Message from the Executive Director
A brighter tomorrow for the children of Asia.
A brighter tomorrow for us all.
We live in a bewildering age of modernization and development, characterized by constant change and transformation. But are you aware of those who have been forgotten, left behind by innovation?
Countless children across Asia continue to be plagued by poverty, disease, addiction and the decline of the household. The socially vulnerable - namely poor women and children- continue to experience the most suffering. This is especially the case if they are an ethnic minority of the countries they reside in. TPAK provides such women and children with an education, in order to equip them with the tools necessary to build a bright future for themselves. Here at TPAK, we think of ourselves as citizens of the world, and of international cooperation as cooperation between human beings of equal status. We are a grassroots organization that strives for the empowerment of the socially vulnerable above all else, and pledge to never put our own interests ahead of those we support.
In Thailand, Myanmar and India we work to implement programs which help to improve the quality of life of rural villagers. In Japan, we advocate for the rights of ethnic minorities, and educate the population on the idea of global citizenship and the mindset which must accompany its proliferation. Exposure to the warm hearts of those we empower provides us here in Japan with a valuable opportunity to rethink our own privilege and worldly desires. By learning from each other and honoring a spirit of mutual cooperation, we believe that we can actualize our vision of a plentiful global society.
Certified Non-Profit Corporation Terra People ACT/Kanagawa
Executive Director CHIKADA MACHIKO
What lead to the establishment of TPAK?
It all began in 1991, when I was invited to spend a night in an orphanage in Ayutthaya, Thailand. The orphanage housed over 2000 orphans of ethnic-minority descent. In Thailand, those who are born to certain ethnic minority groups are denied the right to Thai citizenship. As these children were “stateless”, the Thai Government refused provide this institution with a single cent. I could not help but feel that the world had turned its back on these children, who had been abandoned not only by their parents, but by their country. This is when I first realized the necessity of international cooperation in our world. If we didn’t help these children, who would? I returned to Japan, resolute in my will to be of help to these children, to provide support to them which would transcend our national borders. In 1993, I established Terra People ACT Kanagawa (TPAK) – a non-profit organization which would come to provide support for the lives of ethnic minority children across Asia.
What is the most impactful memory you have of that night?
During the day, the children were lively and energetic – singing songs, braiding hair and playing games with each other. But as the night approached, they grew quiet and despondent. That night I laid my pillow alongside the children to sleep. Throughout the night, the children would climb onto me, cling desperately to my limbs and inch closer for warmth. I felt in doing so, they were searching for the tenderness of a parent. “Children need a parent”. I realized this from the bottom of my heart, and it pained me to think about how these children felt having been abandoned by their own. In that moment, I came to believe that these children truly needed the support of us adults.
What difficulties did you face in the beginning of your journey?
We all must start somewhere, and things rarely go smoothly the first-time round. The TPAK you know now is a resilient organization that has learned countless life lessons from countless failed endeavors. Having witnessed the orphans dressed in nothing but torn, shabby clothing, upon returning to Japan I concluded that I could help them by sending them pretty clothes to wear. A group of fellow nursery school mothers and myself gathered mountains of children’s’ clothing comprising of pink dresses, frilled white blouses and other nice clothes for the children and packed them in cardboard boxes. I brought them with me to the orphanage when I next visited the region. But when I arrived with boxes, the caretakers at the orphanage promptly refused my donation, saying that they had no need for such things. To drive their point home, they showed me their storeroom filled to the brim with boxes and boxes of unworn donated clothing.
I soon found out the heartbreaking reason behind the children’s’ unkempt appearances. At the time, it was sadly extremely common for children, especially little girls who would not be missed, to be abducted by human traffickers and made to do unspeakable, inhumane things for the rest of their lives. In order to keep them safe, little girls were dressed in boys’ clothing and had their hair cut off. It became very clear to me that not only was our attempt at support misguided, but that our actions had the potential to endanger the very children we were trying to help.
From this experience, I learned an extremely valuable lesson about international cooperation, providing aid, and volunteerism. In order to carry out support which truly benefits the recipient of those actions, it is imperative that it is carried out on the basis of deeply understanding the recipient’s needs, circumstances and background. Support driven by our own assumptions and understanding of what will be “good” for them is often misguided, and results in more harm than good.
“Stand in their shoes and view the world from their perspective”. TPAK strongly adheres to this principle when conducting international cooperation to provide support for socially vulnerable children across Asia. Every project we undertake is driven by a comprehensive needs-analysis of the local region and executed by the hands of the local community. We strive to empower marginalized communities not through providing charity, but through providing them with the tools and opportunities to learn how to build a sustainable, bright future for their children. Help us realize our mission of creating educational opportunities for all children across the world.