Why do you support Mirai no Mori? vol.3 with Dave Paddock
Series #3 with Dave, co-founder of Mirai no Mori & president of English Adventure
As Mirai no Mori celebrates its 10th anniversary, we are pleased to interview our supporters from various fields to share their “thoughts” with you. As valued partners who have walked with Mirai no Mori, they share their encounters with Mirai no Mori, the appeal of Mirai no Mori’s outdoor programs, and more.
This interview features Dave Paddock, co-founder of Mirai no Mori and president of camp and outdoor education company, English Adventure. Mirai no Mori grew out of his work sharing nature and the outdoors with children in Japan. Dave is passionate about providing children with access to the growth and discovery found in the outdoors regardless of background. This, along with a keen awareness of the support crucially needed by children in care, motivate Dave to continue supporting Mirai no Mori.
How did English Adventure start?
I discovered a love for biology and ecology at university. The more I dove into my studies and especially fieldwork, the more I fell in love with the natural world. There’s a key idea in outdoor education that direct personal contact with nature is essential – not just abstract or academic understanding. When we truly build our own relationship with nature, we begin to love it. And anything we love, we will be passionate about protecting. That progression was certainly my experience.
A mentor during my early years in Japan pointed out an unfilled need for residential summer camps like those common back in the USA. Knowing my background, she suggested that I might be in a unique position to fill that niche. The opportunity to share nature and the outdoors with kids in Japan helped overcome my fears and lack of business experience! The first English Adventure summer camps were in 2003, with a few dozen kids and staff at a rented campsite in Saitama. From that small start, we’ve grown to serve many thousands of children at our dedicated outdoor education center in Niigata.
What does being outdoors mean to you?
Being outdoors is one of the best things for my heart, mind, and body. During challenging times, it helps me stay grounded and lifts my spirits. In good times, getting outdoors has led to amazing friendships, adventures, and opportunities. The natural world can be a place to heal, learn, build self-confidence, and just have fun! For the children Mirai no Mori serves, all those aspects of the outdoors are absolutely crucial.
What sparked the creation of Mirai no Mori?
Mirai no Mori co-founder Jeff Jensen was one of my earliest colleagues at English Adventure. We reflected together: How can we express gratitude for being able to live and work in Japan as we do? How can we use our particular skills and situation to do good? We weren’t wealthy and were still finding our way, but we just started by sharing what we could.
What was the motivation for building Mirai no Mori in 2013?
We knew that people have different levels of economic access to experiences like English Adventure camps. Inviting children in care homes to our camps was one way to address that.
As we got to know those kids, we saw how the trauma they carried held them back from opening up and benefitting from camp, and from many other things in life. It was heart wrenching to realize. We also learned how many kids are in care homes – many more than we could support with the resources of our little camp business.
These beautiful children who were now part of our lives needed outdoor programs specifically designed to support their healing and growth. And so did thousands of other children like them. Considering all that, Jeff and I realized that we needed to create NPO Mirai no Mori.
How are you keeping in touch with Mirai no Mori in the present?
When families register for English Adventure camps, many of them choose the option add a donation to Mirai no Mori. We’re also happy to share various logistics support and outdoor equipment for Mirai no Mori’s weekend programs and LIT training. We feel very fortunate to be able to share our resources, and to gather support from caring families who especially appreciate the value of the outdoors for children.
Is there anything especially unique about Mirai no Mori as an NPO in Japan?
Mirai no Mori attracts some of the most interesting, inspiring, and skilled people I’ve ever met, from Japan and around the world. I think the international nature of the team and supporters is a unique strength. Director Kozue Oka and the board bring the diligence and precison required of a nintei certified NPO, along with the vision, strategy, and relationships needed to thrive and fulfill the mission. They’ve done an incredible job guiding Mirai no Mori to a stronger and better position than ever at 10 years old.
Message for Mirai no Mori’s 10th-year-anniversary
A huge congratulations to Mirai no Mori for thriving for 10 years, and for serving so many children over that time! An amazing and truly global community of staff, volunteers, supporters, and sponsors have made this happen together. Everyone who has been part of Mirai no Mori can be proud of what we’ve accomplished so far.
At Mirai no Mori, we believe that there is great significance in children’s continued participation in our programs. In order to continue to provide a safe place for children to learn and grow, we need your continued support.
We invite you to join the Mirai no Mori community as a monthly supporter so that together we can continue to provide children with opportunities to gain life skills.
We look forward to you joining us as a monthly supporter so that we can continue to help as many children as possible to grow happily, fruitfully, and independently.