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Helping Refugees from Within Our Daily Lives


Collecting donated clothes and selling embroidery
by Ibra wa Khayt in front of the library

It was at the end of June 2016 that the call went out: Help create something to act to address the refugee problem! Inspired by posters put up on campus, seven students started a volunteer program called Ochanan with the cooperation of the Global Collaboration Center. The name combines the first syllables of Ochanomizu University and nanmin, the Japanese word for refugees.

The group brought first year, fourth year, and graduate students from different fields of study to the Global Collaboration Center to work together in a relaxed and harmonious atmosphere. Over the course of several meetings we worked to put our desire to help into a tangible form. Our priorities were that the project should be easy for us to carry out and that it should be something that other students collaborating could easily get involved in. Eventually we came up with an idea for a project that would combine things close to people’s daily lives. What we ended up carrying out was a joint project: collecting donations of clothes to be sent to a refugee camp and selling handmade embroidery from the organization Ibra wa Khayt, made by women who have fled from Syria. This was the second time that items from Ibra wa Khayt had been on sale at Ochanomizu, after they proved popular during an earlier volunteer event held by students from Global Studies for Inter-Cultural Cooperation (GICC) in February to “bring warmth to Syrian refugees.”

We put up a sales counter and collection boxes during lunch break for a week in late October. Many students and members of faculty stopped by. Some people came with their arms full of donations and also brought clothes on successive days. After holding the event on campus, we repeated it the Kiinsai campus festival in November, where we were able to sell and receive donations from a wider range of people.

Selling accessories and collecting donations of clothing—these simple activities are almost an extension of people’s normal everyday lives. We will be happy if our project succeeded in making people think even a little of the plight of the refugees and to turn their thoughts to what they can do to help.

A display of posters at the Kiinsai Festival as volunteers
sell embroidery from Ibra wa Khayt and collect clothing

One first-year undergraduate student who joined as a member of Ochanan said she hadn’t known much about the refugee crisis before getting involved. The experience of selling the embroidery taught her about the women working in the midst of the current difficult situation in the Middle East (Syria) and prompted her to think of how she could help. We hope similar efforts will be repeated in the future—not only Ochanan. Our hope is that many more small attempts like this will spread throughout the Ochanomizu campus as students work to address the problems confronting the society we live in.

The Global Collaboration Center provides opportunities to students who want to act to address the problems in society. This project too was made possible by the generous support of the Center. We would like to take this opportunity to thank once again everyone involved—in particular the Global Collaboration Center, Ibra wa Khayt, and everyone else who helped out.

(Ochanan: Student Volunteer Group, Global Collaboration Center)

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