Volunteer interview No.6: Yuko Sakaue
For the sixth interview of our series of Volunteer to Volunteer Interviews, Ryoma Kobayashi, interviewee of the last interview, asks Yuko Sakaue about her volunteer experience at 2HJ.
1. Why did you start volunteering at 2HJ?
I wanted to make a social contribution for a long time, but I couldn’t get such a chance, because I had a full-time job. One day I heard about 2HJ and was impressed with its meaning; the second time of harvesting foods that would otherwise be doomed to go to waste. Until then I didn’t know about foodbank, and I was surprised that there was such an organization. Also, I learned that 2HJ was expanding its activities and spreading an idea of foodbank. I immediately wanted to get involved in its activities and wasted no time in applying for volunteer work at 2HJ. Many Japanese people might think that having an excess is better than having a shortage and that ending up having leftovers is no problem. I sometimes encounter such a situation, and I think that something is wrong with it. Considering that there’s an excess of foods in Japan, whereas some people cannot afford to buy enough foods for different reasons, 2HJ’s way of supporting those in need is quite suitable in the current Japanese situation. A very meaningful activity indeed.
2. What do you usually do at 2HJ?
I’ve been volunteering at 2HJ for over 2 years. At first I helped with Saturday hot meal program. Later, I started helping with the Harvest Pantry program, where we send out food packages to households, mostly to refugees and single mothers, and hand over them to those who come to 2HJ. Now I help with the program twice a month. Saturday soup kitchen and the Harvest Pantry program are similar in that they both provide foods for those in need, but they are different in another way. Running a soup kitchen takes a lot of time in its preparation and many volunteers. On the other hand, at the Harvest Pantry program you have relatively enough time to think about recipients. This is one of its attractions for me. I enjoy choosing foods for each recipient, taking it into account that what sort of and how much of foods would suit best the number of each recipient household, their ethnicity, and their preference.
3. What aspect of the Harvest Pantry program is enjoyable or interesting to you? Seeing recipients smiling makes me happy. Some of the recipients come to 2HJ, and we hand over foods to them. Everybody naturally grins in front of different kinds of foods. I think that foods have great natural power to calm and heal people. Nobody is unhappy, when they are full up. I sometimes run around in the pantry, because I want to see every recipient smiling and satisfy their needs. When they say, “Thank you”, with a smile to us, I respond by saying back to them, “Thank you for coming to 2HJ all the way” and feel happy. This wonderful interaction between recipients and volunteers by means of foods is another attraction of 2HJ’s activities. If I may digress, I’m a salesperson for an advertising company, and pressured to make profits everyday. The most important thing is, of course, to make profits. Honestly, I find such an idea hard to swallow. In 2HJ’s activities, on the contrary, there exist no tangible “profit” and “return”. That is very comfortable for me, and it helps me maintain a balance in daily life. Now volunteering at 2HJ is an important part of my life.
4. What do you think can be improved about 2HJ?
Nothing in particular! LOL Lots of people are involved in the activities, so there would be some inconveniences or problems. But we all voluntarily commit ourselves to the activities and we’re independent. I think that volunteer work has been organized more and more efficiently. I’m always supported by other volunteers. I can do only a little, but I always feel satisfied, when we finish our job. If I was allowed to say a word… If only we could wash plates inside, not outside. I have to confess that I’m sometimes daunted in midsummer and midwinter. LOL
5. Do you have any message to those who cannot yet make up their minds if they volunteer?
Try not just one volunteer work, but some, then opportunities will expand. And you can find the best match for you among them. I started out as a soup kitchen volunteer, and now I’m involved in the Harvest Pantry program. Volunteer work at 2HJ is well organized, and meeting volunteers with different backgrounds is certainly an attraction. They are at different ages and have different jobs. They are all really friendly and affable. You can receive a lot by donating some of your precious time. You’ll have an enjoyable and meaningful experience.
Translated by Hiroto Nagaoka