so touched. And she said, "Thank you, but as you can see, I'm not going to live for much longer, so after these children die what is going to happen to them?" And when she said this she said it all in good humor, she was laughing. But it actually is not funny at all. I mean, 65-year-old nuns doing part-time jobs to send these kids to university and to pay for their rent. So, at the end of the day, what Sister Kugimiya needs is more support for her children to increase their chances for a better life. That could be through university scholarships or through better job opportunities. So, another important point is that even if they do go to university a lot of them end up dropping out because they don't have the support and continued encouragement that a lot of us get. So, they can't succeed in their classes and they just drop out, or they run out of funding to pay for the university. Now, I spoke with Mrs. Nomura of Meguro Wakaba-ryo Children's home a few weeks ago, and she told me that the children who drop out of university end up doing part-time jobs such as convenience stores, working at ramen shops that don't pay too much. And some of the girls end up doing, actually most of them end up doing hostessing, and stripping because it brings in more money but it really doesn't help for their future. And some of the boys end up homeless. So, many of us in this room were fortunate enough to receive continual encouragement from family members or from other role models, even if we didn't always want them, and this is exactly what these children need. This missing link. They need encouragement and they are missing respect. And, they don't have the self-confidence. They have a very limited perspective and they just give up on hopes for the future and this we see as a serious problem but also a serious issue that really doesn't receive enough attention. And this is a tremendous problem that needs to be focused on now. Now, there are 35,000 children living in homes across all over Japan. And every single one of them deserves a chance to dream. Every single one of them should deserve a chance to have a better life. Thank you. APPLAUSE

Video Details

Duration: 7 minutes and 31 seconds
Country: Japan
Language: English
License: Dotsub - Standard License
Genre: None
Producer: Virgin Earth & Ansur Pictures
Director: Andrew Malana
Views: 823
Posted by: tedxvideo on Dec 11, 2009

A talk given in Session 1 "How Can We Organize Ourselves To Make A Difference?" of TEDxTokyo 2009, held on May 22 at National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation.

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