“It was in 2007 when I returned to Japan from Australia and was asked by my friend Richard to play Santa at an orphanage in Hiroo that I first learned that there were orphanages in Japan.
At the same time, I learned that my roommate in college who invited me to Japan in 1989 had his first child and happened to have Down’s Syndrome.
These two things were in the back of my mind when I started my new role at Barclays as COO. I quickly started the Lunch Club where we would invite different speakers to the firm for a lunch with the Operations group.
One of the speakers happened to be Taniguchi-san who had also had a child with Down’s Syndrome and decided to start a support group for families who have children with disABILITIES and to this day the Palette Bakery is running in Shibuya. We will be hosting them in next week at our sponsor COLT’s colleague appreciation day; where people buy cookies and attach notes to express their appreciation for support during the year. At Barclays we sold $7,000 in cookies, in one day.
Later in 2008, Amy and Miho (now YouMeWe board members) had approached me about a summer camp idea for orphans living in Japan. Barclays funded the summer camp Designing Artists Academy (DAA) the first two years.
Over the past ten years through Living Dreams and now YouMeWe, we have been building up the network with the homes in Japan.
While in the beginning it was about a top down approach of offering Digital Citizenship training, we stepped back and decided to look at things from a bottom up perspective.
The staff were very concerned about how the children would find jobs after 18 when they leave the home. At the same time we started learning more about the children’s individual stories. This the reason we started the Career Assessment tests so the children can see what their possibilities are based on their aptitude.
This has helped fuel the programs that YouMeWe are focused on.
The children who are not 100% Japanese and had English in the beginning of their lives but slowly losing it as they are now in a pure Japanese environment.
K-san whose father does not live in Japan and his mother died of cancer now lives at St.Francis much like Y-san who lives at St.Joseph’s lead us to reach out to NightZooKeeper and start the English in the Cloud program. The enthusiasm for this course has been initially good but as children with many programs, they need to be paired with dedicated teachers to keep the enthusiasm and participation up.
T-san who lost his grandmother in the tsunami in Sendai in 2011 and came to one of the homes suffering from nightmares and as soon as we gifted the computers and he was able to focus on the infinite of the software programs, the nightmares stopped and he has recently graduated high school and landed a job programming.
The half Filipino or Indonesian or Bangladeshi child, lead us to start labs in the Philippines, Indonesia as well as Malaysia and now the refugee community center in Greece to eventually connect the kids with children from different parts of the world in preparation to help them become Japanese Language instructors should they wish to do so.
A san who build his own computer from parts and is heavily into coding will join a program in August connecting the elderly with youth to learn IchigoJam coding. In a country with more people over 65 per capita and less under 15 per capita we envision “Obaa-chan” in the cloud as a program that can connect the youth with the elderly and lead to a sustainable job teaching ICT skills, how to SKYPE with their family and order taxis and groceries online using that SmartPhone which still perplexes them.
Recently met with a Waseda MBA class to discuss over 100 ideas that were compiled on how to connect them in the future.
A san is also the reason we recently created a Code Club in Japan to embrace his passion for coding and collaborate with volunteers to bring coding to children as part of their inevitable future which will require it.
When I first arrived in Japan 25 years ago, I did not have a computer or a mobile phone. I cannot even imagine the technology that my own children will use because it has not been invented yet nor can I advise them on what job to focus on as 60% of jobs in the next ten years have not been created yet.
Communication, collaboration and looking at the world holistically is the formula for children’s success in the 21st century and we try to offer all in a creative way at YouMeWe.
With donations, we provide computers where necessary for 18 year olds graduating high school and going on to employment or higher education.
We are focused on rolling out a Robotics course to teach the children as young as possible about skills they may find not only useful but more importantly, employable in their future.
Please join us in our campaign on Global Giving to become a partner with them in helping raise the remaining $4,800 USD from 39 unique donors over the next 17 days until the end of June.
Link to our project: https://www.globalgiving.org/projects/digital-citizens/”