Our volunteer teachers at JOEE come from many different countries – Australia, USA, India, Latvia, Norway, along with bi-lingual volunteers from Japan. They serve little kids that have been abused by their parents and are sheltering in care homes.
We go to the homes with lively, music and puppet-enhanced English lessons that bring these children Joy, along with an educational boost in a world that is already stacked against them. Statistically, children who have grown up in care homes have higher rates of joblessness and suicide that youth with the advantage of supportive homes. JOEE is working to change that by giving these very important children a brighter future.
One of the most important lessons that these kids learn during JOEE lessons is that kind, trusted adults can come from a wide variety of nationalities and ethnic groups. Learning to embrace folks from other countries is a lesson best learned when young and then your world view is being formed. This world-embracing mindset can be a big advantage for them when they launch out into our multi-cultural world in search of jobs and healthy connections.
JOEE is always looking for generous donors — those who can contribute financially to support our programs and those who can give of their time and teaching skills. Our volunteers are vetted and must agree to a thorough background check in order to enter the care homes as a JOEE teacher. If you are interested in helping out, please contact the Founding Director at the following email address: ruth(at)joee.jp
On October 15, Mehhgumi the Sheep made her singing debut in Tokyo at a fundraiser for a nonprofit benefitting kids in care homes. Mehhgumi, (who is also known as “Baaa-bara”), with a bit of help from me, sang the Sesame Street classic, created by Jeff Moss, “I Don’t Want to Live on the Moon.” Have a listen:
10月15日、羊のめ～ぐみは、養護施設の子供たちを応援する非営利団体の東京での募金イベントで歌手としてデビューしました。め～ぐみ(「バ～バラ」とも呼ばれる)は、私の助けを借りて、ジェフ・モスが作成したセサミストリートの名曲「I Don’t Want to Live on the Moon」を歌いました。聞いてください:
Jones, that old hound dog, had begged with his big, old puppy eyes, to be taken along to the fundraising event. He was thrilled when Elvis showed up and belted out the “Hound Dog” song. Jones danced and howled along with the music, gracing us all with doggy breath and delirious drool.
We had a marvelous time, crooning tunes and dancing like loons. I did my best to help by singing and playing the harmonica along with the John Denver classic, “Take Me Home Country Roads.” Towards the end of the evening, something very mysterious and magical happened.
For several weeks, I had been planning trips to Nagoya, Kobe and Osaka on behalf of JOEE. I would be preaching at a couple of churches and visiting orphanages with my puppets. One event that I was looking forward to attending was a birthday party for a little girl in Kobe. The theme of the party was rabbits. Did I have a large rabbit puppet that I could bring to the party to perform with? No, I did not. I had lions, cats, sheep, frogs, even an elephant. But no large rabbits. So, I was thinking hard about rabbits that night. I was wishing for a rabbit puppet. Guess what happened?
While taking a break from singing up on stage, a woman approached me and, out of the blue, asked me, “Would you like to have a rabbit puppet?” My jaw dropped in surprise. “Yes! I would love to have a rabbit puppet!” I wondered how in the world did this woman, (whom I had never met before), know that I needed a rabbit puppet. “Wait here — I’ll be back soon.” She returned with a beautiful puppet that had sat in her house, unused, for forty years. “I would be happy if you could use this puppet with JOEE.”
I accepted the new JOEE puppet with joy and brought it back with me to my home in Nagano. I call it my “Thought Rabbit.” And because “thought” is “kanga-e” in Japanese and because JOEE or “joey” means baby kangaroo, maybe I can call it “Kangae-roo.” It was a thought in my head and then it magically appeared and jumped into my arms.
