Close up interview with our partner

Saiseikai Infants’ Home

In this corner, we located a spot for partner groups of Hands On Tokyo. This time we introduced Tokyo Saiseikai Infants’ Home. At this home Hands On Tokyo presented “Hug a Baby” in which volunteers held and cuddled babies in their arms, together with other projects such gardening, decorating, operating events, and a bus hike with children. (Volunteers for “Hug a Baby” are currently not being collected.) We interviewed Saiseikai Central Hospital’s pediatrician Dr. Mari Nirasawa, and the head nurse Ms. Matsue Takeuchi, asking what the infants’ home is like and what volunteers can do to support them. (*This article is from our Newsletter, 2015)

The head nurse Ms. Matsue Takeuchi(left) and Dr. Mari Nirasawa (right)

What kind of facility is an infants’ home?
Dr. Nirasawa: “It’s a facility for children of 3 years old and under, to stay and encounter social protects and receive support. There are, in total, 132 homes of various sizes all over Japan, including 10 located in Tokyo. We personally have 35 children at our home.”

What are the reasons for those children to come to stay at an infants’ home?
Dr. Nirasawa: “In 70% - 80% of cases, the reasons are related to abuse. It is not only due to violence, but also by parents neglecting proper care. Examples include improper feeding of children in their care, non-provision of periodic medical examinations and those left orphaned, whose mothers are sick, imprisoned, etc.”

What is the main work at an infants’ home?
Dr. Nirasawa: “The main work is to keep children and look after them. Because children cannot stay at infant homes after 3 years old, we plan and support their future self-reliance with child consultation centers. This determines whether they are housed in older children’s homes, return to their own homes, or seek adoption. Frequent consultation with parents and research on foster parents also features in our work.”

What can volunteers do to support?
Nurse Takeuchi: “We are really grateful to the volunteers for their ongoing support with gardening and cleaning, which our nursing staff can hardly find time to do. It’s been 5 years since the first time HOT volunteers visited us asking what they could do to help us. Their support program gradually spread out as they continually asked us “What can we do next?” ‘Hug a Baby’ has expanded dramatically, and HOT staff members have regularly organized bus hikes for the past 3 years. HOT is our reliable partner.” 

Is there anything else we can do to support?
Nurse Takeuchi: “Well, sewing, ...maybe? We clean all of the children’s clothes in washing machines and dryers in our facility, and they easily lose buttons and get damaged. Four elderly women volunteer to mend them, but I wish we had more volunteers for that.”
Dr. Nirasawa: “All of the female volunteers are over 70 years old. They make really cute stuff when we request something like covers for toys. We would be overjoyed if we had more volunteers who could enjoy sewing and hand craft with them.”

Please give a message to HOT volunteers.
Nurse Takeuchi: “The Japanese social awareness of volunteerism is still low, but many Hands On Tokyo volunteers have life experience in foreign countries and they seem to have higher levels of giving awareness. Japanese language ability is not necessary for activities like gardening and cleaning in which you don’t actually interact with children. So please don’t hesitate to join us, even if you don’t speak Japanese. Thank you.”

◆“Our children are all adorable,” Dr. Nirasawa and Nurse Takeuchi smiled gently. Our partnership started 5 years ago when Hands On Tokyo staff visited them asking for some opportunity we could support. May our relationship continue to flourish forever!
(*This article is from our Newsletter, 2015)