Partner Focus - Support Our Kids
Q1 Tell me about your organisation and your Support Our Kids project?
We started the Support Our Kids project in 2011 in order to support the youth victims of the Great East Japan Earthquake to increase their self-reliance through our overseas homestay programs. In order to operate the programs, we hold charity events, charity auctions for fundraising and raising awareness.
We have had 42 programs in 10 countries since 2011, and a total of 455 teenagers from the Tohoku region have participated. Our first program in Ireland was operated in 2013 with the support of former Ambassador Mr. John Neary. Since then, it became an annual program and a total of 59 students have visited Ireland through Support Our Kids. The previous Ambassador Mrs. Anne Barrington became the chair of the Support Our Kids Executive Committee in 2015 until she left Japan in 2018, the Ambassador Mr. Paul Kavanagh is the current chairman.
We received grants every year from the Ireland Funds (The Emerald Ball) 2013-2019, the Emerald Cultural Institute in Dublin has supported our program in Dublin.
Q2 Why did your organisation and the project set up?
Our belief is that supporting children affected by these events will enable them to become actors for positive change in their own communities. Through the programme, the children broaden their horizons and learn about foreign cultures and societies, such as Ireland’s. The activities support their ability to talk about the difficulties they have experienced. These activities and meeting new people abroad enable them to gain self-confidence and overcome their trauma and PTSD, and encourage them to become the future leaders of the region and Japan.
Q3 What initiatives are you looking forward to this year?
We are planning the 10th-anniversary charity event of the Great East Japan earthquake in March at the venue and online. The event is called “TOHOKU RESILIENCE”. We will present the stories of the kids’ resilience after experiencing the traumatic events, support from the countries including Ireland, and introduce the power of sports (because many of our supporters are legendary athletes including Irish rugby representatives).
Since the current pandemic of COVID-19, we had to cancel our overseas programs in 2020 and 2021. So we are seeking opportunities to do online programs for the youth in Tohoku which they can learn about foreign culture etc. and get inspired to broaden their global mindset.
Q4 For you, why is involvement in Ireland important?
We are grateful that many Irish people and organizations have been supporting our project. Some of the participants made a return to Ireland for further education because they love Irish culture and the people they met during the program. Irish people are cheerful and very kind even to the people they met for the first time – this is the impression most of the participants had. They were inspired a lot in Ireland, and try to do the same to others after coming back to their region.
Ireland has a history of resilience. Even they had difficult times they are famous for being happy and doing nice things to others. It is inspirational.
Q5 How can we support your project?
We would appreciate it if you could help with the promotion of our event in March “TOHOKU RESILIENCE 2021”.
We are looking for financial support in order to continue our activities.
One example is the Australia-Japan Foundation. We received a grant from them because they see the Support Our Kids as the enhancement of the bilateral relationship between Australia and Japan.
Also, if you have any ideas/suggestions for inspirational online programs for the youth in Tohoku (we mentioned in Q3).