Today I’ve been based in the North of Osaka in Ikeda city, visiting two projects that work with vulnerable young people.
The first was a Cultural Centre that provides an alternative curriculum for young people who can’t attend mainstream school. Because of the schooling system in Japan, there is a great deal of pressure on young people to achieve in elementary and junior high school in order to gain a place at a well ranked high school aged 15. It’s pretty common for children here to have a very strong study ethic. But this centre supports children who can’t cope with this level of pressure, or who have been bullied in mainstream school. Osaka local government fund the project as part of their support services because of the increasing amount of truancy or long-term absence.
It’s a sad statistic to hear, an even more real when you see the need.
I had a fascinating time here to be honest, because it enabled me to start to get my head around the Japanese education system and ask a lot of questions about provision for young people who didn’t achieve. It is very moving thing to hear the stories of some of these individuals, and this centre does a great job at building confidence in some young people who don’t have anywhere else to go.
Next we headed over to meet a very different project, run by a group of midwives in Osaka. They have been given funding by the government to run support services for parents classed as ‘as risk’, with one of their priority groups being young parents. Again, this was an awesome experience, and probably the most similar service I’ve visited to the provision I manage in the UK, as they support pregnant girls before and after birth. The main difference here is that there aren’t the same number of charities to support the work, so resources are hard to come by.
There’s a lot of stigma here for young parents and the abuse rate is still high so there are no easy answers.
After a full day of working in Japanese with Maiko translating for me, I was absolutely brain fried, and my head was and still is buzzing with all I am learning here. It’s complicated, and there’s a lot of need, but also lots of cultural challenges to this type of work. The striking thing for me in this part of my trip is that I’m not meeting any Christians running projects here for the government or using government funds. There is a real opportunity for a church response to some very practical needs, but I’m not sure yet what that would look like.
Please pray as I continue to reflect and process the sheer amount of recording, transcripts and policy documents I’ve got to go through. Wisdom is needed. My language needs to get better. I got sent a reading list today of Japanese theoretical books on the basis for youth work theory here. These texts don’t come translated, but I need to understand the concepts that are relevant to this culture before I can get my head around how it all fits together. I’m so glad God doesn’t call and not equip! He is so faithful!
Now, tired as I was, tonight has been amazing! Tomorrow I move to a home-stay in Nara, so tonight my Osaka home-stay family treated me to a seven course Japanese meal at this wonderful restaurant. I have eaten and eaten and eaten, weird and wonderful food that I never thought I would eat, and I have laughed hard and practiced Japanese.
And I am so full.
And so happy.
Kanoe, the granddaughter of the couple I am staying with decided that the best way to test my knowledge of Japanese animal names was to impersonate them, so we just had a hilarious time. She is 10 after all. I also learnt the Japanese equivalent to the cup song… Lisa, you would be proud of me! 😉
Please pray for this family, and that they would remember all we have talked and sang about. And please pray that Holy Spirit would continue working in them. My time here feels too short, but God planned it and He will seal it.
So this was my evening, and I am now going to get some sleep! Love you all!
I love this girl! What a legend!!