Some part of my journey 1/2
As written in my previous blog, I am going to talk about some part of my journey today.
I got to know about Amnesty International when I was living in the Netherlands. The Netherlands is a small country with only 16 million people, but there were all kinds of NGOs and NPOs which contribute people’s well-being. It was also the country where people worked much less hours than Japan. At 6 pm, most full-time workers were gone home. Part-time workers were often permanent employees, meaning they had job security and were given flexibility in their working style. Retired, disabled, sick people, single moms or refugees I have met there did not have to worry about tomorrow’s bread or place to live.
Dutch are known as tightfisted, but when people get to know about adults, children or animals suffering somewhere, they do contribute to help. It could be by buying greeting cards of NGOs such as Amnesty, by donating money through very simple numbered giro order (often notified on TV), or by actually working voluntarily. I felt that the more people had time for themselves and yet their lives were secured, the better they could help others.
After coming back to Japan, I started working for a Dutch bank in Tokyo. I was so lucky that I could go home at 5:30 pm almost every day. In Japan, it is a miracle that you can go home so early. There were many people who regularly worked until 10 pm in the same bank. I started searching things I could do after work and found Amnesty International Japan. At that time, the office used to be in Waseda, one of students’ quarters in Tokyo. I got a list of volunteer groups and called one by one starting with Group 1. The person who answered my call was an American and he said to me, “our group is dying…” I called several other groups and decided to attend the Group 1’s meeting. There were only three attendees including myself, although the group had a lot more members. They were all busy with their own lives. I became a member of Group 1. Some complained about the people who did not attend the meeting, but I did not feel like blaming them. They were the rare people who kept contributing membership fee for years. Millions of others never even think of helping people whom they would never meet.
By cooperating with other groups outside of Japan, we contributed freeing prisoners in Vietnam and East Timor. Sometime after the prisoner in East Timor was released, the country became independent. I was very happy about some achievements that Amnesty had made. However, I became gradually restless. I had a reasonably secured life as a bank employee, and had time and energy to do humble voluntary work. But what about my own dream and growth? Every time when I was to move on to the next phase of my life, I was thinking to start studying art. It has been my lifetime dream and something I wanted to do all my life. I just could not start it at earlier stage of my life because of various reasons. But I also felt that I knew too little about the world I was living. I knew that once when I start studying art, I would not be interested in studying any other things. After thinking for some time, I decided to first study Economic Sociology in master course. This choice was strongly to do with what I saw and experienced in the Netherlands and at Amnesty in Japan. I will continue this story in my next blog.