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.
数週間前のウェズリーセンターからの寄付に加えてフォークマニス・パペットからの寄付のおかげで、大きな箱が米国から届きました！ その中にぎっしり詰め込んであったのは、JOEE (Joyful Opportunity English Education) のためにこれから働きたいと願っている、フサフサの毛がある、教師の新しいアシスタント達でした。沢山の新しいパペット人形達は、これから働くことになるパートナーに会うのを楽しみにしていました。
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.
JOEE教師トレーニングでは、参加者にJOEE (Joyful Opportunity English Education) がどの様に始まったのか、またその哲学について学びます。 JOEEは毎週のレッスンを行い、児童の生活に喜びをもたらすだけでなく、彼らの将来にも焦点を当てています。幼い頃に英語を学ぶことは、子供たちに英語の母語話者に近い発音のスキルを習得するという利点を与え、彼らの言語教育が進むにつれて役立つだろうと考えられる、言語を学ぶための精神的および感情的な心構えを構築するというメリットをもたらします。
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
Our summer fundraising efforts were given a delightful boost by an unexpected donation from a couple of youthful philanthropists. Oliver and Jun spent part of their summer hawking hot dogs at a small lakeside stand. As hot doggers, they are not paid for their time, but they are allowed to keep any “tips” that end up in the tip jar on the counter. When the clink of coin is heard in the jar, a cheer goes up from the busy staff inside the hot dog stand. “Yay! Thank you! Domo arigatou gozaimasu!”
This year, JOEE would like to give a rousing cheer right back at them, because instead of keeping their tips and buying some cold “ramune” soda or other delicious summer treats, these two young gentlemen decided to donate ALL of their tips to JOEE, to help support educational programs for kids without parents in institutional homes. Needless to say, the parents of these two kind souls are cheering for them as well.
Thank you very much, Jun and Oliver! Your generous bag of change will help create positive change for many kids this year. JOEE welcomes any donation, large or small, and we are so encouraged by seeing generous hearts and habits develop at such a young age. Hot diggity dog!
If you would still like to donate to JOEE, the Global Giving Fundraiser is still up and running and can be accessed by clicking on the following link:
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.
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.
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?
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.
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 email@example.com.
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!