Volunteering in the International English Camp in Japan

Volunteering at the Recovery Assistance of Miyage’s International English Camp 

June 25 – 26, 2017

Volunteering in a Japanese camp site as a foreigner is an interesting experience as you can understand how Japanese people run things and the way they think. Here are some characteristics that I found in Japanese people when they are organizing things: 

  • They like structuring things
  • They like to follow instructions 
  • They tend to hide negative emotions
  • They like to stay busy

Playing with the kids are really really fun as kids are pure, innocent and energetic. However, I feel that kids in Japan are normally repressed by RULES that are made by adults. Even in this camp, a place that is supposed to be free and fun, the kids are forced to follow a lot of instructions: they are forbidden to say any negative comments; they must walk in two lines; the first thing they have to do after washing their face and brushing their teeth in the morning (6 a.m) is to clean the room; they are told how to clean up just when they are starting to eat; they are encouraged to be competitive/to win against the other groups; they are taught to hold a strong sense of group consciousness, to name a few. 

As a volunteer, my job is to play with kids and also instructs them to do things after I’m instructed to do so. I really hope that there can be less rules and instructions so that the kids can just be themselves, be kids! Another thing that annoys me is that kids are not allowed to go outside when it’s raining. I understand that kids might get sick if going out in the rain. But even after the rain stopped, they could only stay inside the building and looking at the beautiful beach out there through the window. The worst is that we volunteers are not allowed to go out neither. So we came all the way from Osaka to the beach side in Nagoya just to stay inside a big building with big windows.

While the kids are playing games they are taught to be competitive: to scream out loud in order to get points, to play the game well in order to get points, TO GET POINTS. In the end the group who win will get a big bag of snacks as a reward. I was somehow get fed up with the idea of “getting points” because I think other than this there is better way to educate the kids. This whole “getting point” idea is associated with the education system in Japan, in which a value of a person is based on how many points he/she get. In a sense this is a process of dehumanizing. Rather than concentrating on the result, should be taught to focus on the whole process of learning/studying/playing. The real fun thing about studying/learning is to be able to explore the issues without any restriction. 

Actually the kids come to the camp because they want to have fun with foreigners and to have fun in nature. However, paradoxically, they are once again repressed by the instructions of the organizers and the system of the camp itself. 

My friend told me that he wished that he could have more free time with the kids so that a deeper connection could be developed. On the last day before returning, the volunteers have to write some positive words to the kids in their first languages. My mother tongue is Chinese so I wrote in Chinese. However, I thought that writing the same message to all the kids weren’t a good idea as every kid is special and different. So I started to draw their faces down together with some Chinese words. This seemed to make them happy because they could feel a different sense of connection with me. It’s more personal and hence it touches their little hearts. You cannot touch one’s heart when there’s rules. So I think the camp itself shouldn’t be a camp for reconstructing rules but a method for deconstructing them. 

Give them freedom! They are kids! Don’t take away their innocent childishness! 


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