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Report on OCHANAN Activities 2019


Introducing activities at a Living Together
study group information session

OCHANAN is a volunteer group that started in 2016 as a way for students at Ochanomizu University to take action to help refugees. The name combines the first syllables of Ochanomizu University and nanmin, the Japanese word for refugees. Our activities were actually fairly limited this academic year, but we did learn a lot about refugees.

Every year, OCHANAN assists Ibra wa Khayt, which aims to open up a ‘needle and thread’ income stream for Syrian women by selling embroidered products. In September, we participated in a packaging event. Looking at the many new products, the motivation of the women in terms of their embroidery was tangible. In fact, the women apparently frequently propose new motifs and products, and some intend continuing their work even once they leave the refugee camps. It really feels as though embroidery is part of their daily life. Sadly, however, we heard that insufficient personnel and opportunities are preventing these products that have traveled all the way to Japan from selling well over here. There is another packaging event in March, and we are planning on-campus sales in the new academic year. We look forward to continuing to do whatever we can.

A selection of items sold

We couldn’t operate a stall at the November Kiin Festival because of members’ circumstances, but we did make and display posters about refugees. The level of interest in refugees seems to have fallen in Japan in recent years, but the posters were a way of reminding people that many refugees are still living in uncertainty, and that in Japan too, many people are forced to lead precarious lives because they haven’t been recognized as refugees. I hope that some people noticed our posters and at least took the refugee problem on board as something of relevance to their own lives.

At the end of the year, we advertised for new members. When we held a meeting about our future activities, we found that people had a whole range of concerns, from refugees in Japan to foreign workers and the rights of refugee children. We are committed to continuing our efforts to make OCHANAN a place where a deeper conversation can take place on refugees, and to take those actions possible for us on the various issues.

(Hinano Sahashi, 4th year student, Faculty of Letters and Education)

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