Volunteer Community Work in Japan - Aliya

I am having an amazing time working at a care home for physically and mentally disabled people. The residents here are varied in their capabilities. I get to work closely with each of them and have got to know all their unique personalities.

We spend most of our time assisting with their daily living: helping to feed people, making beds, putting away laundry and so on, but the work involves much more than that. The home runs many clubs and activities such as flower arranging, cooking class and a singing group. These are always really enjoyable to help out with, making sure everyone can get as involved as possible.

Also we make sure the residents get to be as independent as possible. We often take them out for a stroll or to go to the shops, and are always ready to help with their individual requests. Anything from painting their nails to playing them at checkers, there is always something new and unexpected! We also do exercises with them every day to keep their muscles in use if they find movement difficult.

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I have learned all kinds of skills during my time here and had all kinds of incredible and valuable life experiences. However I think the main skill I have developed here is communication. Learning Japanese by being constantly surrounded by native speakers is amazing. It is very different and more effective than formal lessons and much more interactive. However learning to communicate here is not as simple as overcoming the language barrier.

Working in this setting has really opened my mind. It makes you realise how many different ways there are to communicate! For instance there are people here who can speak fine but whose learning difficulties mean they forget we are not fluent native Japanese speakers. There are others who can only communicate in written notes or with alphabet cards. Others cannot speak or write but use gestures and expressions. Once you get used to it is just as effective! And most importantly everyone responds to a smile!

 

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Being a volunteer is great. By living and working in a different country you get to understand the culture in much more depth than you ever could as a tourist. You can always see the contribution your efforts are making and you always know you are doing something valuable. It is really rewarding and uplifting.

The people here are really welcoming. They seem to love helping us experience different aspects of Japanese culture. We have also been lucky enough to visit lots of interesting historical and cultural places: ancient castles, beautiful temples and fascinating museums. We have even participated in local festivals, which is an amazing experience and very different to anything back home!

I have got so much out of this experience. I’ve become so attached to this country that I intend to stay longer in Japan and undertake another Lattitude placement. I know I will always have strong links with this place.

I have not decided what I would like to do in the future. But after having this wonderful opportunity and meeting all these challenges, I feel like I could do anything and that any opportunity is open to me. I know now I will have the confidence to succeed in whatever I choose to do.