We hope that good and magical things continue to happen through JOEE and that our supporters will share in our joy at helping others. Please help us reach our goal of raising $50,000 within the next couple of years by donating at the link below. This is our new Global Giving fundraiser, “JOEE to Japan!” Can you help us reach our giving goal? Here’s the link or you can click on the “Global Giving link below:
私たちは、JOEEを通じて魔法のような良いことが起こり続け、サポーターの皆様が人を助ける喜びを私たちと分かち合ってくださることを願っています。以下のリンクで寄付して、今後2年以内に50,000ドル集めるという目標を達成するのを手伝ってください。これは私たちの新しいGlobalGiving募金「JOEE to Japan!」です。募金目標を達成するのを手伝ってくれませんか？このリンクか、以下の「GlobalGiving」リンクをクリックしてください。
For those of you who would like to listen in on a JOEE lesson for children in Ukraine, here’s your chance. This month, in January, 2023, please join us at 8pm, Japan Standard Time, on Monday, Jan. 16, 23 and 30 for a fun, puppet-assisted online get-together. For adults joining, please keep your video and audio muted to let more children participate. This link will go live at 8pm on those three Mondays, Japan time, which is 1pm in Ukraine. You will need the passcode to enter the session:
Our first teachers were Annie and Lilian, followed by our most recent teacher, Tomoko who has now taught here since April of 2022. She has been assisted by our administrator, Hiroko, along with regular helpers, Jorge and Yushi and a special guest teacher, Chiyuki.
Tomoko has carefully-planned lessons every week that build on the previous week’s material. Her lessons incorporate games, singing, action, books and puppets to keep the children engaged and excited. The children at Chofu Gakuen love JOEE time!
Our JOEE teachers usually teach once a week at a children’s home on a regular schedule. When a regular teacher is unable to attend, other JOEE teachers may step in to substitute for that lesson. Our substitute teachers love meeting new children and enjoying the energy and enthusiasm that they bring to class time.
JOEE is active in several children’s homes in Tokyo including Chiba, one in Nagoya and one in Kobe. We are actively looking for more homes that would welcome free English lessons and we continue to train teacher volunteers. Contact us if you would like to help: email@example.com.
Many of you have heard about my unfortunate accident towards the end of the second day of the 500 km KIWL fundraising ride across Japan. Up until the accident, I was having a grand time, getting lots of exercise and taking in amazing sights.
After the hardest bit of climbing, we rolled into a small town and I stopped at a light, unclipped my right foot, put it down on the ground… then inexplicably fell towards the left where my other foot was still clipped in. Apparently, President Joe Biden had a similar tumble recently but was able to roll with it and brush it off. I was not as fortunate or as graceful. I broke the radius and ulna in my left arm.
My Apple Watch detected a fall and promptly called emergency services in Japan.
“Daijoubu desu ka?” said my wrist with concern. “Nope; not okay. Please send an ambulance!” was the reply from my cycling buddies. My wrist was sporting a new and strange looking angle. Breakage was obvious. Off to the hospital we went in my third ambulance ride ever. (Ambulance rides are free in Japan… in the States they cost about a thousand dollars — talk about adding insult to injury!)
I was in too much pain to cry so I yelled instead. I used my outdoor voice. No one told me to settle down and be quiet. They knew there was more pain to come. Bone-setting is no walk the park. The nurse had to pull on my arm in one direction while the doctor pulled in the other direction. They wore lead aprons and viewed the bone through an x-ray machine while they set it. My job was to yell and hang onto the nurse’s arm. I think I might have bruised her. “You’re a strong woman,” she said afterwards.
Apologies to the nurse. I did entertain her afterwards with a short puppet show featuring a concerned Mehhhgumi. She recorded the skit with her phone. Maybe it will show up on the internet later. Here’s a recording from today, getting ready for surgery:
Sunday, June 19th: Now I’m in the hospital awaiting surgery. A hand specialist will put in a couple of titanium plates to stabilize the bones and speed the healing process. In the meantime, I have continued to work thanks to effective pain pills. Here’s a CT scan of the bone – they’re very thorough here:
After the Break, Work Continued: On Sunday, June 12, I joined the KIWL cycling team for the final ceremony where we met some of the children for whom we were cycling and raising money. They were happy to meet a friendly pig and a sweet sheep. The children and their care home received a pile of new outdoor sports equipment. Then they cycled away on their own bikes as we waved goodbye.
On Thursday, June 16, I was able to teach three classes at Green Hills School with the help of my son, Alec, who is visiting us from the States. He held each grade level in rapt attention as he described the different kinds of “bugs,” a generalized term for insects, spiders, arthropods and even gastropods.
Friday night, we collaborated during the 7pm online class for the children at Harukaen in Chiba. Alec was my “left-hand-man.” By using a wide variety of puppets, we had the kids identify which ones had bones and which ones did not. (They learned that sharks do not have bones, but instead have cartilage.) My most recent classes have incorporated information about bones helped by photos of my ride and my x-rays. Misfortune had might as well be instructive!
