Supporting the Center for Building a Multiculturally Coexisting Community and Realize Their Vision

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.

How we support the IKUNO Tabunka (Multicultural) Flat

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.

Exchanges at the “Tomo-Tomo Workshop” and launching of the “Tomo-Tomo Library"

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”.

Ikuno Park launched by renovating the former Miyukimori Elementary School

The “Tomo-Tomo Workshop” to think about your own language

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.

With the support of bilingual staff and friends, even children with little Japanese skills could fully enjoy the workshop.
“Cherish your own language. If you learn another language, a new world will open up for you!” Koji Shirotani (Construction Equipment Sales & Marketing Dept. No.2)

The “Tomo-Tomo Library” to read books in your own language

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”.

The first donation made by the Osaka team to Ms. Kuniko Morimoto, Representative Director of IKUNO.
Handwritten messages from overseas employees in some books
The first donation made by the Osaka team to Ms. Kuniko Morimoto, Representative Director of IKUNO.
Handwritten messages from overseas employees in some books

Visiting the sites is a driving force for our support activities

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.

From the participating staff members: “Utilizing our business skills and perspectives for continuous support.”

  • I have come to realize the importance of companies, government entities, and nonprofit organizations working together on any social issues with a sense of mutual understanding. After having moved to the Middle East, I am still with the children of IKUNO by sending my life report. I will also continue to collect children’s books to donate to the “Tomo-Tomo Library”. I believe that a series of small actions will create great value at the end.
  • The most rewarding was to meet people I would not have encountered in my regular work. I hope many of us will try and experience the joy of getting involved in the 100SEED. We will continue to share our experiences within the company.
  • In collaborating with NPOs, I have realized that we should not rush for immediate results. With leveraging our objective perspective and strengths gained through business experience, I would like to keep supporting the education of children with foreign roots.
Tokyo Team (from left): Kosuke Mochizuki (Non-Ferrous Metals Development Business Dept.), Yasuko Abe (Lifestyle Business Div.), Akira Hizukuri (Social Infrastructure Business Division)
Osaka Team (from left): Kuniyoshi Yamamoto (Housing & Urban Development Business Dept.), Akiko Shotoku (Planning & Coordination Dept. for Japan Region), Tomohiko Mori (Real Estate Investment & Development Dept.)

From IKUNO: “A bond of trust born from an attitude of trying to understand”

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.

Staff members of IKUNO Tabunka Flat

Related information

Educational Support for a Multicultural Society

December 2023