Volunteer work helps deepen mutual understanding, Says Mrs. Kaizawa, vice president of NICE



As Japanese society goes global, it is becoming quite natural for Japanese to work hand in hand with people from other countries. One of elements required of them in such society is a broader capacity to understand and accept each other, says Mrs. Hiromi Kaizawa, vice president of NICE (Never-ending International workCamps Exchange), a Japanese NGO engaged in promoting international volunteer projects.



International volunteer activity may surely help young people acquire and develop such capacity. A camping-style volunteer program in which participants work and live together is often called “workcamp”. International volunteer workcamps originated in 1920 when young men from Germany and France gathered near Verdun in northeastern France to revive the farmland devastated during World War I. The ideas of this first volunteer project inspired "the volunteer movement" to grow to worldwide dimensions. Today, more than 170 NGOs are active across the world undertaking broad-ranging workcamp programs. その力を磨くための方法の一つとして国際ボランティア活動が考えられる。特に現地に泊まりがけで行われる合宿型ボランティア活動は「ワークキャンプ」と呼ばれている。国際ワークキャンプは1920年にドイツとフランスの若者たちがフランス北東部のヴェルダン郊外で一緒に第1次世界大戦で破壊された農地の再建を行ったことから始まったとされる。この最初の奉仕活動を支えた考え方がその後「ボランティア運動」を世界的な規模にまで広めていった。現在170以上のNGOが世界各地で国際ワークキャンプ活動を展開している。


How is an international volunteer differed from regular travelling?

“It may be comfortable for you to live in a familiar place, surrounded by people who share the same sense of value with you. However, it’s not good at all. It is very important for you to jump out into a place where people have a totally different sense of value,” Mrs. Kaizawa stressed during her interview with Hakumon Herald. NICE which organizes short- and medium-term workcamps both at home and abroad is Japan’s sole member of the Coordinating Committee for International Voluntary Service (CCIVS), an affiliate of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). It boasts one of the world’s most expansive volunteer networks, working in close cooperation with 165 organizations in 90 countries.



How is an international volunteer differed from a usual travelling?

She said, “One of good points about international volunteer activity is that it doesn’t simply end up in a tour.” When you visit a country on a trip, you may have some chances to talk with local people, but you will have few chances to know much about the country. By getting involved in dealing with local problems as a volunteer rather than a tourist, you will surely deepen your understanding of the country. She continued, “Those who take part in international volunteer workcamps are not only Japanese. We also have these days an increasing number of participants from other Asian countries, particularly Taiwan and South Korea. There are more participants from France and Germany.” She said that she often witnesses scenes where different senses of value come out among the participants. “For example,” she said, “Many Japanese think they are required to work and they simply do so. But, an Italian boy I once met was quite different. He had his own theory. He concluded not to do a particular job and he just didn’t it. He explained his reason and everyone around him was convinced.”



Mrs. Kaizawa said that participants in workcamps come in touch with different values, see a new world and broaden their perspective while talking, working and making friends with their partners who have their own sense of value.



She said, “A growing number of young people hesitate to go out of Japan alone for fear of insecurity or a lack of English proficiency. They need to meet other people and make personal connections to understand each other. It’s a pity more Japanese youths are reluctant to have such chances.” She added, “Even when you choose to stay in Japan, you can learn a lot by traveling to unfamiliar places. The world is big and there are many things you don’t know. While you are a student and have much time to spend, you should go out for an adventure to know of your unknown self and have many experiences to broaden your capacity to accept things unfamiliar to you.”



「治安の状態への不安や自身の英語力への自信の無さから一人で海外へ行くことをしり込みする若者が増えている。お互いのことを理解するには実際に会って、個人的なつながりが必要なのにその機会を持とうとしない人が増えていることは非常に残念。日本でも行ったことのない地方へ飛び込むことで、いろんな学びが得られる。世界は広く、まだまだ知らないこともたくさん。ぜひ時間のある学生時代にこそ、未知数な自分を知る冒険に出て、多くのことを体験し、知らないものを受け入れる器を育ててほしい」と開澤氏は語った。 (Written by: Takahiro Kusunoki)