On Saturday, I met with the three students that I tutor and we had more lessons about biking and bones. This coming week, I may have to take a few days off to heal.
Thank you, everyone for your prayers and good wishes for a successful surgery and fast healing. If you still want to donate to a good cause, scroll down, use the link below and mention JOEE in the memo. Detailed instructions can be found in the previous JOEE post.
FUNDRAISING RIDE: Tomorrow at 7am sharp, off I go — SHUPPATSU — on a 500 kilometer fundraising ride with the Knights in White Lycra. Will I survive? I hope so… after over 1,600 kilometers of training rides and having climbed over 24,000 meters of mountains, I think I’m ready. I am part of a group of 38 cyclists pedaling from Tokyo to a children’s care facility in Kanazawa from June 9 to 12. Please consider sponsoring me! Here is the link to the fundraiser with instructions below for making sure that your sponsorship is attributed to JOEE:
Step 1: Click on link above (https://www.globalgiving.org/projects/kiwl-2022-events/ ) and find the following screen shown below.
Step 2: Choose “No Card.” (This will allow you to dedicate your donation to JOEE.)
Step 3: Fill in the details: “From,” “In Honor Of,” and “Message.” (Screenshot sample below….)
Step 4: Complete your donation and then share the information with a friend!
TRAINING: I have been training for this event for a couple of months while continuing to teach JOEE classes online and communicating with our JOEE teachers in Tokyo, Kobe and Nagoya. Hopefully, the ride will help to raise awareness of the struggles that many children face while raising funds to continue programs to educate and empower these youth. Here are some photos showing the training process which took place in the hilly terrain of Nagano where I currently live and work teaching and farming.
Motivation: Why am I doing this? To raise funds for two organizations that help valuable but neglected children reach their full potential and be able to lead happy and fulfilling lives. JOEE and YouMeWe are committed to helping kids who are growing up in orphanages and care homes in Japan where about 60,000 children are in need of protection and help. Many have been removed from their homes for their own health and protection. A few are in foster care programs but the vast majority are in larger institutions and group homes. Adoption rates in Japan are abysmally low and most of the children that enter the care system remain there for the rest of their childhood. These children deserve a bright future. Japan needs healthy and happy children and youth to thrive and live in this beautiful country.
Please Help: I hope that you will consider donating to JOEE, sharing our vision and even volunteering as a teacher or helper to make a positive difference in the lives of children in Japan. Email me for more details: Ruth@joee.jp . In Japanese email: Hiroko@joee.jp . Thank you for caring!
On Mondays, at 8pm Japan time, which is 2pm Ukraine time, children in Ukraine can tune in to a JOEE lesson crafted especially for them. Care is taken not to include any mention of planes, buildings or dangerous situations as the children are often tuning in from locations that are in or near to war zones during this time.
These lessons are organized by a non-profit in Eastern Europe, Smart Osvita, that seeks to bring educational moments to children who might need a joyful distraction from the stressful events that are happening in their lives right now. The website is here: nus.org.ua Daily lessons are listed in Ukrainian with information about the age group and subject matter of each lesson. The listing for Monday, April 18, is shown below. “A Hog Needs a Hug,” was one of the lesson offerings.
During the hour-long JOEE lesson, Hamlet the Pig, along with some of his friends, taught the children English words. About 63 children logged in to the lesson. The moderator was able to unmute children who had a question or a comment, or just felt like talking to a friendly pig. In the process, my pugnacious pig made friends with stuffed animals on the other side of the world. Here is a reflection that I wrote after meeting these dear children, many of whom spoke English quite well!
If you feel led to donate in time or money, please remember the children of Ukraine. May they be protected from harm and may the war cease and the residents of Ukraine be able to return to their homes. Please pray and do what you can to help!
What are some ways to “Get Fit and Give Back?” The upcoming KIWL Palace Walk is one way that you and a group of your friends or colleagues can get some fresh air and exercise while raising money for a worthy cause. Sign up for the Imperial Palace Walk/Jog that takes place on April 22nd and 23rd near the Sakuradamon Station exit. More details provided when you complete the registration. ¥5,000 (or $50 donation for adults) gets you an exclusive T-shirt. The minimum for students is less.
