Why do you support Mirai no Mori? vol.7 with Daisuke Itami

Series #7 with Daisuke Itamie, a care worker

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.

This interview was conducted with Daisuke Itami, who works as an employee in charge of supporting self-reliance at a care home called, Hoshibi Home.

Itami-san is in charge of providing information and scholarship application assistance for children who are going on to higher education, supporting their employment and self-support, and providing aftercare for children after they leave the facility. He is also in charge of connecting the care home with external resources, such as Mirai no Mori.

When we visited the home, a BBQ party was being held outside to celebrate the graduation and 18th birthday of a high school student, and the children were enjoying the open and airy atmosphere. According to the Child Welfare Law, children in care homes are in principle required to leave the care home after they turn 18. However, Itami-san told us with a reassuring look on his face that this year the 18-year-old children in the home were granted an extension, allowing them to continue their education or work without having to leave the home.

Itami-san shared his thoughts on the appeal of Mirai no Mori’s outdoor program for these children.

Please tell us about how you came to work at a care home.

After working for a private company for about three years as a new graduate, I started looking for a new job because I wanted to work with children, as I originally had a teaching license. I did not know much about care homes at the time, but I found it very interesting when I visited and decided that I wanted to work there.

I was attracted by the fact that at a care home, I could live with the children and support them from the age of 2 to 18 and continue to be involved with them for a long time after that. Yet, one of the difficulties I had when I started working at the care home was that I felt that the support I provided, while well-meaning, might not be so good for the children themselves. On the surface, everyone is cheerful, but on the inside they all have wounds, and I think it is important to be there for them, to be with them, and to share with them.

Tell us about the appeal of the outdoors.

At the home, we do outdoor activities that use nature to challenge them, which is an initiative that other facilities don’t do, and that’s how I came to see the educational significance of the outdoors.

The good thing about the outdoors is that when participating in  a challenge cannot be easily reversed, rock climbing for example, we always ask the children to choose whether they can do their best or give up. In the process, they can know whether they have done their best or given up. I think the good thing about the outdoors is that in nature, all people are equal.

How did you come across Mirai no Mori?

I heard from another home that there was an NPO that offered outdoor activity programs for children living in orphanages, which led me to contact them directly. The home also offers outdoor programs, but only in the summer, so I was attracted to Mirai no Mori’s program, which is offered year-round.

Since I have been able to participate in the program on a regular basis, I have seen invitations going out by age cluster, and the units that want to participate in the activities raise their hands and join in the program. The program is especially popular with girls in upper elementary school. Many of them say they would like to see the same staff again and that they would like to go back again because it was so fun!

Many of the outdoor activities at the home are hard activities where you have to confront nature, but Mirai no Mori shows you the fun of nature. I am able to experience nature from a different perspective from the home. Also, because outdoor professionals at Mirai no Mori watch over the children, children can participate in activities we cannot do at the home. So the children are free to challenge themselves, and they seem to be having a lot of fun.

Are there any situations where you feel that the children are gaining the “life skills” that Mirai no Mori hopes to provide through its outdoor programs?

I see this when children who participated in Mirai no Mori programs as participants in elementary and junior high school grow up and become participants in the Leader in Training program for high school students and are able help facilitate the program. We would like them to actively participate in the Leader in Training program, which Mirai no Mori is also putting a lot of effort into. I feel that the children are growing step by step as they accumulate small accomplishments.

Also, at Mirai no Mori, there is a time for reflection after each activity to let the children think for themselves, and I believe this leads to children’s awareness as they get a chance to verbalize their thoughts. I have seen children grow from being passive to being able to express themselves, and a girl who required a lot of attention start to be able to present herself in front of others.

What do skills do you want the children to learn?

I call it “proactive dependence,” the ability to ask for help when in trouble. I want the children to make connections with adults they can trust while they are at the home, and to acquire the ability to rely on them when they are in trouble after they become independent. We always tell children who leave the home that they can depend on us, but many children are unable to contact us because they are afraid they will cause trouble at the facility. So, many children are unable to rely on us. And although there are several support groups that provide support after independence, many children are unable to use that support on their own.

Message to Mirai no Mori on its 10th anniversary

This year marks the 5th year our home has been connected to Mirai no Mori, and we hope to stay connected. I can’t thank Mirai no Mori enough for their support. We feel very grateful that they support children’s homes, but we also hope that we can extend our support to single mothers and children from poor families in the future. Let’s continue to work together for the sake of children!

We received a number of wonderful messages from Itami-san, who has been supporting our activities for a long time. We will continue to value dialogue with the staff working on the ground and create programs that meet the needs of the children.

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 Paddock, co-founder of Mirai no Mori & president of English Adventure

Series #4 with Akiko Suzuki, from English Hiking

Series #5 with Daigo Shibata, from Mitake Race Rafting

Series #6 with Kappy, Mirai no Mori program graduate