Winter is a time where we often have more time on our hands than we know what to do with. It is cold, wet, and mostly dark, so we often assume that there is not much that we can do. However, this is not true. One thing to do during winter, or year round really, is volunteer your time. It can be a great thing to offer your free time to help the local community. One such way is volunteering for a nonprofit organization (NPO).
Volunteering has a lot of upsides and a few downsides. It is a great way to meet new people when moving to a new town, or when finally getting out and about after living in it for some time, and the people you meet there are generally pretty cool. If you are looking for an opportunity to get out and volunteer your time for a good cause, there are options here in Tokyo.
Hands On Tokyo
Hands On Tokyo was founded in December 2006 with a working Board of Directors comprising both Japanese and foreign nationals committed to making volunteer activities more accessible and accelerating the growth of volunteerism in the Tokyo area. Hands On Tokyo collaborates with many local organizations to encourage senior citizens, revitalize playgrounds, deliver food to the hungry, support people with visual impairment, and inspire children in children’s homes, among other projects.
Second Harvest Japan
In Japan, there are up to 8 million tons of food loss every year, while one in six people lives below the poverty line. As the only registered food bank in Japan, since 2002, Second Harvest Japan has been turning ‘mottanai’ (waste) into ‘arigatou’ (thanks) by redistributing food waste from supermarkets such as dented tins and excess inventory.
Their primary focus is on poverty and disaster relief through the distribution of food and essential supplies to welfare agencies, orphanages, shelters, the homeless, and others in need. Volunteers generally serve 2.5-hour shifts in one of Second Harvest’s numerous operations, including food pick-up and delivery, food preparation, packaging of food for distribution, food drives, food distribution, and various office activities.
Nature Conservation Society of Japan
As an independent and advocacy NGO (non-governmental organization) dedicated to the conservation of ecosystems and biological diversity, the Nature Conservation Society of Japan has been around for 60 years. Nature conservation through recommendation, campaign, and advocacy is their core aim, which takes the guise of various projects, from field trips to connect with nature, conservation research, and environmental publications.
The Tokyo branch of perhaps the world’s most famous NGO has two bilingual factions in Tokyo. AITEN (Amnesty International Tokyo English Network) is the largest and holds a monthly open meeting for education and letter-writing. During the year, they organize a table at several of the international school festivals and similar events in the Tokyo area as well as live music fundraising events of their own.
The second group meets monthly for letter-signing of their Action File (India and Vietnam), and anti-death penalty campaign for Vietnam. It also includes letter writing to Japan’s minister of justice asking for the abolishment of the death penalty in Japan.
Run for the Cure Foundation
Run for the Cure Foundation is a registered NPO with the Tokyo Metropolitan Government since 2004 with the mission to eradicate breast cancer in Japan as a life-threatening disease through education, timely screening, and treatment. Through their activities, the Foundation develops and executes community outreach programs and education initiatives; organizes programs to help increase the quality of life of breast cancer patients and survivors, fund mammograms, and donates funds to other organizations.
Tokyo Voluntary Action Center
Tokyo Voluntary Action Center (TVAC), founded in 1981, is a nonprofit organization set up with a mission to promote volunteerism in the Tokyo Metropolitan area. They develop volunteer programs in schools, companies, and a range of communities in cooperation with local volunteer centers and more wide-area organizations.
In addition to TVAC, there are 64 local volunteer centers in the Metropolitan Tokyo area, so if you are looking for a specific cause or organization at which you would like to volunteer, TVAC is a good place to start.
Tokyo International Players
Founded in 1896, Tokyo International Players (TIP) is a 100% volunteer-run organization and the oldest running English language theatre company in Japan. Volunteers can participate as actors, but there are also numerous backstage volunteer opportunities, including set design, costume construction, props, stage management, lighting, and more.
Animal Rescue Kansai (ARK)
ARK is a nonprofit, non-governmental, private organization and network of people who love animals, believe in sharing their lives with them, and who work actively to rescue them from suffering. ARK has some activities in Tokyo and welcomes volunteers to help walk dogs, socialize cats, etc.