Sudachi (leaving the nest) Project: my experience as a volunteer
Following a training course, a prerequisite for a volunteer for B4S, I joined the “Sudachi” project, one of the pillars of B4S activities. It helps those who, for various reasons, grow up in children’s homes to prepare them for life after leaving homes. Everyone under care in such homes must start living on their own after finishing high school, or even before that if they drop out. They must suddenly face the reality of having to earn a living, pay taxes and contribute to social insurances. Many would naturally feel unsure of themselves as the day of “sudachi” approaches.
This is where this project comes in to help high school seniors in homes to acquire useful knowledge and skills to prepare for an adult life. It comprises a series of seminars for six months, covering such topics as preparing a CV and for job interviews; communication skills; keeping body and mind healthy (including sex education); preparing for an independent and responsible adult life; managing own finances; and on “positive thinking”.
It is conducted in several locations in the Kanto area. I was first assigned to the Saitama branch, where we had about 10 regularly participating seniors. The volunteers met once prior to the actual seminar for preparation. Nevertheless, I was nervous about my first direct contact with such young people. My nervousness stemmed from the fact that I had come back to Japan several months earlier after living and working abroad for 30 years. In view of our age gap, I was unsure of my ability to communicate with them. On the other hand, the participants themselves looked equally nervous upon arrival at the venue. Owing to experienced volunteers who knew how to break the ice, the seniors and I were able to relax a bit as we started the seminar.
There is usually one volunteer assigned to one participant for exercises following the initial lecture. At the first session, I was put in pair with a shy boy. In our first exercise, I tried to bring out as many positive aspects of his character as possible by learning about his daily life, job experiences and sports activities. I then suggested that he stress those aspects in preparing a CV, which would lead to a job interview. Working closely with him appeared to have made him feel good about himself, resulting in increased self-confidence. This is something good for anyone to have, but especially for this adolescent who would soon be required to flutter out of his nest. Needless to say, I also gained self-confidence through this volunteer work.
Finally, it should be stressed that participants also accumulate points of high value through seminar attendance, which they can exchange at the end for practical items. They include electrical appliances, kitchen utensils, P.C.s, furniture, suits, etc., which are donated by many companies supporting B4S. Thanks to this attractive incentive, the number of seminar participants is growing and the geographical areas being covered are expanding. B4S welcomes new companies to join the project to enable it to offer the services to a greater number of high school seniors growing up in children’s homes.
Shan (Shizue Tomoda), a volunteer for B4S