Thursday, December 29, 2011

Shunan Orphanage

While Joe was in Guam, I had the chance to go to a local orphanage with our Family Readiness Officer, Chaplain, a great group of caring Marines, and unit families. This visit really put me in the holiday spirit. The kids who live at this orphanage do everything with each other, share everything with each other, and care for one another as they grow up.

A few interesting things I learned about how Japanese care for children with no home:
  • A parent without the means to support their child can give up their child to an orphanage, but retain rights to the child until he or she is six years old. A young mother, for example, can be back on her feet in six years and care for her child on her own again.
  • Unwed mothers and unplanned pregnancies are still very taboo in Japan.
  • There is no foster care system in Japan (from what I understand).
  • The same schooling system still applies for kids in orphanages: they must study constantly to test into high school. If they don't score well, they can study more and take a test equivalent to a G.E.D., but can only qualify for jobs like manual labor or working in convenience stores. 
Thanks so much to Becky V. for taking these pictures at the orphanage!

This was our amazing group and a few of the older kids from Shunan Orphanage:

A few of my new friends with their gifts from Santa

As hard as I tried to treat all the kids equally, little Rion (?) and her brother were my favorites.
Santa's elf and two of the cutest kids in Iwakuni.
Santa introducing himself to all the kids
After Santa and his elf handed out all the gifts and the children opened and played with them for a while, the kids went back to their regular schedule and one of our guides showed us around to get a feel for how the kids live day-to-day.

This is the room where all the toddlers sleep. There is a wall of cabinets that fit futon mattresses in them when not in use. Sleeping on the tatami mats is a Japanese tradition.
The older kids sleep and study in the same areas.
Coloring time in the playroom!
We are making plans to do another trip before next Christmas so the kids know they have our attention throughout the year, and not just near the holidays. They really are great kids and I hope they are reunited with their parents or find loving families soon. 

If anyone in the Iwakuni area is reading this and wants to get involved, contact your FRO or Chaplain about organizing a visit to the Shunan Orphanage. It was well worth the quick drive down the Sanyo Expressway.

1 comment:

  1. What a wonderful experience! Thanks for sharing the love! :)