Expanding the opportunities of underprivileged children is the mission that inspires YouMeWe, a non-profit organization (NPO) based in Tokyo. Since 2007, it has been providing support through volunteer staff for young people living in children’s homes across Japan. The NPO has a unique approach to expanding these children’s horizons, including offering financial aid collected through various charitable fundraisers, as well as providing programs which aim to promote digital literacy. The NPO has improved the lives of many children, many of whom have already become successful adults, and they invite you to celebrate their impactful work at a charity gala dinner.
Leveling the Playing Field
The fundamental idea behind YouMeWe is leveling the playing field for financially underprivileged children. Recognizing the challenges that come with poverty, the organization’s volunteer staff work directly with children to nurture their social and emotional development. This brings to life the famous phrase, “it takes a village to raise a child”, and inspires the organization’s personnel, who play active roles in each child’s life and development, sometimes beginning from infancy.
The origin of YouMeWe goes back to founder Michael Clemons’s experience playing Santa in 2007, and being exposed to the reality of orphans and orphanages. “In 2007 we spent time with the kids and I was taken aback at how the children never asked for anything, even when we took them to Disneyland. I hated this as I felt that they deep down did not feel deserving and it was counter to all the other children in the Disney gift shop throwing things over both shoulders into their carts.”
This propelled him into philanthropic work with children that benefits them in the long run rather than just keeping them afloat. One key element Clemons discovered would help these children develop skills for adulthood is through technology and digital literacy. By expanding their technical skills and maximizing their access to modern technology, children are prepared for careers in the digital age. In 2008, YouMeWe began installing one computer and printer in a few homes. Going forward, over 1,000 computers strong, the NPO’s Digital Citizenship Program teaches 21st century skills.
Clemons points out that having access to technology is an asset: “Children want to learn in a curious and experiential way, not being talked at in a Socratic classroom environment. By using technology, it is something they can come back to again and again and improve.”
Safeguarding and Support
The mission of YouMeWe is to lead these children to either attending university or technical school, or securing a decent job by the age of 18. Therefore, developing academic skill-sets is a necessity. YouMeWe helps students discover opportunities to maximize their potential through tutoring, internship opportunities and academic transfer counseling
These academically motivated programs are buttressed by support programs which together add to children’s opportunities to become productive and financially independent young adults. For children undergoing post-traumatic stress, YouMeWe pursues the best approach, which is tailored to each child. This usually includes introducing them to coaches, counselors at Tokyo English Lifeline (TELL), or psychiatrists.
On November 21, YouMeWe will host an evening to celebrate the organization’s efforts, thank donors and volunteers for their support, and provide beneficiaries with delightful entertainment. On the Ohana Floor at the top of Salesforce Japan’s building, attendees will take in a breathtaking view of the Imperial Palace and Gardens, while enjoying music and videos showcasing the different skills taught to children. There will be presentations detailing the Mark Bell Scholarship and to introduce the “empower village” philosophy that inspires the organization. There will also be a silent auction and raffle prizes.
Through this gala dinner, YouMeWe hopes to continue to raise awareness about how people can share their time and skill sets. At this “FUNraiser,” YouMeWe wants attendees to try the skills they teach.
Looking into the future of YouMeWe, Clemons’ spotlights how the organization is working to refine their approaches to supporting children. He recognizes that YouMeWe needs to appeal from a top-down approach, aligning with the principles in homes and opening their eyes to what the organization aims to achieve. Furthermore, because a consistent adult presence is crucial in the lives of children, Clemons emphasizes the need for volunteers willing to commit. YouMeWe relies on dedicated volunteers who are passionate about aiding the underprivileged, and giving children the support and attention they need and deserve.
And for Clemons, this is the most important thing for these young people. “The children do not grow up and remember the presents they got at birthdays and Christmas, but rather when an adult took the time to make them feel like their lives mattered.”
Learn more about becoming a YouWeMe volunteer here: https://youmewenpo.org/programs
Date: Tuesday, November 21
Venue: Salesforce Tower Tokyo
To purchase tickets or for more information about YouMeWe’s event, visit: https://3007.zaiko.io/item/359859
Jake Benjamin Roiter