Volunteer interview No.5: Ryoma Kobayashi
For the fifth interview of our series of Volunteer to Volunteer Interviews, Jun Ota interviewed Ryoma Kobayashi who volunteers on Fridays for our soup-kitchen preparation.
Q: What motivated you to volunteer at 2HJ?
I thought about volunteering, because I felt guilty for throwing out food at my part-time job. At this job, we sometimes threw away as much as four big trash bags of food. After experiencing this a few times, I started feeling I should do something to reduce food waste. Wondering what I could do, I remembered 2HJ. I knew of 2HJ because I took a class at my university from Mr. McJilton, executive director of 2HJ.
Kobayashi is sauteeing carrots with his great smile.
Q: What do you exactly do when you volunteer at 2HJ?
Friday mornings I go with a 2HJ driver to pick up food from a food donor to help load the van. In the afternoon, I help chop vegetables for 2HJ’s soup kitchen activity. I enjoy it because I get to chat with other volunteers. I come to volunteer every Friday.
Q: What was your impression when you first volunteered?
This was my first experience volunteering. It’s more fun than I had expected. Also, since there are many volunteers from foreign countries, I can use this as a time to learn English. As an English major student, this is the perfect place for me to practice English. However, I have to admit that what we actually do is rather simple. We just chop veggies together, wash dishes, and that’s all for Fridays! But since we work very close to each other, we get to know each other well. It’s a lot of fun chatting with other volunteers and staff members. Everybody has a background and a different story to tell. It’s anything but boring. As a college student, if I were not volunteering at 2HJ, I don’t think I would have met so many people from such different backgrounds. It’s wonderful that I get to build relationships with people through working together.
Q: How did volunteering affect your life?
I realized that “there are benefits of being a volunteer.” It can be beneficial to you when you volunteer your time for free. For instance, you can meet different people through volunteer activities. You are more likely to meet people who share the same interests. That’s because nonprofits such as 2HJ are gatherings of people who have similar concerns. I think it’s close to participating in hobby clubs. Volunteering is a great opportunity to belong to something like a college club. This is what I realized since I started volunteered at 2HJ.
“Hope this tastes good”
Q: As a volunteer, what do you think are some of the challenges that 2HJ faces?
There must be organizational challenges that are not visible from a volunteer’s perspective. Regarding volunteer activities, I think there are several challenges 2HJ faces. But those challenges might be closely linked to what is good about 2HJ.
For example, many people point out that the equipments and facility are not sufficient for soup kitchen preparations. But since we don’t have enough equipment, we need more people. I mean, when you see it differently, this lets more people participate in this activity and work together. We also cook outside facing pedestrians, which is literally an open environment for talking. It gives us an opportunity to mingle with each other. If we had a convenient sink where one person could get the work done, we would need less volunteers. Work would get more efficient, but it would be a pity to lose the charm of working with other volunteers. So, I don’t think making things more convenient always brings better outcomes. With that said, I do wish we had hot water! Washing dishes with cold water in the winter is very hard.
Q: How do you see the future of foodbanking?
I hope there will be more food banks in Japan. I think the demand is certainly there. So, I believe the number of food banks will increase in the future. With more cooperating relationships between food banks, they can share knowledge, which would increase trust from corporations. I imagine 2HJ staff are already thinking about how to build this cooperation. Also, I think it’s important to expand the scale of 2HJ. I really hope for 2HJ to continue to thrive.
I often spend time with Kobayashi-san when picking up food from donor companies and delivering them to 2HJ’s member agencies. I am very impressed how this college student with a very busy schedule, continuously manages to find time to be a very active volunteer. He is very open and cheerful, and since he is good at English, he creates a good atmosphere for Japanese and non-Japanese volunteers alike.
He is in his senior year as a collage student since this April, and is currently busy with schoolwork as well as his search for his job after graduation. (Are you an HR manager? I recommend Kobayashi-san to your company!) I expect that he will bring out his best in various fields in his future.