Back to Nature

2021 September-October Back to Nature Program Report

Dates: September 4 (Sat) & 12 (Sun) & October 9 (Sat): Rafting
Location: Ome City, Tokyo
Participants: (3 days total) 26 campers, 10 care workers, 3 LITs, 2 program graduates, 18 Mirai-no-Mori staff (total)
Sponsor: Morgan Stanley
Partner: Mitake Race Rafting Club

Date: Saturday, October 2: Hiking
Location: Ome City, Tokyo
Participants: 4 campers, 1 care worker, 4 Mirai-no-Mori staff
Sponsor: Morgan Stanley

Date: Saturday, October 16: Farm
Location: Hachioji City, Tokyo
Participants: 11 campers, 3 care workers, 3 LITs, 1 program graduate, 6 Mirai-no-Mori staff
Sponsor: Morgan Stanley
Partner: Isonuma Farm

Our ongoing conversations with the care workers have given us a glimpse of the serious problems that this prolonged period of self-restraint poses for the children and the care workers. There are concerns about long-term mental health problems and the negative impact on social development, such as the overwork of the care workers who have to deal with the constantly changing situation with schools, parents and other authorities due to the COVID-19, and the children’s decreased motivation to play outside with their friends.

In order to make it easier and safer for care workers and children to participate in the program, Mirai no Mori has decided to continue holding the program on a smaller scale with one care home at time, just like this summer’s summer program, instead of holding the program with multiple homes together.

  • Rafting program

Rafting is a very popular program for campers every year, and we had campers who were brave enough to try jumping, and who were very happy with their first rafting experience, and said, “It’s not enough! I want to do more! I want to paddle back to the home!”

The day’s activities included team time to deepen team bonds, a bento lunch and Haribo gummies to gain energy, and the long awaited rafting first thing in the afternoon.

During team time, not only the campers but also the staff and care workers struggled with the gesture game. Each of the campers tried to figure out how to convey their message to the next person just with gestures, and even though they were a little embarrassed and too shy, they pushed themselves to be creative. Also, when it was time to choose the 5 values they wanted to strive for when rafting, each of them came up with a great goal, such as “KINDNESS – I want to work together with everyone to paddle.” and “LEADERSHIP – I want to be able to lead everyone.” With the help of rafting guides who served as great role model, the participants were able to enjoy nature to the fullest through a variety of team activities, such as the stone tower challenge, the swim, and jumping off a boat into the river.

  • Hiking program

On a nice sunny day, we went hiking in the Mitake Forest and along the riverside with four veteran campers. As all of them were repeaters, we left it to the campers to come up with team names and head counts. They struggle in the beginning, but were able to present their own headcount in front of everyone in the end. In the forest, where we walked with our 5 senses in mind, we receive the following comments: “I found spider webs covered with rain drops” “I heard the sound of bell bugs” “I smelled the moss on the rocks, which had an indescribable ‘nature’ smell” “I bit the grass, which was surprisingly blunt”, and “I hugged the trees, which felt nice and smooth.” These were many ways in which the campers were able to observe nature from a perspective that they would not normally notice.

After eating a delicious lunch, we had free time on the riverbank. They enjoyed piling stones, building dams, looking for living things, and so on. The day ended with a nature art activity using only natural materials, and their individuality shone through in their creations.

  • Dairy Farm program

The campers spent a day at Isonuma Farm, who pioneers in animal welfare and sustainable farming using such methods as eco-feed and coffee bedding material. The children from this care home were looking forward to this adventure since this Summer, and we could see their excitement from the moment we met in the morning.

The campers explored the farm to pet and feed both small and big cows, and also got the chance to milk a cow by hand. After listening to the explanation, they squeezed milk into their hand and felt its warmth. The farmers told them that the happier the cows are, the tastier the milk becomes.  We believe that the whole experiences allowed children to open up their world further.