My name is Jamie Jackson and I am contacting you on behalf of Living Dreams, which is a non – profit organization supporting children’s homes in Japan. The organisation was founded in 2006 by Patrick Newell, who is also the co-founder of the Tokyo Internal School.
Can you imagine a world without the internet? Only 5% of the estimated 30,000 children in institutionalised homes have access to internet. The lack of 21st century resources can partly explain why 35% of children in these homes are 2 grade levels below that of their peers. Since 2006, Living Dreams have made it their mission to bridge the gap for the children and help build their futures.
Currently the organisation is associated with 27 children’s homes in and around the Tokyo area and 15 homes in the tsunami affected Tohoku area.
Digital Natives is one of the organization’s core initiatives, which focuses on empowering and enriching residents of children’s homes through providing digital devices and I.T skill training. Digital Natives is built on the philosophy that access to the internet can be a viable tool for children to communicate,explore and learn.
Digital Natives has successfully been implemented in 10 children’s homes so far, with the aim of expanding to 98 homes in Kanto and Kansai areas within a 5-year time scale.
However, in order to build on our recent success and achieve our goal of one for one PC’s for Tohoku and Kanto, we are looking to raise $100,000 globally.
Some 40,000 children in Japan do not live with their families and 90 percent of such youngsters live in children’s homes. While these institutions are sometimes called “orphanages,” the majority of the children have been removed from the family home for reasons that include parental neglect, abuse or financial issues. In some cases, parents relinquish care of their children voluntarily.
Fostering and adoption are still the exception rather than the norm in Japan, and upon entering a children’s home, a child typically stays there until they finish high school at 18. After leaving, they frequently struggle in society, marginalized for having grown up without the opportunities that other people take for granted. This week Lifelines introduces two groups working to make life better for these young people.
Living Dreams works with children’s homes in both Tokyo and Fukushima, enabling and empowering youngsters with experiential learning and information technology. The NPO was started in 2001 by American Patrick Newell and a small group of friends. Newell is also the founder of Tokyo International School, and at a recent benefit for Living Dreams he spoke about his firm belief in giving children tools to help them realize their full potential.
“The challenge for many of these kids is that don’t have a dream for their future, or even if they do, they are not sure how to reach it,” he says.
Living Dreams has been running summer arts camps for children in Tokyo for the past seven years. After the Great East Japan Earthquake in March 2011, the group realized there was a need to help children in Tohoku, and reached out to several homes in Fukushima Prefecture. Since the logistics made bringing the children to Tokyo for the summer camps too difficult, the current director, Michael Clemons, and his team explored other avenues.
The result was the Digital Natives program, which aims to put a computer in the hands of every child in the homes. In a society where most youngsters are media savvy, only 5 percent of those in children’s homes have access to computers and the Internet. This holds them back in many ways.