An increasing number of young Japanese are seeking jobs with nonprofit organizations because they want to get involved in addressing social problems.
While working for NPOs doesn’t always provide stable employment, they can be a rewarding place for young people eager to change society, NPO workers say.
Yoshinori Kurita, 26, works for Terra Renaissance, which was established in Kyoto in 2001 with the lofty aim of creating a world in which “all lives can live in peace.”
When Kurita was a third-year student at Ritsumeikan University, he went to Uganda to work as a volunteer at a facility operated by the NPO to support former child soldiers as they reintegrated into society after fighting for guerrilla forces.
He met many young people who had faced hardships, including one who saw his younger brother executed in a guerrilla camp as a lesson to other child soldiers after an attempt to escape, and a girl who developed AIDS after being raped.
Memories of young people like these, attempting to rebuild their lives despite terrible experiences, came to his mind when he returned to Japan from the East African country and was looking for a job after graduating from university.
Kurita decided he wanted to work “on the front line for the creation of a peaceful society.” His decision was supported by his parents back in his hometown, the city of Shizuoka.
Kurita joined Terra Renaissance in April 2009 from university and is now in charge of public relations.
One of his duties is giving lectures around Japan to secure greater support for the NPO’s team of 34 members and their activities.
In June, for example, he spoke about child soldiers in Uganda, including a boy abducted at the age of 12, in a special lesson for around 100 students at Nara Prefectural University.
“What we can do is limited, but I feel we are contributing to the future of children,” Kurita said.
Sayuri Yamada, 24, founded an NPO called Collable in Tokyo in May after completing her graduate studies at the University of Tokyo, hoping to promote exchanges between physically and mentally disabled people and those without disabilities.
Born in Saiki, Oita Prefecture, Yamada grew up with an older brother and a younger brother, both of whom were diagnosed as autistic.
Observing how her brothers’ friends were not overly conscious of their autism, she established the NPO to create opportunities for physically and mentally disabled people to develop warm relationships.
“I opted for independence to pursue my own vision,” Yamada said.
She is still learning how to manage her NPO’s five volunteer workers and take care of the accounts. But she is eager to make Collable her “lifework.”
A 2012 survey of around 8,300 NPOs conducted by the Cabinet Office found that 36 percent were dependent on donations or subsidies.
Hideo Yamagishi, a Hosei University professor well versed in NPOs, said that because working for a company or in government is no longer stable, young people are starting to consider how they should live for the sake of their happiness.
“Because NPOs face tough challenges that cannot be addressed by means of capital or publicity, support from (members’) families and friends is important,” Yamagishi advised.