One of YOUMEWE’s main goals has been to bring technology and the internet to orphans around Japan. Everyone at YOUMEWE wants to empower the orphans of Japan to develop a healthy relationship with technology and benefit from the opportunities that technical literacy can bring. Early on we found that many of the orphans in Japan had very limited access to computers. Many of these kids had never seen a keyboard and mouse. So, our early attempts at teaching computer literacy became basic introduction lessons to using a mouse and keyboard. If it was not for organizations like YOUMEWE it is entirely possible that many of these kids would age out of the orphanages without knowing anything about computers or modern technology. This is the type of disadvantage that can set someone back for a lifetime.
As part of our digital citizenship program and computer literacy initiative, we have started offering computer programming lessons in a number of orphanages across the country. Our approach to teaching programming is very unique. It's not just about teaching the basic principles of computer programming. It’s also about empowering the kids to make what they want to make and to think about the holistic concept of software development. When these kids were separated from their families they lost a lot of their freedom and autonomy. We want them to gain some of that back by being empowered in digital spaces. We want our kids to see technology and the digital world as a set of tools that enables them to create amazing things.
We started small with just one orphanage in Nagoya, teaching a couple of young kids some introductory lessons. Now we are teaching kids in homes across Japan. We have students from ages 7 to 14 learning about programming and software development. YOUMEWE regularly teaches four programming lessons in Wakamatsu Ryo, Okuura, Onchoen, and Taiyo Gakuen. We hope to expand on that number in the coming months and years. In our recent lessons in Okuura Nagasaki, we found that not only did the children benefit from the lessons but the younger staff in the home were also eager to develop their programming skills and improve their understanding of computer technology.
A digital realm is a place where no one is forgotten and everyone has a voice. YOUMEWE is dedicated to bringing the wonders of digital citizenship to the most disadvantaged and forgotten children of the coming generation.
We continue in our endeavor for the Digital Citizens program which is really the umbrella over everything we do.
Coaching is probably the only thing above this.
Since this program started we have seen the kids graduate high school and some of them went on to vocational school joined us as part-time trainers. They will be moving to permanent jobs this year as they graduate.
We are now focused on the next generation of "Tech Leads" in the home who show promise and need that added bit of encouragement.
Whether it is teaching the principles of coding to the youngest of students, English Language training, game making, Microsoft Office skills, and being published, the children are being exposed to a wide variety of possibilities.
We are now most focused on Home Coordinators and volunteers as well as companies who have been donors to connect with the homes and make more of a permanent team dedicated to the kids as they also grow and graduate.
Thank you again for all of your support in getting this off the ground and we will keep you posted on future progress.
This was our first project on GlobalGiving which has now led to us being able to raise close to $500,000 for the NPO not only on GlobalGiving but through our generous donors and sponsors.
I remember when I was refreshing the screen like a dreamer when we launched the first fundraiser to get $5,000 and 50 donors and in the last hour, I refreshed and we hit the target thanks to an angel who said, "it was a no brainer, you needed $1,500 to hit your target so I donated that!"
It is hard to believe we have accomplished since then.
It is beautiful to just think that something that was only an idea at one stage is now operating from Tohoku to Nagasaki, 1,000 computers in the field, and many more homes joining and asking for PCs.
It warms my heart to walk into the office and see the Ambassadors who were 15 when we met in the homes, now graduated from high school, going to university but working with us part-time to bring the programs and computers to the youth like them in the homes.
Thank you for your believing in us from the beginning and your continued support.
We continue in this space and are finding the children we support are able to pick up on new ideas and run with them quickly.
While we are not an English language NPO, we use English software to bring the use of computers alive.
The younger kids are still learning where the keys are on the keyboard, they are adjusting their motor skills to be able to use a trackpad, mouse, and type code.
We currently have lessons both in-person and online. In many cases, the classes are going on in tandem. Monday's we teach Digital Citizenship with the translated material from CommonSense.org and then have the children use the vocabulary which is being introduced. In the latter part of the class, we have them play games online.
Saturdays we have HTML classes, language classes, and conversations between US teenagers who volunteer to teach children in Japan. We have in-person classes in Nagoya as well as weekly online classes with Ruth from JOEE who teaches the younger children with her puppets.
Recently we were approached about hiring our aged-out children to work on tech projects which helps them connect with real-world challenges.
We are also happy to report another 19 years old was just offered a role in a large tech company in Japan when he graduates from his vocational school next year.
It is only with your support we are able to the constant in young children's lives and highly satisfying by working with them throughout their youth and celebrating their victories like a job offer.
We are constantly rethinking and reflecting on the program we are doing. In the beginning, we thought it needed to be a ground-up curriculum that is very structured and everyone needs to follow along.
What we found is 5-year-olds were working through all lessons between one lesson to another. That the older kids were just not interested.
We started to mix the curriculum up and introduce VR experience, coding, Sphero ball programming. By observing the children despite age and what they excel at, we have been able to expand the program and go deeper with the lessons by matching their interests.
We are now holding classes on IchiGo Jam with Araki-sens, the children learned to code a video game. We are connecting volunteers with kids as mentors to focus on their career assessments and Life Plans. We continue to hold weekly NightZooKeeper lessons and have expanded to Nagoya and soon to Hiroshima.
We also rented a temporary storage unit to hold the inventory for donated equipment we are helping the kids upgrade to send out to other homes.
Thank you very much for your continued support throughout the years.
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