Equitably Supporting Orphaned Students from Japan and Africa
*This article is a modified version of “Konnichiwa, Ashinaga-san,” an interview with a donor that appeared in “New Ashinaga Family,” our newsletter, No. 171.
Of the approximately 60,000 Ashinaga-san who donated in 2020, 5,000 supported orphaned scholars from Africa. One of those donors, Mr. Seiichiro Yokoyama, always encloses heartwarming letters and poems when he sends in donations. His kind words piqued the curiosity of a staff member from the Africa Division, who interviewed this loyal Ashinaga-san.
“I learned about Ashinaga through a street fundraising in Jiyugaoka in 2017 and started donating,” Mr. Yokoyama recalled. “Seeing how the fundraisers kept smiling even when they were rejected many times by people, I felt their passion and seriousness.”
When he was 17, Mr. Yokoyama studied abroad at David Douglas High School in Oregon, USA. As the only Japanese student there, he lived with diverse people. The host family he was staying with had six children. Through life with them, he realized that human beings are all the same, even though we have many differences such as cultures, languages, and ethnicities.
In addition, he found many opportunities to use his talent in art, such as making Halloween masks for his host family and painting church panels. Through these experiences, he learned the joy of using his talents and his personality on behalf of others. At the same time, he began to feel that he wanted to share the inner richness that he had received with others.
These cross-cultural experiences in his teenage years greatly impacted how he lived his life.
“I realized then that the more you give personality and love to others, the more you have,” he said. “This is one of the reasons why I continue to donate now. I believe that people who have known discrimination and hardship since childhood have a beautiful heart that can understand the pain of others.”
“I support future global leaders through the Ashinaga Africa Initiative”
Since 2017, as an “Africa Ashinaga-san,” he has supported orphaned scholars in Africa for their higher education.
“I want people who are not at the center (of the economy and wealth) to become leaders,” he added. “I have high hopes for African students in particular, and I believe that the future global leaders will come from Africa.”
Mr. Yokoyama remembered that he once shared two lunch boxes with a homeless person in Shibuya. What he saw next was a scene where people share love and kindness. After receiving the lunches from Mr. Yokoyama, the homeless person gave some of them to another before eating them himself.
“His face looked like a god,” said Mr. Yokoyama. “If I have something to share, I want to give it to those who don’t have it so that no one is left behind. If many people acted this way, the world would change in a day.”
A Message for Ashinaga Students and Staff
At the end of the interview, Mr. Yokoyama, whose face was filled with kindness, gave a message to Ashinaga students:
“I would like you to set your life goal and go ahead with it. In these precious years of your teens and twenties, please live every day like there is no tomorrow.”
To Ashinaga staff, he added. “Please continue your work with joy; joyful work makes the world a brighter place.”
After conducting the interview with him, the Ashinaga staff member said, “I realize I won’t forget that many donors like Mr.Yokoyama support Ashinaga, including not only students but also the staff.”
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