What We Do
A comprehensive system of support for orphaned young people
Ashinaga supports orphaned students, as well as children with a parent suffering from a physical or mental disability that prevents them from working. Our support is divided into three main fields: enabling access to education, providing emotional support, and empowering our students. These fields apply to all of our activities in Japan and Sub-Saharan Africa, including the Ashinaga Africa Initiative.
Access to Education
A family is put under significant financial strain when a parent passes away or is unable to work due to a mental or physical disability. Through our extensive annual surveys throughout Japan, we have found that young people in such households are much less likely to progress to university after graduating high school. Many instead choose to go straight to work due to financial and family concerns, giving up on previous aspirations.
To address this, we have spent decades providing financial aid in the form of interest-free loans, emergency grants, conditional scholarships, and subsidized housing. These measures reduce the financial burden of high school and university studies for parents and guardians, and open up avenues of opportunity for disadvantaged young people.
Types of Support
- Interest-free student loans with long-term, flexible repayment plans for students at Japanese high schools, vocational schools, and universities
- Financial support to help cover the cost of university applications in Japan
- Subsidized dormitories for students studying in the Tokyo and Kobe metropolitan areas
- Year-abroad programs in Japan for orphaned students from institutions elsewhere in Asia
- Conditional university scholarships for students from Sub-Saharan Africa, including full preparation and pastoral support, as part of the Ashinaga Africa Initiative
- Almost 100,000 orphaned students have received financial aid for high school or university
- More than 30 new students join the Ashinaga Africa Initiative every year
- Students from 13 countries invited to study in Japan
Losing a parent is a devastating tragedy for a child. Their loss means not only a lack of financial support, but also of the emotional support and guidance that a guardian normally provides. Those who have lost a parent suddenly, as in the case of natural disaster or suicide, can also experience debilitating shock, having the fragile nature of existence suddenly thrust upon them. Conversely, for victims of cancer or another illness, many orphans have witnessed their parents suffering over a long period.
In instances of suicide, many children begin to erroneously blame themselves, or believe that by abandoning them their parent never really loved them. Furthermore, the social stigma surrounding suicide can exacerbate this trauma, adding feelings of shame and isolation.
Additionally, not all orphans have access to mental health support, or have the opportunity to mourn, reflect, and process what has happened.
At Ashinaga, we work to provide spaces and opportunities for orphaned young people to come together and share their feelings. Many of them experience great relief from finally being able to vocalize what they have kept bottled up inside, whereas others simply enjoy the atmosphere free from judgement or stigma. In addition, our staff, many of whom are orphans themselves and trained in grief counseling, are always on hand to provide support and guidance.
- Rainbow Houses: Purpose-built facilities where young children can cope with grief through play, art, music, and discussion
- Volunteer facilitators at the Rainbow Houses trained in grief counseling
- Specialized community workers in Uganda trained in working with vulnerable children and mothers
- Tsudoi: Four-day programs where orphaned young people can bond, share experiences, and think positively about their futures
- Over 120 programs held each year across five Rainbow Houses in Japan, supporting 1,300 orphans and 500 guardians
- Tsudoi programs held in 10 locations across Japan each year, supporting more than 2,000 participants
- Facilitator training for more than 50 volunteers each year
Even once the emotional pain of losing a parent begins to subside, many young people who experience such loss also suffer a dramatic decline of confidence, self-esteem, and ambition. The emotional and economic turbulence they have been through convinces many to abandon their previous goals, and instead pursue a safe-yet-insular life to regain a sense of stability. This is why we also focus on supporting our students in regaining a hopeful perspective on their future, learning in turn not to give up on the goals they once held.
In addition to regaining their confidence, today’s students also need to be prepared for an increasingly unpredictable world. The current generation of youth is sure to encounter a wide range of challenges, many of which will require international cooperation. We hope that our students are not only prepared for these challenges, but also are the ones to lead the way in resolving them.
We seek to foster four key qualities in our students: compassion, an open mind, a global perspective, and the ability to take action. We provide a number of opportunities for our students to develop these qualities and many other useful life skills.
- Year-long work-abroad programs for Japanese orphaned students, to help them gain valuable international experience
- Kokoro-Juku: Educational facilities and dormitories with a bespoke curriculum centered around personal development, including tutoring by students interning from top global universities
- Introspection and career counseling as a core aspect of the tsudoi programs
- Leadership training available for students who want to organize tsudoi programs, mentor young students more effectively, and take initiative for our fundraising activities
- More than 280 orphaned students sent abroad
- 67 future leaders trained through our Ashinaga Africa Initiative
- More than 120 Kokoro-Juku residents, including 25 international students
- More than 8,000 fundraising volunteers during our bi-annual fundraiser