4. When that page opens up, click on “DONATE NOW” button.
5. After entering “full name” and “email,” there is a button underneath and to the right — ‘Donate in honor’ which should be clicked on.
The following screen will appear:
6. Click on ‘no card’ and there you can add “JOEE” under the words, “In Honor Of” when donating. (See example below.)
That’s it! You’re done. Have a lovely walk or run around the palace grounds on a beautiful day in late April. May your steps lead you to many more paths of caring and compassion as you “Get Fit & Give Back.” Blessings on your journey.
Note: If you would like to make a direct donation to JOEE with no running around involved, you can click on the DONATE button to the left on this JOEE webpage.
Ever wonder what goes on inside a JOEE online lesson? Here’s one sample of a lesson that landed on the Japanese festival of Setsubun which is celebrated before the start of spring. This year, Setsubun landed on Feb. 3, the same day as the weekly online Thursday lesson at St. Francisco Children’s Home. “The children want to chase away an oni” said the JOEE helper at the orphanage. “But we don’t have any soybeans.”
The JOEE lesson was set to begin in a few minutes, so it was time to brainstorm. First of all, I had to locate a monster…. an “oni.” I found an old costume headband from Halloween that had horns on it. Most “oni” have horns. But what about the face or the head? In homes with a mom and a dad, usually the dad will put on a mask and play the part of the “oni.” The children shriek with delight as the monster enters the house and then “drive out the evil” by throwing dried soybeans at the “oni.”
“Oni wa soto! Fuku wa uchi!” they yell, which roughly translates as: “Evil spirits get out! Good fortune stay in!” The pretend monster goes running away much to the delight of the children, who are feeling quite powerful at being able to drive off a monster with a handful of magic beans.
So, I had to find a monster mask. Then I remembered the dinosaur head, sitting off to one side of my cluttered teaching studio. Yes, I have a tyrannosaurus head — a gift from an excellent teacher, Mr. Richards, with whom I had previously taught a summer school class… all about dinosaurs. My “oni” would have to be a T-rex with bright red horns.
I grabbed a pair of red gloves and a green jacket for the finishing touches to my costume. Now we needed something for the children to throw at the monster. Instead of soybeans, the children would throw tiny rubber ducks… but not at the screen (where the horned dino would soon appear). Instead, we would direct the children to throw the yellow ducks into the air! Yes, we just happened to have lots of little squeaky yellow ducks at the children’s home. We have used them for counting games and for teaching other vocabulary words.
Why would a dinosaur-oni be afraid of yellow ducks? Well, you’ll just have to watch the video and find out. And while you are at the YouTube channel that posts JOEE videos, why not subscribe and get notified when new videos are posted there? Click here to view part of the Setsubun JOEE Lesson:
Another way to help the JOEE foundation, which brings free, lively English lessons to kids growing up in institutionalized care in Japan, is to send a donation in through the Global Giving link added below. Thank you for caring and sharing!
The Christmas season was lively in the children’s homes that are receiving JOEE lessons. This year, with a well-organized gift drive carried out in coordination with Christian Academy in Japan, JOEE was able to bring personalized gifts to all 44 children in residence at the St. Francisco Children’s Home in Ota-ku and to the 5 children in the JOEE program at Chofu Gakuen Home. This year, the children (especially the teen individuals) were given an opportunity to request specific gifts so that we could meet their needs. Gift donors did their best to find the perfect gifts for all of the youth. The gifts were presented at Christmas parties – one held on Dec. 19 and the other on Dec. 23.
Our two JOEE Christmas parties were aided by volunteers from Tokyo Union Church and its sister congregation, West Tokyo Union Church. Helpers played the piano, the violin, bells and a harp to bless the children with beautiful Christmas music. The JOEE students had learned a few simplified carols and exuberantly sang, “Joy to the World, sing joy, sing joy… sing joy, sing joy, sing joy! Sing JOY, JOY, JOY! Sing JOY, JOY, JOY!” It was a good reminder that the foundation of JOEE is JOY!
