Sumitomo Corporation has been supporting the activities of the IKUNO Tabunka Flat, by organizing the “Tomo-Tomo Workshop” for children of foreign roots and assisting in launching of the “Tomo-Tomo Library”, a collection of children’s books in multiple languages.
Ikuno Ward in Osaka is home to people with roots in over 60 countries, and one out of every five residents has foreign nationality. IKUNO Tabunka Flat (hereinafter “IKUNO”) is an NPO based in Ikuno Ward that aims to build a multiculturally coexisting community. Sumitomo Corporation started pro bono support for IKUNO in 2020 when they received grant support from the Japan Center for International Exchange (JCIE) under the “Supporting Youth of Diverse Roots and an Inclusive Society Initiative”. Let’s look back at the efforts until we identify the support they truly needed.
A series of staff members with a local connection to Osaka’s Ikuno Ward have engaged in this project by turns. At “Ikuno Co-Lives Park (hereinafter “Ikuno Park”)”, a center for building a multiculturally coexisting community opened in April 2022 on the former site of an elementary school in Ikuno Ward, the volunteers helped to plan and organize the “Tomo-Tomo Workshop” and launch the “Tomo-Tomo Library”.
The “Tomo-Tomo Workshop”, held in March 2023, targeted children participating in IKUNO’s learning support classes. “Tomo-Tomo” comes from the Japanese words for “friends” and “together.” Fifteen children, ranging from fourth graders to high school students, with roots in various countries, engaged in discussions with five Sumitomo Corporation members on topics such as the importance of own native languages, self-improvement through Japanese, and acquisition of new vocabulary to broaden your world. The workshop provided the children with opportunities to reflect on their own languages and contemplate their futures.
The “Tomo-Tomo Library” was launched at a corner of the “Fukurou no Mori (Owl Forest)” Library in Ikuno Park, and a series of multilingual children’s books were donated by Sumitomo Corporation. The support members asked the colleagues at overseas offices to provide used books for the library. Since the opening of the Ikuno Park, the “Tomo-Tomo Library” has been enjoyed by children and adults of various roots who visit the “Fukurou no Mori”.
Sumitomo Corporation’s support were well-received by the children and IKUNO stakeholders. However, the journey to providing support was not without its challenges. One particular challenge was the limitation of online meetings under COVID-19. Through online meetings alone, it was difficult for the members to understand the IKUNO’s actual situation, gain the trust, and grasp their needs. In August 2022, three members from Osaka and Tokyo made a visit unannounced to have candid discussions in person. They even joined in on weeding the school garden. After this, the trust between the two developed rapidly, and this became a driving force for our activities.
The pro bono activities concluded in March 2023. However, donations to the “Tomo-Tomo Library” have continued, and currently, there are approximately 300 books in 11 languages.
From now on, we will explore how to further collaborate with IKUNO for sustainable educational support.
When the Sumitomo employees first visited Ikuno Park, I was surprised to see how enthusiastically they participated in the weeding. It made me think, “We can trust these people.” Initially, I was unsure about how to interact with Sumitomo professionals, but I have come to realize the importance of embracing differences in thinking and ideas, leveraging each person’s strengths, and having someone to coordinate that.
I was deeply moved by the fact that everyone from Sumitomo Corporation believes in giving back to society in this form. We hope that even more young employees will join us in the future to help build momentum for social contribution.