Why do you support Mirai no Mori? vol.4 with Akiko Suzuki

Series #4 with Akiko Suzuki, from English Hiking

As Mirai no Mori celebrates its 10th anniversary, we have been interviewing our supporters from various fields to share their “voices” with you. As valued partners who have walked together with us, they share their encounters with Mirai no Mori and the reasons for their continued support in these interviews.

Our featured guest for this interview is Akiko Suzuki, a camp staff member. She is an English conversation hiking instructor and also works for A&F Japan, a company that arranges inbound tours. As a camp staff member at Mirai no Mori since 2015, participating in summer camps and weekend day programs, she has worked with campers long-term.

Akiko expressed her passion for Mirai no Mori, sharing that she continues to support Mirai no Mori because of her “life-saving experience in the outdoors” and that “Mirai no Mori’s activities have helped us all grow: not only children in care homes, but also myself who join as a camp staff.”

Were you interested in the outdoor activities before joining Mirai no Mori as a camp staff?

I first became interested in the outdoors when I was 27 years old. Until then, I was working for a film distribution company, but I could not confide in my boss or coworkers about my problems at work, and the stress gradually built up until I became depressed. I eventually resigned and thought I would look for another job.

After I resigned, I decided to go mountain climbing in Kumano Kodo for a change. I had never done anything like mountain climbing before, but I felt so refreshed in many ways by walking and sweating a lot that summer. I felt like all the things that had been bothering me were just a small thing, and I was able to clear my mind both physically and mentally.

After that experience, I became interested in the outdoors. I began to think that I wanted to work in a job related to the outdoors, so I worked at a mountain lodge in Yatsugatake, Nagano, and as a guide on the Milford Track in New Zealand. It was after that that I became involved with Mirai no Mori.

What led you to Mirai no Mori?

I met Mirai no Mori in 2015 when I was looking for a job in Japan after returning from New Zealand. I was introduced to Mirai no Mori by a colleague who was working flexibly and seasonally, using both Japanese and English languages. I became a camp manager for a summer camp at a very large camp site in Chichibu, Saitama. Since then, I have been involved in the camp as a kitchen leader, as a support staff, and as a volunteer for the day camp program. Most recently, I participated in the Christmas program and rafting.

As a Mirai no Mori camp staff member, what is the impact you have seen in children in the outdoors?

Children growing up in care homes often have traumatic experiences, and no matter how much I tried to talk to them, some of them would not talk to me.

Among them, there was a boy who left a great impression on me. He came to the camp the first and second year I attended. He didn’t talk to me at all on the first day of camp, but we did various activities together, and by the third day, he started talking and laughing a little bit.

When we finally left, I felt like we had a heart-to-heart connection, and that made me so happy! The following year, he joined the camp again and we were able to see each other again.

I thought that because of the outdoor environment, the children opened up to me little by little. I believe that the outdoors has the power to bring people together.

You have participated in the program many times since your first participation in 2015. Why do you continue to be involved with Mirai no Mori?

When I first join Mirai no Mori as a camp staff member, I was able to grow tremendously, and I believe that it is thanks to Mirai no Mori that I am the person I am today. In particular, I was able to learn about “teamwork” by working with international staff members with the same aspirations.

At first, I thought of work as an individual activity, and I wasn’t good at working together with others. I tried doing the kitchen work by myself, but after a staff member told me that “Mirai no Mori camp is created by everyone,” I started to work together with everyone. Now, as I work with people on my English hiking activities, I really enjoy hiking with my clients as if we were a team.

It is thanks to Mirai no Mori that I have come to think this way, and I believe that I would not be able to work like this now if it were not for Mirai no Mori. The fact that I continue to support Mirai no Mori is in part a way of repaying the kindness of the people who taught me the importance of teamwork.

Lastly, please give a message to those who are thinking of supporting Mirai no Mori.

There are many ways to support marginalized children, such as music and art. However, having seen children open their hearts to us in the outdoors, I am convinced that Mirai no Mori’s method of using the outdoors is ideal. I believe that Mirai no Mori’s activities play a role in opening up the future for children and helping them to dream.

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.

Series #1 with Rob Williams, co-founder of Knights in White Lycra

Series #2 with Reina, Mirai no Mori program graduate

Series #3 with Dave, co-founder of Mirai no Mori & president of English Adventure