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text 2017-11-16 01:35
ASHINAGA GROUP ASIA: STUDENT ACTIVISM

 

Ashinaga began 50 years ago with orphaned students advocating on their own behalf. This rich tradition of activism continues today. Student-led activism is a powerful means for conveying the situation of orphaned students to the general public and is central in fostering the qualities of leadership and teamwork in Ashinaga students.

 

Fundraising

 

Bokin, or Japanese-style street fundraising, has been a core component of Ashinaga since its inception. For two weekends every fall and summer, more than 10,000 Ashinaga students congregate at 200 central points across Japan. The students raise awareness through sharing their personal histories with passersby, as well as relating statistics regarding orphans. People then graciously place any amount of money—be it ¥1, ¥1,000, or more—in the boxes students are holding.

 

The funds raised at bokin go directly to a cause of the students’ choice. One year, for example, in response to the earthquake in the Kumamoto region of Japan, students directed all of the money they collected to the region’s recovery.

 

Since 2016, the students have made the monumental commitment to donate half of all funds raised to help support the education of orphaned students across Sub-Saharan Africa.

 

Causes supported in previous fundraising drives:

 

-HIV/AIDS orphans in Uganda

 

-1999 Armenia, Colombia earthquakes

 

-1999 Izmit Earthquake in Turkey

 

-1999 Jiji Earthquake in Taiwan

 

-2001 El Salvador earthquakes

 

-2003 Bam earthquake, Iran

 

-2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami and Earthquake: India, Sri Lanka, Maldives, Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, and Myanmar

 

-2015 Nepal Earthquake

 

Get Involved

 

We are always looking for eager volunteers who want to get involved with Ashinaga’s fundraising activities. As long as you have the motivation and a positive attitude, you are more than welcome to join us!

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text 2017-11-15 01:43
Ashinaga Group Asia: Research and Advocacy

 

Matching action with data

 

A key part of Ashinaga’s work is understanding the academic and financial challenges orphaned students face. Our research then becomes the basis for the support we provide as well as what we campaign for.

 

Ashinaga’s research and activism was key in the formation of Japan’s 2014 Childhood Poverty Act, which looks to increase government support for children and guardians in one-parent households.

 

Although our research has primarily focused on Japan, we hope to expand to Sub-Saharan Africa as our activities develop in the region. We also aim to widen the remit of our research to include data about the difficulties faced by elementary and middle school children.

 

The primary findings of our research thus far are summarized below.

 

Our findings

 

Ashinaga high school students find it difficult to pursue their desired careers after graduating. This is mainly due to financial constraints that have left them no choice but to give up going on to higher education.

 

For example, the percentage of those going on to university or junior college is lower than the national average.

 

Although public high schools are free, and there is a reduced school fee system at private high schools, educational expenses are still high—especially because of low incomes.

 

No matter how hard I work, my hourly wage remains ¥730. If I continue to work like this, I wonder whether I will end up homeless.

 

(44-year-old from Hokkaido)

 

I’m not entitled to receive the survivor pension with my current wage. I feel sad about the fact that my income is lower than families on welfare, no matter how hard I work. I changed to a night-shift job because the income is better, but I still have almost no money left when my next payday comes. I am not a full-time employee, so I don’t receive bonuses. I feel very anxious about my situation, but there is nothing I can do about it.

 

(49-year-old from Kagoshima)

 

An opinion survey of guardians of high school students, conducted in November 2013, found that children who have lost parents are troubled economically and mentally.

 

Detours

 

Of those responding to the survey, 33% indicated that their circumstances had led to “changes in career path,” and 19% “gave up higher education” to subsidize their household.

 

Two-thirds fall into the category of having a “shortage of education,” and this increases to more than 70% for families with two or more children. To cover the cost of education, 48% are “reducing all expenses other than educational expenses” and 41% are “cutting into deposits and savings.” 25% are “depending on their children’s part-time jobs.” This increases to 35% in the greater Tokyo area.

 

39% of high school students wish to pursue higher education, 27% are job seekers, and 55% percent nationwide go on to higher education. However, the number of those going on to higher education is 16% lower for Ashinaga high school students.

 

40% of job-seeking students “wish to pursue higher education, but cannot due to financial reasons,” and 13% “have to subsidize their households.” The total number of job-seeking students who wish to pursue higher education is 53%, which sharply increased by 13 points compared with the last survey, two years ago.

 

Due to a shortage in education, 42% “cannot attend tutoring school,” 33% “changed career path,” and 19% “gave up higher education” to support their household or siblings.

 

Working poor

 

The number of “non-regular employees” reaches 60%, and 15% work in two or more places.

 

Of In addition, 70% of guardians seek to “extend the payment period of the survivor pension and child support allowance from high school graduation to a longer term.”

 

Depression

 

Mental health problems are serious for both parents and children. Children are affected mentally after a parent’s death and/or disability. The results show that 29% of children “refused to or were unwilling to go to school,” 28% showed “an increase in depressed facial expression,” 24% “met with a counselor or psychiatrist,” 23% “became mad asily,” 20% “became lethargic,” and 12% “were bullied.”

