Volunteering around the world: ICYE Japan

What can a volunteer do in Japan? Rina Matayoshi from ICYE Japan shares her insights.

Please introduce ICYE Japan – who are you, and where are you located?

In ICYE Japan, we have three permanent staff members: sending coordinator, incoming coordinator, and soon we are welcoming a new sending coordinator in September. In addition, we have 3 part-time staff in charge of other programs and finances. Our office is located in Shinjuku, Tokyo, which is the very center of the central area of Japan. It is really convenient location, you will find literally everything in Tokyo.

Rina, you also work with ICYE. How did you end up working with international volunteering?

Good question! I used to be a teacher at a public elementary school here in Tokyo, but I wasn’t really happy in the work environment. I spent a year abroad studying in South Africa, and that period was very influential and left me with a desire to work for an international organization related to youth and education. So, I threw myself into this world of international volunteering with no experience in volunteering. When I began working, ICYE Japan was in severe financial crisis. I was alone in the office, knowing nothing. However, attending ICYE Federations General Assemblies and other international meetings gave me a chance to meet with experienced staff from all over the world. I learned a lot of things and fell in love with the idea of international volunteering by learning from those people I have been working with.

By learning about the local lifestyle, culture, and people through international volunteer work, you will not only broaden your own world and perspective, but you will also be able to build a cooperative system to make the world a better place by connecting with others.

What an interesting story indeed! What are your work tasks nowadays – and what are the most challenging of them?

Nowadays I am mostly doing management and team-leading. Therefore, the hardest task is trying to predict the future in order to steer the organization towards “right” directions. Luckily, I have been able to create a team that thinks and works together very well. Predicting the future and managing an organization is by no means easy in the unpredictable, uncertain world we are living in but I am sure we can survive and thrive with our core values and adaptive attitude.

What about the most rewarding tasks with your job?

Running and maintaining the organization itself is really rewarding, there are not many international volunteering organizations in Japan. What we are doing is recognized as important, but not many organizations and schools can actually do this. Working for non-governmental organizations is not common in Japan and is often considered an unpaid job. To my mind, running the organization and making us seen as a real workplace makes an important impact to society. And of course, it is always very rewarding and what eye-opening experience they have had during their exchange period.

”What you experience through international volunteer activities will have a great impact on your future. It will give you the knowledge and skills you need to connect across all human differences and build the future of our planet. This is what is required of our generation who will create our own future.”

Speaking of volunteers, what are some issues or aspects of Japanese society that seem to garner interest in volunteers?

Japan doesn’t have a long history of international volunteering, but many people can recognize its core values in relation to other international exchange programs. Our participants often seem to pay attention to international cooperation in the community in poverty or educational field. There is also a growing interest in environmental issues.

What do you think volunteers learn during their exchange?

By learning about the local lifestyle, culture, and people through international volunteer work, you will not only broaden your own world and perspective, but you will also be able to build a cooperative system to make the world a better place by connecting with others.

What would you say to those who think about volunteering abroad?

What you experience through international volunteer activities will have a great impact on your future. It will give you the knowledge and skills you need to connect across all human differences and build the future of our planet. This is what is required of our generation who will create our own future.

Interview: Roosa Kontiokari
Photo: Rina Matayoshi´s home album

 

 

 

 

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