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NGO Jiyu-Jin Foundation ~Volunteer While Traveling. Become a POSTMAN and Deliver Stationery Items to Children throughout Asia ~

Mr. Ryusei Michishita, the Chairman of NGO Jiyu-Jin Foundation.

Mr. Ryusei Michishita,
the Chairman of NGO Jiyu-Jin Foundation.

March’s Close Up introduces NGO Jiyu-Jin Foundation. Under the banner of “helping children to escape poverty through the provision of educational support”, this is an organization both active locally in Vietnam and Cambodia. While aiming to realize “hands-on support” that allows providers to share some of the joy that their efforts bring to children, NGO Jiyu-Jin Foundation engages in a variety of activities including its “POSTMAN Project”, in which volunteers deliver stationery sets directly to local schools and educational facilities; and its “One to One Project”, in which supporters have the opportunity to engage in direct exchanges with children who are receiving scholarships, etc. Focusing on the organization’s POSTMAN Project, on this occasion we spoke to Mr. Ryusei Michishita, the Chairman of NGO Jiyu-Jin Foundation.

- The POSTMAN Project is a unique volunteer activity. People who are traveling to Vietnam and Cambodia help NGO Jiyu-Jin Foundation by delivering donated stationery sets that have been received from throughout Japan. During their travels, the volunteers deliver these items by hand to local schools and educational facilities with which NGO Jiyu-Jin Foundation has formed partnerships. The foundation is responsible for making arrangements with the local educational facilities and schools; the only thing the POSTMAN volunteers have to do is to carry the stationery sets to their destination. Furthermore, depending on the delivery destination, the POSTMAN volunteers can also engage in direct exchanges with local children. In that this is an exercise easily achieved by anyone, the POSTMAN Project has proved popular with travelers because it gives volunteers a chance to do something a little different when traveling overseas. Furthermore, concerning why the project has concentrated on stationery sets being handed over personally to recipients, in addition to believing there are certain “feelings” that are also directly conveyed by doing things this way, I feel there is also another reason.

Q.Please tell us what led to the establishment of the POSTMAN Project.

A. When as a group of friends we started to engage in volunteer activities, in considering what we could do as people who didn’t have much in the way of money or human contacts, we came up with the idea of collecting stationery sets by donation and then sending them overseas ourselves. However, as we investigated matters, while it proved relatively easy to collect together the donations, what we came to realize was that the overseas shipping costs involved were rather high. To give you an example, if we were to send stationery sets by sea container, a single shipment would cost about ¥200,000. Thus, in deciding that the stationery sets would be carried by hand, what evolved was the POSTMAN Project. By having overseas travelers volunteer to carry the stationery sets on our behalf, it became possible to greatly reduce the transportation costs involved.


© NGO Jiyu-Jin Foundation © NGO Jiyu-Jin Foundation

A massive amount of stationery is donated from across Japan.
Volunteer staff members are shown here dividing the items up into
individual stationery sets.
© NGO Jiyu-Jin Foundation

Q.What sort of people become a POSTMAN volunteer?

A. Almost all are students. Many student organizations and social circles get involved, and often a group of students will decide to travel overseas. The ratio of first-time volunteers is rather high, and it is not just delivering the stationery sets, it seems that many volunteers also enjoy an opportunity to interact with local children. We also occasionally have single travelers. These people tend to have good English fluency and they are accustomed to life overseas. In that it can be rather difficult to deliver something to an overseas educational facility while relying solely on a memorized address, I am very much in awe of such volunteers.

© NGO Jiyu-Jin Foundation © NGO Jiyu-Jin Foundation

A POSTMAN visiting a school and personally handing over stationery sets to the children.
© NGO Jiyu-Jin Foundation

Q.And I believe that the POSTMAN Project has focused on Vietnam?

A. Yes, in that we have been able to develop a network of contacts, Vietnam has been the focus of our support activities until now. However, the pace of development in Vietnam over the past five years or so has been very swift. Moreover, if you consider the locations where our stationery sets are most desperately needed, rather than the destinations that we currently support, it has become necessary for us to deliver them to more remote locations further into the interior of the country. However, a major selling point of the POSTMAN Project is that people (students) can easily participate by just giving us a half day of their time. Accordingly, if access to delivery destinations is not easy, then it will be more difficult for volunteers to participate. Because of this, in order to find places to support where the demand for stationery sets is both high and access is relatively easy, in the future we plan to put more effort into our support activities in Cambodia.


Q.Please tell us about any new targets you have for your support activities.

© NGO Jiyu-Jin Foundation

This free school in Cambodia has become a support
destination; its location also offers easy access to
Angkor Wat.
© NGO Jiyu-Jin Foundation

A. In Cambodia, just outside the city of Siem Reap where Angkor Wat is located, there is a NGO-run free school called the Educating Center for Community (ECC). This institution was established by locals who felt that village children who were unable to attend public schools nevertheless had a right to receive an education. The school has about 140 students aged from 5 to 17 years old, and they are learning English, Japanese and Korean. Based on the idea of also teaching the children some IT skills, computing classes are also held. Furthermore, because some of the children don’t receive sufficient food at home, there is also a school lunch program.


©NGO Jiyu-Jin Foundation

A group of POSTMAN participants on their way
to deliver satchels filled with stationery sets.
©NGO Jiyu-Jin Foundation


In that in the future the best thing would be to have Cambodians who can raise and educate Cambodian children themselves, the school has classes to develop children who are able to teach, and also classes where older students teach the younger children. However, the current situation is that because of insufficient resources, there are also insufficient teacher numbers. Accordingly, up until now, the school has been able to continue lessons with tourists actually stepping in as volunteer teachers. What the school needs is picture books, school satchels for the children to carry their pencils and notebooks, and equipment such as computers, etc. Getting from Siem Reap to Angkor Wat is only a 10-minute tuk-tuk ride. Furthermore, in that Japanese is also understood at the school, I feel it represents an ideal location for those tourists who want to participate in our POSTMAN Project before heading off on sightseeing.


Q.Please tell us how the POSTMAN Project will develop in the future.

A.

©NGO Jiyu-Jin Foundation

Mr. Michishita, who carries
on with his profession while
continuing activities with
the NGO Jiyu-Jin Foundation,
has the goal of “eliminating
poverty through increasing
education”.

Because we now appreciate that there is also a high demand for school satchels in the areas in which we operate, rather than just having our volunteers deliver stationery sets, we have started to pack the stationery sets into school satchels. If we are able to create a cycle whereby each POSTMAN will carry with them at least one satchel filled with stationery sets, then I believe the educational facilities that receive them will be very happy indeed. Furthermore, although we do receive a great deal of stationery that is donated nationwide; the current situation is that we don’t have enough travelers to deliver all this stationery to where it needs to go. If at all possible, I would like to increase the number of support destinations in the regions that many travelers visit and then make appeals for greater participation through our website. Indeed, I would like as many people as possible to get involved in our POSTMAN Project.