Interviewed & written by Isao Tokuhashi
Mail to: email@example.com
(She’s been in Japan since October 2011)
She is studying at a Japanese university, and she is an orphan. She made a speech at a charity party which was held by PLAS (Positive Living through AIDS Orphan Support), a Japanese NGO who gives aid to AIDS orphans, and told us her story; how she grew up in her country after she lost her dad and how she came to Japan.
It was a short speech, but we were really moved. So we wanted to hear her stories more. How an orphan in Africa became a university student in Tokyo? – Take a closer look.
A supporter from Japan
I’m not sure if my father died of HIV/AIDS, but it is a common problem in my country.
My father passed away when I was at age 11. My mom was working, but her savings were not enough to take care of me and my four brothers. Moreover she took care of our 3 cousins, too. Since she was the only one supporting us; paying school fees and other daily expenses, two of my brothers had to leave school and started to work.
The organization called “Ashinaga” (literally means “Long Legs”, which comes from “Daddy-Long-Legs“, the American novel) changed my life. Ashinaga is an organization which supports orphans. Its headquarters are in Tokyo, but they have a brunch in my country. I got to know them through its community workers. They visit houses to look for orphaned children that had little support and had less chances of finishing school and accepted them. That’s how I got to know about the organization, and Japan as well.
Actually I received a scholarship from Ashinaga for university, but they didn’t pay for junior high or high school tuition in those days. They provided us with scholastic materials. I went to a private elementary school and a public school for both junior high school and high school. Fortunately my older brothers and my mother’s family paid for my school expense. I really appreciate it.
Open eyes to overseas
I didn’t know so much about Japan before I came here. And back home, I was worried how I would be able to pay for university. But when I received a scholarship from Ashinaga, I thought that going to a new country and experiencing a different culture could be a good experience. I studied about Japan in the geography class when I was a high school student as a case study; about Japanese fishing industry etc., not about the country’s culture. So I didn’t imagine that I would go overseas.
In order to receive a scholarship from Ashinaga, you have to be registered in it. I applied to Waseda University, but my application was declined. Then I applied to another Japanese university. But at the same time, I also applied to a university in my country in case university in Japan declined my application again.
But finally my application was accepted by the ICU, International Cristian University in Tokyo. I decided to major in the development studies.
Receiving this scholarship helped me to stop worrying about what would happen in the future. But instead, It let me think about what was happening in my life currently, what I would have to achieve and what I would have to do in order to realize my dreams.
Starting my own NGO – my dream since I was a kid
I had many dreams when I was young. At some point, I thought about being a lawyer or a detective, but I have been through and witnessed life challenging experiences. For these reasons, I changed my dreams, and decided to do something, like giving back to other people who need help. That’s when I decided that I will establish an organization for children.
After my father died, my family faced some challenges, like we almost lost our home to our other family members who only interested in our property. But on the other hand, many children who faced the same situation in my country didn’t have their homes and couldn’t go to school. That’s why I decided to start my own NGO to support them. And it’s still my dream.
Of course I need money to realize it. Also I probably need to have some working experience. So I want to work for UN, United Nations, as an ambassador for children in Africa. And I want to work for different organizations like JICA (Japan International Cooperation Agency) and other NGOs in my country or anywhere around the world.
Before thinking about working for UN, I wanted to earn a master’s degree. Or I thought that I would need to pursue my career in the field of children supporting NGO. I want to gain work experience at any NGOs or organizations that support children, or deal with development issues in any country and go to a graduate school if I have a chance. Then someday I want to go to UN.
Give generous love to orphans
One day, I was walking by the street in my country with my cousins, and a kid asked me some money. One of my cousins told me, “Don’t give her money”. Those kids ran away from an orphanage, the place where had food, water and shelter, and came to street to beg. I asked him, “Why did you run away from the shelter?” He answered that the people who took care of orphans at the shelters do it for the job, so sometimes they were mean to kids. He didn’t like it, so he escaped.
I realized that kids wanted love much more. Love must be more important than money. It’s quite tough for especially young kids to live without family.
I guess they wanted someone who took care of them. Of course there are people who support orphans, but they need ones that don’t think like “I take care of children because it’s my JOB”. They need ones who would love them like their moms would do. Orphanages should support orphans not only because they “have to” but because they “want to”. That’s my ideal orphanage – it should be like “home”. Having such an orphanage is my dream, too.
What is your ideal world?
That’s where people help people. We will feel more secure if we take care of each other.
What is Japan to you?
A very peaceful country.
You can walk on the streets without fear at the night. That’s my most favorite thing about Japan. It’s such a free country.
But Japanese people tend not to communicate much with each other. They don’t express themselves very much. It’s really difficult to know what they are thinking or feeling.
However Japan is a good country, I think.