We have received a report from Lea (17), a participant of our programs in sunny Tokyo. For almost 2 months, Lea has now been volunteering at an after-school childcare facility (“Gakudo“) in Japan.
My working day starts at 10 am in the morning with folding the laundry that we’ve washed the previous day. The children arrive at the Gakudo between 1 and 4 pm, after their classes at school have finished. Once all of them have arrived (between 60 and 100 elementary school kids attend the after school club), we pray together and have a snack. As this is a Catholic Gakudo, we usually pray before eating. Me and my colleagues are responsible for preparing and handing out the snacks, which mostly consist of cookies, ice cream or chips. I am also responsible for washing the dishes. Since there is no dishwasher, everything needs to be washed by hand.
Another important task is to assist the children with their homework. We mostly help those children who have not been able to finish their homework at school. Since many of them learn “Kanji“ (originally Chinese characters, that the Japanese have adapted centuries ago), I take the opportunity and try to learn some Kanji together with them. It’s like a language exchange: I help them with their English and they help me with my Japanese. I speak and understand just a little Japanese, but fortunately the children try to talk slowly and always repeat what they are saying in case I don’t understand.
We try to arrange as many activities as possible for the kids at the Gakudo. After they have finished their homework and have eaten their snacks, we usually do games or organize special events. We often play card and board games, or arrange sports activities outside such as hockey, kickball and football tournaments in the park. The winners‘ team is always awarded with a small prize.
Often, we choose a certain topic that we discuss together with the children. The aim is to impart knowledge in a fun way. The topics always vary. Recent topics were ancient Egypt or how to avoid getting injured.
At times when there is no special activity scheduled, the kids usually spend their time reading, painting or playing. At around 7 pm, when all children have been picked up by their parents, I go home too.
All in all I can say that volunteering here is a lot of fun. My colleagues, seven Japanese between 25 and 30, made me feel part of the team right from the very first day. As my Japanese isn’t very advanced yet, I’m happy that they always try to give me explanations in English and keep me busy with tasks during the whole work day. The children also were very curious and approached me with questions right from the beginning, which made me feel very welcome.
Although I’m not planning to study education in the future, I enjoy working with children a lot. Furthermore, I have always wanted to live in Japan for a while, so a volunteer placement at a Gakudo was the perfect opportunity to combine both! Since I am still too young for a Working Holiday, this 6-months volunteer placement was simply a great opportunity for me.
Working at the Gakudo allows me to gain a very deep insight into the Japanese culture and a Japanese work environment. I feel that for foreigners, it is quite difficult to understand how the Japanese think and feel in certain situations; and to guess whether they are angry or happy. They simply don’t show their emotions in the same way that I am used to it from Germany. Therefore, intercultural learning plays an important role during my stay in Japan.
After completion of my volunteer placement, I will start an apprenticeship as a dubbing actor in Germany in October this year. After having finished the apprenticeship, my dream is to come back to Japan and to work as a dubbing actor here. That’s why I’m currently trying to learn as much as Japanese as possible.
Please find further information about this program on our website: