New JOEE Teachers Meet Their New Helpers!

A few weeks ago, thanks to a donation by the Wesley Center and an additional donation by Folkmanis Puppets, a big box arrived from the States filled with eager, furry new teaching assistants for Joyful Opportunity English Education! Our new puppet friends couldn’t wait to meet their partners.

For the past couple of months, JOEE has been training new teachers. We are gearing up for the reopening of Japan in anticipation of more widespread vaccine availability. As of this writing, TEN new teachers are learning how to present JOEE lessons and how to use puppets to engage and delight young English learners in orphanages and care facilities. Hopefully by the end of summer or early autumn, we will be able to start new lessons in many new places.

JOEE teacher training shows participants the origins and philosophy of Joyful Opportunity English Education. Besides bringing joy into the lives of young children with weekly lessons, JOEE is also focused on their future. Learning English at a young age gives these kids the advantage of acquiring excellent pronunciation skills and builds the mental and emotional facility for learning language as their education progresses.

By meeting and interacting with English speakers of many different ethnicities, the children learn to be accepting of a wide variety of world inhabitants. Because personalities and attitudes form at a young age, this open-mindedness will work to their advantage when launching out into the greater world of work after they turn eighteen years old and exit the care institutions.

Our JOEE lessons dovetail nicely with the programs in computer and life skills and continuing English studies for older children that the nonprofit, YouMeWe offers. Our two organizations sometimes work in the same care facility. In these instances, a child can be studying English from the age of two all the way to the age of eighteen.

Thank you to the Wesley Center, Folkmanis and our generous JOEE donors. You are helping us to continue our work and expand to more orphanages.

If you would like to help support JOEE financially, please click on the secure GlobalGiving link below to donate with a credit card:

Or you can donate directly to the JOEE Japan Postal Account:

Name: ジョーイー (JOEE)
JP Branch Kanji: 〇一八
JP Branch: #018
JP Account: #10100-89960791
Account Type: Ordinary (Fustuu)

寄付を希望される場合は、以下の情報をご覧ください。
寄附金の振込口座
ゆうちょ銀行からの場合
[店名]〇一八(読みゼロイチハチ)
[口座番号]10100-89960791
他金融機関からの場合
[店名]〇一八(読み ゼロイチハチ]
[店番]018
[預金項目]普通預金
[口座番号]8996079

JOEE at the Italian Embassy

At the end of March this year, 2021, JOEE was invited by Matelda Starace of the Italian Embassy in Tokyo to participate in their Spring Bazaar. We were so pleased to participate in this outdoor event where every precaution was taken to make sure that, although we are still dealing with pandemic measures, everyone who attended could do so safely. Masks were worn at all times and only removed briefly, while outdoors, for a few quick photos.

今年(2021年)3月の終わりに、東京のイタリア大使館で行われたマテルダ・スタラーチェにお招きいただき、大使館の春のバザーに参加しました。パンデミックのための対策がしっかりとられた屋外でのイベントに安全に参加できたことは私達にとって大きな喜びでした。屋外での活動でのはありましたが、もちろんマスクの着用は必須です。写真をとったほんの一瞬だけはマスクをはずしましたが。

JOEE set up a table amidst other vendors who were also raising money for worthy causes. We met many lovely people and exchanged contact information, promising to keep in touch. Matelda was very gracious, introducing us to new friends and contacts.

他の販売団体に交じって、ファンドレイジングをしました。多くの素敵な出会いがあり、連絡先を交換し、また御連絡しますと約束しました。マテルダさんのご厚意で、多くの方々にご紹介いただきました。

Matelda’s husband, the ambassador, mingled with the crowd and stopped to answer my questions about the fascinating array of bonsai that decorated the back veranda. I learned about a unique kind of wisteria that I had never seen before. Refreshments of sparkling beverages and delicious Italian pizza and tartlets were served.

マテルダさんのご主人は在日本イタリア大使です。奥のベランダにずらりと並んだすばらしい盆栽の列について私が質問すると、他の方々と話ししておられたのにわざわざ立ち止まって答えてくださいました。この日、見たことのない藤についていろいろ知りました。炭酸飲料や美味しいイタリアのピザ、タルトレットなどが振る舞われました。

Our donors were happy to receive thank you gifts of darling, knit kangaroo finger puppets. Each puppet has two little joeys tucked into its precisely knit little pouch. These puppets were made for us by a women’s cooperative in Mexico, so our fundraiser had a double impact. We are so thankful to Matelda for the invitation, and very grateful for all of the generous donations that we received throughout the day. If you would like to donate to JOEE, please go to the Global Giving link below:

ご寄付いただいた方には編んだカンガルーの指人形をお送りし、喜んでいただきました。それぞれの人形には細かく編まれたポケットの中にカンガルーの赤ちゃんが2匹はいっています。このお人形は、メキシコにある協力団体の女性達が編んだもので、JOEEを通して、途上国の女性支援と日本の子ども達の支援二つの支援につながっていることをお伝えするものでもあります。マテルダさんにはご招待いただいたことと、当日皆様から頂戴した多額なご寄付に、心から感謝しています。
JOEEへのご寄付をお考えいただけるようでしたら, ぜひ下のリンクをご利用ください。

“Little by Little” Funds Matching Drive

How do you magically turn $50 into $75, or ¥5,000 into ¥7,500? Through the GlobalGiving “Little by Little” matching funds drive!

50ドルが75ドルに、5千円が7500円に。魔法のようで魔法ではない。GlobalGiving “Little by Little” があなたの寄付をマッチングファンドで金額を増やしてくれます。

Jump with JOEE Bringing English Lessons to Orphans

GlobalGiving’s 2020 September Little by Little Matching Campaign runs from 09:00:00 ET on Monday, September 14, 2020, to 23:59:59 ET on Friday, September 18, 2020.

• During the Little by Little campaign, all eligible donations up to $50 per unique donor per organization will be matched at 50% for as long as the campaign is live. Matching funds will be available throughout the entire five-day campaign

• GlobalGivingの2020年9月のLittle by littleのマッチングキャンペーンは、2020年9月14日月曜日の09:00:00 ETから2020年9月18日金曜日の23:59:59 ETまで実施されます。

• Little by Littleキャンペーン中、キャンペーンが実施されている限り、組織ごとのユニークドナーごとに最大$ 50の対象寄付はすべて50%でマッチングされます。 マッチング資金は、5日間のキャンペーン全体で利用できます。

Our First Online Fundraiser!

Mid-July, JOEE launched our first public fundraiser with the help of another NPO that does great work with orphanages around the world, including many here in Japan: YouMeWe NPO, headed up by Michael Clemons. We had been volunteering at the same children’s home in Ota-ku for several months before Michael and I finally managed to meet. He ran a class with the older children on Mondays for computer skills, and I met with the younger children on Thursdays and Fridays for JOEE language lessons. He had been wondering where the younger kids had been learning those new words in English. Our work had been mutually supportive.

Lion Online!

We discovered that we had many goals in common and that our two nonprofits could help each other as we developed programs for the youth in institutionalized care. YouMeWe helped to connect JOEE with the GlobalGiving program just in time to be launched with their matching donations program.

On Wednesday, July 15 at 10 pm Japan Time (9 am Eastern Time in the US), the Global Giving Bonus Day began. Donations of $100 up to $1,000 were matched with percentage funds that went from 15% up to 50% for the highest level of gifts (from $750 to $1,000). The fund drive began with the blessing of one $36 donation and then it took off! Donations of all amounts are adding up. It looks like we might reach our goal of raising $5,000 in donations by the end of the month.

Continue reading Our First Online Fundraiser!

Surprised by JOEE

Our nonprofit foundation, JOEE, was featured in the spring issue of Japan Harvest magazine from JEMA, an organization that supports and encourages the Christian missionary community in Japan.

The article, “Surprised by JOEE,” details the journey of our growing nonprofit foundation as we seek to bring joyful and engaging English lessons to children in institutionalized care here in Japan.

The text of the article is included below:

Have you ever been swept off your feet by a wave or a powerful idea? Or launched into an adventure with no map or compass? It’s not exactly comfortable—that feeling of helpless exhilaration mixed with joy and uncertainty, inundated by a large dollop of panic. You’re out of your depth and not at all sure that you can handle being this far from shore.

Being flung into something new

Recently prompted (or possibly flung by a heavenly gust of inspiration!) to start a non-profit organization called JOEE (Joyful Opportunity English Education), I don’t yet feel that I can handle the trajectory upon which I have embarked. I’m desperately trusting God to keep me afloat.

I continue to work at Christian Academy in Tokyo as a teacher–librarian, but every Thursday and Friday afternoon, I pack up puppets and props and go to teach English to youngsters at St. Francisco Children’s Home in Ota-ku. The ultimate goal is to provide basic language instruction and native-level pronunciation skills so that when the children exit the care system at the age of 18, they have a marketable job skill and the confidence to work anywhere in the world. My students sing songs, act out words, and play games while learning basic English vocabulary. Puppets who speak only English help make the lessons fun. It’s both exhausting and exhilarating. But I’d like to do it even more, and so next year I will work full-time for the non-profit. This is a frightening leap of faith for me, with no guarantees of income or success, but I feel compelled nonetheless. I trust that God will provide me with the grace I need.

And I do need grace. I have never been all that graceful (I used to break at least a toe a year!), so this new challenge has not been easy. Yes, it may be 2020 now, but I don’t have 20–20 vision nor am I ready for any sort of Olympic endeavor. I don’t know what God was thinking when I was led into this undertaking (or possibly undertow) that has pulled me out into deep waters. I’m approaching 60, for goodness sake. Aren’t I too old for this? As an answer, the God of Abraham and Sarah reminds me that age is no impediment to being launched on a mission.

Let me give you a personal metaphor for what being launched feels like. Every summer, I escape the muggy Tokyo heat and head for Lake Nojiri in Nagano, where I volunteer as a sailing instructor. Nojiri is a quiet lake with small waves and small adventures. But even small lakes can sometimes surprise you. One day, while I was sailing my little four-meter-long Laser dinghy and reveling in the power of pre-typhoon wind and waves, a sudden gust slammed my sail smack down into the water and launched me off the deck in a soaring arc into the sodden sail.

Starting JOEE has felt like being flung into that sail. I had been swept up by an idea that was much too powerful for me to handle. I know what I can do well: I can teach children and make them excited about learning, I can create silly voices for puppets, I can tell stories, and I can capture and hold the tenuous attention of toddlers through an entire story time. But I’m also painfully aware of my shortcomings: I’m certainly not a non-profit creator, a fundraiser, or an administrator. Business plans, numbers, and red tape tie me up in the kinds of knots that a sailor of my meager experience could never undo. So how did I find myself wrapped up in this latest adventure?

God’s leading

Yua Funato

The feeling that I was supposed to do something to help began a couple of years ago. In March 2018, I read the tragic story about Yua Funato, a five-year old who died from abuse in her home. The police found a notebook where Yua had written heart-breaking pleas for the abuse to stop. She should have been rescued in time. She should have been placed into the safe care of a children’s home in Tokyo. I was haunted by Yua’s story. I knew that more should be done to help the 45,000 children in Japan who have been rescued and are now living in institutionalized care.

In August of that year, while sitting with other children’s authors during a writer’s conference in Los Angeles, the idea of creating a way to bring compelling, play-based English-language education to young children in orphanages began percolating in my mind. Literature and poetry for children have always been my passion, but so far I had only been successful at getting some of my individual poems published. All of my attempts to publish stories or collections of poems have merely taught me what rejection letters feel like. My motivation as a writer has always been to educate and bring joy to kids. Making a child laugh is a satisfying success. Getting published, however, is a different story. So if writing for children was not going to pan out for me, how else could I help children while living in Japan? That is what I started pondering in that room in Los Angeles.

I have always admired families who’ve adopted children. One of my childhood friends had certainly saved the life of the boy that she and her husband had adopted. And I knew several wonderful families here in Japan who had adopted children. Most of these families could speak Japanese, of course. They could communicate with their adopted children in their native language. My French and Norwegian skills did not help me much here in Japan, but I could teach English to children. Perhaps I could teach English in orphanages.

I began to pray about it. I know full well that the results of prayer are powerful, but I was not prepared for what happened next. I began to be confronted with stories about orphans and began meeting people who were interested in helping with my project. Bible verses about orphans kept popping up: “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you” (John 14:18 ESV); “The Lord protects the foreigners among us. He cares for the orphans and widows” (Psalm 146:9 NLT); “Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress” (James 1:27 NLT).

At the end of August, I realized I would need a competent, bilingual administrator to help make this project work. When I mentioned my dream of starting a non-profit foundation to a friend, Hiroko, she shocked the socks off of me by replying that she had just quit her job that very day and that helping me with a non-profit foundation to help orphans was exactly what she wanted to do! God’s timing was perfect.

Within a year, Hiroko had managed to register us as a non-profit foundation able to accept tax-deductible donations from individuals and large corporations. In the meantime, I had set up a website (JOEE.jp) and gathered friends who could help to serve on JOEE’s board of directors. We are currently teaching English lessons twice a week at one children’s home and a friend is teaching one lesson a month at another children’s home. The children at the home I go to have begun using English words and phrases in their daily life and singing songs in English, surprising their caregivers with their good pronunciation.

Looking ahead

Although we have had some success already, JOEE has a long way to go with fundraising and promotion. I am well aware that this small non-profit might eventually fail, but I am determined to do the best I can with the resources I have. The Holy Spirit sends the inspiration and wind, and I merely need to use that power to move forward. I must admit that I have been surprised by JOEE. Life is an adventure, and I am blessed to be part of this astounding voyage.

Note: If you are interested in volunteering at JOEE, please send an email to ruth@joee.jp.

I Spy… a JOEE Quilt!

A warm and heartfelt THANK YOU to Julie Fukuda, master quilter, who donated this amazing hand-stitched quilt to JOEE this month. Wow! We are so grateful and we have so many plans for using this wonderful quilt during our lessons once they start up again.

This quilt is an “I Spy” quilt, bursting with beautiful fabrics showing lots of objects that can be found and named. The quilt calls to mind the traditional game of observation. “I spy with my little eye… ” This quilt will be perfect for teaching English words to young children. “Where is a cat? There it is! Find an owl. Yes, you found it! Can you find the kangaroos? There they are on each of the corners!”

Sewn into the back of the quilt is a little pocket containing two bean bags for use in more creative games. I can’t wait to use this colorful language learning tool. The JOEE kids at the orphanages are going to LOVE it!

A Lesson at St. Joseph’s

2019.07.03

Prior to the start of the summer of 2019, Ruth, Hiroko and I were able to schedule a lesson at St. Joseph’s Orphanage which would be open to preschool, kindergarten and lower grade elementary school children.  Armed with puppets, picture books, snacks, and prayer we waited expectantly for the kids to arrive. The staff there would like the program to be open to whomever would like to attend, so we weren’t sure how many children or what ages would participate.

Statue of Saint Joseph at the Children’s Home

At first, two elementary-age girls arrived.  It was lovely to meet them, but they left giggling at our silly dancing and opening song.  The clock was ticking our lesson minutes away, but finally, slightly damp and smelling of soap bubbles, a nice group of kindergarten-age children and their caretakers arrived!  Little feet carried them into the room and we began the “ball” lesson.

Ruth was the main teacher and led the lesson with her gentle grace and sweet voice.  Lots of giggles, happy faces, and great participation followed. Hiroko and I sat with warm children in our laps, little hands holding our own.  One boy in particular kept coming to my lap and seemed to really enjoy being with me. I prayed for him and all of his friends quietly in my heart as we all practiced “ball” and Ruth passed out animal shaped cookies.  “Please!” “Thank you!” Little voices filled the air with English. We acted out a story using puppets and sound effects, and I was able to reprise my role as “the snake” for “Can I Play Too?”

At the end of the lesson, we thanked the orphanage director for her hospitality.  We are praying that she will be happy with our program and invite us back.

— Raku