Living Dreams

Our organization exists to support kids living in Tokyo-area children's homes (orphanages) on their path towards becoming responsible, confident and empowered young adults. Centered along the "LAST" principle (Learning Arts, Sports, and Technology), long-term and regularly occurring programs are developed under each category to help improve a child's overall motivation and confidence. Ultimately each program and opportunity crafted for a children's home works to enrich, encourage and empower.
Jul 13, 2012

Visits to 3 children's homes in Tohoku

Little but rubble in Kesennuma (1)
Little but rubble in Kesennuma (1)

On May 8 and 9, Living Dreams visited La Salle Home (Sendai, Miyagi), Asahigaoka Gakuen (Kesennuma, Miyagi) and Ichinoseki Fujinosono (Ichinoseki, Iwate).  Since Mari Kuraishi of GlobalGiving has already written a report on our visit to La Salle Home in April, I will share the circumstances of the other two homes.

The visit to Asahigaoka Gakuen (not the home itself) was quite shocking, to be honest. It is located up on the hill which oversees the main part of Kesennuma, which is a fishers’ town right on the Pacific. On our way to Asahigaoka Gakuen from the bus stop, we asked the taxi driver to take us to the harbor area where the tsunami hit.  It did not take us much time to be exposed to the brutal scene which we had seen on the news almost every day.

The images from the media were right.  Almost all the buildings were gone, and we could only see several buildings that were barely standing, showing the painful scars from the tsunami.  Even a huge fishing boat (about 20 meters long) was on the ground, showing rusts on its body, telling us how much time has passed since that day.  It was difficult for us to hold our tears seeing such scenes.  One small hope that we found there was a tiny flower garden, which was probably made by the owner of the house which was totally swept away by the tsunami.

To our great relief, no child of Asahigaoka Gakuen was hurt by the earthquake or tsunami, for they were already up on the hill where the home is located, when the tsunami occurred.  But these children live their everyday lives
looking at this disastrous and empty scene that the tsunami has left behind.  There is no question that these
children need some form of psychological care for years to come.

Another home we visited, Ichinoseki Fujinosono, was damaged by the earthquake, to the level that they had to start rebuilding the facility right away.  Their biggest concern is whether they can collect enough donations to cover the construction cost, which is JPY 800 million in total.  Beside this gigantic goal, they also face more immediate challenges; whether they can get by, while their building is under construction, in prefabricated houses, in which living condition is not of best quality both in summer and winter.  And in order to improve the quality of their life for the time being, we are planning to provide them with such needs like mosquito screens for their windows, bamboo blind (“yoshizu” in Japanese), cost for fuel in winter, etc.

While they live under such stressful environment, Living Dreams are planning to take out the children of Asahigaoka
Gakuen and Ichinoseki Fujinosono to our English Adventure Summer Camp which will be held in Hanayama, Miyagi, thanks to donation from organizations like GlobalGiving.  At the same time, we are proceeding our preparation for the Christmas Wish program this year, under which each child will receive the exact present that he/she wishes, again thanks to donation from organization like GlobalGiving.

Fishing boat on a Kesennuma street (2)
Fishing boat on a Kesennuma street (2)
Ichinoseki Fujinosono
Ichinoseki Fujinosono
Apr 11, 2012

A visit with Brother Trevino

Living Dreams/GlobalGiving staff with Br Trevino
Living Dreams/GlobalGiving staff with Br Trevino

Up on a little hill in Sendai is the LaSalle Home for Children, led by Brother Rodrigo Trevino. This is where school supplies and other materials from Living Dreams were sent in the past months. The home houses 80 children ages 2-18--with a preponderance of boys because until 1997 the home was a boys' home--but there are about a dozen girls there now too, including one of the girls orphaned by the tsunami last year.

The older children live in 3-4 bedroom apartments inside the home each with a den mother, each group with a range of ages, each with its own bathroom and kitchen. We happened to be at the home on the first Monday of April, when the kids about to enter first grade get to move from the big dorm rooms that house the little ones to one of these family style apartments--as we found out when we were introduced to six-year old Luke. His first announcement to us was that he was all packed and ready to go--up to join the older boys in an apartment upstairs.

The home is lovely, with a gym large enough for volleyball and school plays, and a baseball and soccer field out back. The gym came in handy when the kids and staff took refuge there while the electricity and water were out in Sendai for over a week (the gym has a separate heating system fueled by kerosene tanks).

Over 40% of the kids are there because they have been taken away from abusive situations at home--an alarming statistic considering that Japan only signed on to the UN declaration of the rights of the child in 1994--which is when child abuse became an acceptable reason for the state to put the kids in fostercare. But the love and thoughtfulness with which Brother Travinjo and his staff interacted with the kids and designed the structure of the home could go a long way to comfort them.

Jan 30, 2012

Spreading Winter Cheer for Tohoku Children

January 2012 Field Report

Thanks to the generosity of so many donors around the world, December 2011 and early January 2012 delivered festive holiday cheer and new outdoor learning adventures to many kids living in children's homes across Tohoku... 

Christmas Wish Program

During the month of December, Living Dreams worked closely with 7 children's homes located in Miyagi, Iwate and Fukushima prefectures to collect each child's "wished-for" gift choice and arrange for a special party at their home to celebrate the holiday season. Living Dreams ordered 'wished-for' presents for every child, or in some instances, older children requested "otoshidama" (special envelopes with cash) for something they were saving money to buy. Each child's gift was around the ¥5,000 range. Considering that most of these kids rarely receive more than 1 gift a year (typically on birthdays), this was a welcomed event by the home staff and children. Less about the material gift (although truly enjoyed!), each home felt a true sense of appreciation from the community (local and global) with the heartfelt gestures and efforts of so many people wanting to help Tohoku children's homes celebrate the holiday season. 374 children enjoyed a gift of their choice to open, along with a special feast of treats they don't normally get to eat (pizza, fried chicken), along with some traditional Japanese foods and sweets. The occasion gave each home a chance to come together and enjoy the holiday season in uplifting fashion.


English Adventure Snow Camp

During the first week of January 2012, 33 kids from two children's homes in Tohoku enjoyed a 4-day overnight "snow camp" adventure at a beautiful campsite located in the region. From building snowmen, igloos and campfires to skiing and snowshoeing, kids had a chance to play in the snow while working in team units, guided by experienced camp counselors. In just four days, children went from being withdrawn and uncommunicative to more animated and open to new experiences! Despite the very challenging activity of igloo-building several kids stuck with it and were incredibly proud of their accomplishments. Other children simply soaked up the beautiful snowy surroundings as they trekked their way through the woods on a snowshoe hike. And skiing ranked as the favorite activity among most of the kids! To top off their snowy experiences, all of these activities were sprinkled with a few English lessons as well... 

The weeks following their return back home, both children and accompanying home staff realized they had discovered new ways to better communicate and interact with one another... further, the brief exposure to new experiences and team-building activities helped boost children's confidence and perspectives. This camp was a tremendously positive way to kick off the New Year!