Tackle a Local Welfare with Children | Chiaki Fujino | TEDxAnjo

Tackle a Local Welfare with Children | Chiaki Fujino | TEDxAnjo


Translator: Risa Horiuchi
Reviewer: Tanya Cushman Hello everyone. (Audience) Hello. Until last March, I worked for
the Jonancho Association in Anjo city. I was the chair for 13 years. Really, 13 years! Do you think that’s a long time? Or do you think that I’m just peculiar? Does someone have a question?
I see you there. Well, we know each other. So later? (Laughter) By the way, this conference is located in the area of the Jonancho Association. It is wonderful to be presenting here,
in my own neighborhood. I am very grateful. What does a community association do? A community association
is a residential organization in Japan. Residents manage the activities. It is there that people connect and build communities through preserving traditions,
cultural activities and festivities. When I first joined the association, I worked as the elementary school patrol. This will be my 14th year. That’s so long, isn’t it? 14 years! And then the students
I used to watch over became adults who greet me around town. They stop and chat with me
from time to time. In Jonancho, residents
struggling with various problems come to the association
for help and counsel. So we, as members of the association,
take it into our own hands and help them by offering support
and solutions to their problems. I get phone calls at my house
from visually impaired people asking for help with daily tasks
such as taking out the garbage. There are isolated elderly people who live on their own
and have become withdrawn. We visit their homes, talk with them, listen to them,
and offer solutions to their problems. There are also people
with dementia in town. We see them walking around. They may be just walking. Or maybe they are wandering. So we walk beside them. Then we walk them back home. I believe that community associations need to provide services such as these. Before I joined, the association
didn’t handle such problems. When I became chairman of the association, I didn’t think of doing this kind of work. So I didn’t handle these problems. Before I became a chairman,
I had a retirement dream. It was to drive all
around Japan with my wife. Then 10 years passed. I hadn’t been able to go. You see, my car broke down after 10 years. Then six more years passed. Yet, I still haven’t gone
on that road trip. And now, I will be 76 years old. At my age, I can’t just get in my car
and go driving around Japan now that my body is worn out and too weak, with age getting the better of me. So I became interested in working
with the social services in town. The first problem I struggled with
was in October 2006. In our neighborhood, a 60-year old man
had died alone in his home. No one found out for eight days. I was really shocked to hear about this. Because as the chairman,
I knew that this man was very ill, and I had specifically asked
his neighbors to watch over him, and I was also keeping an eye on him. Despite all this, he died alone. Deep down, I felt
that I let him die alone. I felt that very strongly. Then I thought about how to prevent
such deaths from happening again. I thought long and hard about this, but I struggled to find any solutions. By any chance, are there very old people
living in your neighborhoods? Well, most of you are quite young. You may not know many elderly people. I wonder, what would you do in my place? In 2007, I spoke to Ms. Ryoko Yoshimura from
the Anjo City Social Welfare Committee. She recommended that we create
a community care map. So we followed her advice. Now, this community care map divided the neighborhood into blocks, creating numerous blocks on the map. Residents with different challenges
live on each block. Some have dementia;
others are physically disabled. There are also residents who live alone. We tag that information to the map. Then, when we get together,
we use the map for reference and discuss how to address
each concern, one at a time. We have been tackling social issues
in our community in this way. Since we created this community care map, the residents have seen
that we’ll go the extra mile to help them. They’ve found this reassuring, and they now come directly to us
for help and advice. I feel that that is one of the things
that this map has helped us achieve. As we continued on, the local elementary school asked me
to come in as a guest speaker for a day. They asked me to talk to the students
about the problems of the elderly, such as dementia. So of course, I accepted. I visited the school,
and with the sixth grade class, I talked about residents with dementia,
residents living on their own, and the map we had created. The students listened
closely to my presentation. After my presentation, the students went home
and talked with their mothers. The students took notes
on what they discussed with their mothers, then the notes were used in a survey,
which the school showed me. Here are some of the mothers’ comments: “It would be too embarrassing to tell
neighbors about dementia in the family.” “It’s one of the things that I feel
are too personal to tell neighbours.” Answers like that were common. The students asked
some questions in response: “How can we find these people?” “If their families keep quiet,
how do we find them?” I had thought that for the kids, the issues on the community care map
such as dementia and isolation would be hard to comprehend. But when I actually
started speaking in class, the children listened to me very intently. I was very impressed and touched
by the way they were trying to learn. Well, I suppose that it’s the beauty of education
that I was able to experience. In the meantime, at the end of class, some students showed an interest
in helping the community. There were six students who formed a team called “Jon 6.” They started volunteering
to help the association. All of the members of Jon 6 were girls. “How are these kids going to help?”
was my initial thought. Then one day, the Jon 6 team
came to the association and asked to help the elderly residents. They wanted to cook and serve refreshments
at one of our gatherings for the elderly. “Wait a minute, these are sixth graders!
Can they really do these things?” Deep down, I had my doubts. Yet, a few days later,
all six members turned up. They cooked a meal; they served it to the elderly
who were at the gathering. They chatted with the elderly
during the meal. My first impression was that maybe
the kids were doing this just to make the elderly happy or they find the activity itself
interesting or amusing. Their actual intention was, though,
to contribute to the community by serving refreshments
and chatting with the elderly. Later on, the members of Jon 6
came to us once again. They said, “We want to help.
Let us know what we can do.” So recalling that our newsletter
was about to be discontinued, I asked the kids
if they wanted to work on it. They said, “Leave it to us. We’ll do it.” They began working immediately. The students printed
several issues of the newsletter. It is still in print today with no sign of discontinuing. Because of the kids getting involved
in the neighborhood association, diverse generations started taking part
in our town festivals. When the kids participate,
so do their parents. Even the elderly, who aren’t usually
very active, join in, actively participating,
talking to the kids. My hope is that these kids,
in the near future, will become an integral part
of our community to discuss our social problems
and handle them together, that these kids will lead future community associations. I’m glad I’ve been able
to sow the seeds for that. However, when we talk about
getting help from the youth, we’re talking about the young adults who can take over
the community association now. Not the kids. When these young adults take over, I trust they will be responsible. We must not insist that they
continue to do things as we did. We should let them manage
the community in their own ways. Even if the solutions we are using now
are not going to be repeated, whatever challenges the community
may face in the future, kids will play their part
in helping to overcome them. Thinking about the future
for ourselves and kids, I want us to work towards a future in which elderly people
with cognitive and physical disabilities live in completely supportive communities. Let’s pursue this. Thank you very much. (Applause)

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