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NPOs give needy hope for future

by Mami Maruko

Second In A Series

Many women and children in developing countries still have very few opportunities to receive an education and training, but Japanese nonprofit groups are working in nations such as Afghanistan and Cambodia to give them hope for the future.

Nippon International Cooperation for Community Development (NICCO), based in Kyoto, is working to empower women in Afghanistan, where long-term economic and social instability has severely limited their chances of receiving an education and participating in society. Many Afghan women also experience discrimination and domestic violence, and some are suffering from sexually transmitted diseases including HIV/AIDS, as well as tuberculosis.

NICCO helps them master basic reading and writing skills in Dari (Persian), one of the country’s two official languages, and offers classes that teach information technology skills.

This year, the group also started running seminars covering health issues, such as HIV/AIDS, and domestic violence prevention, in response to rising demand among Afghan women to learn more about such matters, said NICCO’s Juri Murakami.

Donations worth ¥184,195 from The Japan Times Reader’s Fund last year were used by NICCO to purchase equipment and materials necessary to run its classes and seminars in Afghanistan, and to help pay the group’s employees and cover correspondence expenses between its staff in Japan and Afghanistan.

“We hope to continue the same kind of activities in the future. We would especially like to put the emphasis on domestic violence-related issues, as we couldn’t spend much time on it during this year’s seminars,” Murakami said.

Another ¥184,191 from The Japan Times Readers’ Fund went to AMATAK House of Cambodia, a Tokyo-based nonprofit organization, and helped cover some of the costs of a new school being built in Cambodia’s western province of Pailin, near the border with Thailand.

The Srong Meanchey Primary School, which is scheduled for completion at the end of the year, is the 17th elementary school the group has built in Cambodia since 1995.

AMATAK representative Fumio Goto said that very few overseas volunteer groups are willing to work in such remote parts of Cambodia, especially in western areas where the Khmer Rouge regime retreated after their brutal reign ended in 1979. “But we would like to help rebuild such areas in Cambodia,” he said.

A part of last year’s readers’ fund was used to purchase construction materials and desks for the new school, repair a school built in 1995, buy rice for single-parent and poor families, and distribute textbooks to children who couldn’t otherwise afford them, according to AMATAK.

But Goto said the group will suspend its program of building new schools in 2012 because it has been unable to raise sufficient funds this year. Its membership declined this year, and donations are mostly going to the disaster victims in Tohoku, he said.

So instead of constructing new schools, AMATAK will from next year focus on carrying out maintenance work on facilities it already has built in Cambodia.

Nevertheless, Goto remains optimistic about the group’s future activities and said there are no plans to end its efforts in Cambodia.

“Education gives Cambodian children hope about their future,” he said. “After a one-year break, we’ll see if the group’s membership has grown, and try to continue our activities as much as possible.”

Donations can be made via bank transfer or check. For bank transfers, send to the following bank account: Shinbashi branch of Mizuho Bank, “futsu koza” 1393499 (account name: The Japan Times dokusha no Nanmin Enjo Kikin). Checks should be made out to The Japan Times Readers’ Charity Fund, c/o The Japan Times head office (4-5-4 Shibaura, Minato Ward, Tokyo, 108-8071). For more information, call (03) 3453-5312.