2回のJOEEクリスマスパーティーには、東京ユニオンチャーチとその姉妹教会である西東京ユニオンチャーチのボランティアが協力してくれました。ピアノ、バイオリン、ハンドベル、ハープなどを演奏していただき、子どもたちに美しいクリスマス音楽を届けていただきました。簡略化されたキャロルを覚えたJOEEの生徒たちは、「Joy to the World, sing joy, sing joy… sing joy, sing joy, sing joy！Sing JOY, JOY, JOY! Sing JOY, JOY, JOY!」と元気よく歌いました。JOEEの基本は喜び（JOY）だということを思い出させてくれました！
After the singing, the children heard the story of Christmas, the reason for this celebration and gift-giving — how God sent His Son, Jesus, as a gift to the world, to be born in a humble manger in Bethlehem. The story reminds us that God especially cares for and blesses the poor and the outcast; God honors those who are put down by society, like these children growing up in institutional care homes. These kids, often cruelly labeled “throw-away children” in Japan, are actually valuable gifts and should be treated as such.
Every child at St. Francisco Children’s Home received a Christmas gift bag. Inside, they found pairs of new warm socks, books and school supplies and a gift chosen just for them. Our volunteers had great fun helping the children cut strings, open boxes and install batteries. The Christmas party ended in a joyful cacophony of thank-you’s and goodbyes. The children were even waving to us from the balconies as we drove away.
While we wish that we could give every child a gentle and loving family to care for them, we do what we can in making sure that they are safe and have joyful and positive learning experiences as they grow up in a care home. Please help JOEE in any way that you can. Financial gifts can be made through Global Giving by going to this link:
A week after the Christmas parties, I received a beautiful handmade thank you card from the children at St. Francisco Children’s home. Inside I found handwritten notes from 17 of the residents. It was so sweet and heartwarming and made my holidays very happy indeed. A Merry Christmas to all and a very Happy New Year. We have great plans and hopes for 2022! Thank you for your support.
Thanks to the generous volunteering talents of two of our teachers, Annie and Lilian, JOEE lessons have begun at a newly remodeled facility in Chofu in the western part of Tokyo. Hurray!
Annie is a veteran teacher of small, active children and she excels at using English to delight, engage and teach. She is joined by Lilian, who was a bit timid at first, but who is a hit with the children who love her furry puppet feline sidekick.
Listen in as Annie gives us a summary of the first full JOEE lesson taught at this lovely facility:
Introductions – First of all, we handed out colourful nametags to each child and introduced Lilian and Tabby the cat. Nametags are very helpful, especially when beginning lessons. Building connections begins with learning names.
Ice Breaker – We started by tickling our toes and head and wiggling our arms and bodies to get warmed up before singing the Hello Song. The children enjoyed tapping and clapping to the beat as we sang. The staff joined in singing with us and the kids seemed to enjoy having each of their names sung. Hopefully the kids will join in singing as they become more familiar with the song. Classroom Management – We established the signal “are you ready?” “oh yes!” rhythmic chant and practiced it sitting and standing. We used this signal throughout class and will use it throughout our lessons to make sure kids are ready to listen. They are familiar with this kind of activity in the care facility as they usually do this kind of greeting before meals etc.
ColourKuruta! – We elicited different colour responses by pointing out the colours on our clothes and things around the room. The kids said them in Japanese at first, but with a bit of encouragement they repeated them in English. They needed a lot of repetition to retain the vocabulary. With coloured cards we played a memory game, the older kids did very well but it was a bit challenging for the youngest. As they turned over the card the child had to say the colour in English. Seeing that this was difficult, we changed the game to a version of KURUTA (a traditional Japanese guessing game). To start, the children put their hands on their head and when I said a colour they had to touch the corresponding card on the floor. The aim next time will be for the kids to take turns being the leader and say the colour out loud.
Colour Matching Game – I brought out my colourful parachute and the kids placed the corresponding colour card in the correct place on the parachute. Then we sang RED, YELLOW, GREEN and BLUE to the “William Tell Overture” melody while shaking the parachute to the beat. They loved this activity!
Goodbye – Our lesson concluded with the Goodbye Song. We will begin and end each lesson the same way as this is reassuring for young learners and helps to build their confidence as they demonstrate their ability to remember the words.
We look forward to continuing lessons with this dear group of young learners in the joyful JOEE program and we are so grateful to our teacher volunteers. Contact JOEE via email if you are interested in volunteering: ruth(at)joee.jp