 

Similarly, 42% of guardians are “depressed, and not feeling better,” followed by 41% “always having a feeling of crushing uncertainty,” 25% showing “nervousness,” 19% found they were “taking great pains to do anything,” 17% had “feelings of unworthiness,” 16% of “hopelessness,” 15% exhibited “fidgeting and restlessness,” and 10% were “considering suicide or double suicide.”’

 

It is evident that the number of guardians who are depressed is increasing.

 

Orphans

 

Children experience terrible loss when a parent dies. They lose not only their economic foundation, but their mental and cultural support as well. Sudden deaths from disaster or suicide are an even bigger shock. These children are faced with the fact that the presence of their loved ones is “fragile,” and normal life completely changes.

 

Children whose parents are fighting long-term illnesses, such as cancer, may experience the fear of death. On the other hand, some adults try to protect their children by not telling them they are ill. This results in death being sudden and more of a shock.

 

The number of suicides in Japan exceeds 30,000, and this has been the case since 1998. For children whose parents have committed suicide, the mental trauma is serious. In cases of suicide, along with the shock of sudden death, children suffer doubt. If the cause of death is unknown, children feel remorse. Thoughts such as, “they died because of me” or “I couldn’t help them” are common. Feeling disappointed and angry, and thinking “I was deserted” or “I wasn’t loved,” are also common.

 

In addition, they feel others watch to see how they respond to their parent’s death. Those who are told by their family and relatives to remain silent regarding their parent’s suicide are often pushed into isolation.

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text 2017-11-14 01:09
Ashinaga Group Asia: Overseas Training Program

Giving Ashinaga students the experience of a lifetime

 

Since 1995, Ashinaga has sent nearly 300 Japanese university students abroad on one-year training programs. For many students who have lost a parent, going abroad is financially infeasible. Ashinaga’s programs enable them to take advantage of an international experience that will benefit them for the rest of their lives. The program instills Ashinaga’s values of open-mindedness and an international perspective within students by having them study, work, and live abroad. The one-year program is a catalyst for students to improve their foreign language skills and often becomes the foundation of a future international career.

 

All Ashinaga students receive ¥300,000 to help finance their year abroad.

 

Current Programs

 

Ashinaga currently offers programs in:

 

-Taiwan

 

-China

 

-Turkey (temporarily suspended)

 

-Vietnam

 

-The Philippines

 

-Indonesia

 

-Uganda

 

-Tanzania

 

-Senegal

 

Students are able to take part in programs such as working with local NGOs pertaining to their interests, teaching orphaned children, teaching Japanese, teaching sports, or having the opportunity to work in a business environment.

 

Collaboration with JICA

 

Ashinaga has begun providing additional support for students hoping to apply for the JICA internship program in Sub-Saharan Africa. Students selected for this program undergo a rigorous training program, including studies about their destination country and intensive language classes to bring them to a proficient level before they start their placement. Students then get the chance to work at the forefront of international development by assisting the JICA office in their destination country for a number of months. Ashinaga provides additional financial support for its students who are selected for this program.

 

Los Angeles Exchange

 

Ashinaga offers a further experience in partnership with Lions Club International and the Japanese Chamber of Commerce in Los Angeles. Students selected for this program are invited to a two-week program in Los Angeles, where they will be able to experience American culture and improve their language skills by living alongside an American host family.

 

A Student’s Experience

 

“I stayed for about one year in Uganda as part of the 7th Overseas Training Program. After coming home, I then took part in the Ashinaga P-Walk 10 organizing committee. I graduated from university in March 2013, and I am now working as an elementary school teacher at a state school in Tokyo. For me, the training program in Uganda was a year of facing up to life, holding the responsibility to engage in education, and truly feeling the meaning of intensity.

 

Nowadays, whenever I get the chance, I do my best to tell my students about my experience in Uganda—the points of view and ways of thinking that I learned there. These kids are highly sensitive, but I think this helps them to, little by little, broaden their points of view and get a feeling for the wider world.

 

After talking to them about how children in Uganda often don’t get to eat until they are full, I saw fewer kids leaving leftover food at lunchtime. In their own childlike way, it looks like my thought of them wanting to do something for those children is taking shape. Undoubtedly, whatever happens, the stories about Uganda are sure to stick with these kids.

 

Through the training program in Uganda, I felt how things right in front of me were definitely not as they seem. For this reason, I think we adults have to support and uphold that growth for the kids who are right in front of us. I think I want to spend my days with these kids, while at the same time always keeping the smiles of the kids in Uganda in my heart.”

 

(Airi, Uganda training program participant)

 

Rainbow Exchange

 

In exchange for accepting our students in Indonesia and Turkey, Ashinaga invites students from Kocaeli University and Airlangga University to join our summer tsudoi programs and experience Japanese culture alongside our Ashinaga students.

 

How to Apply

 

Current Ashinaga students who are interested in applying for these programs should contact Ashinaga headquarters for further details.

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