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February 2002 - Issue No. #45 (p.11-13)

Teaching for Charity: Global Education in Action

by Junaline Banez

Former JET Program English teacher, Miwa, Japan

Teaching for Charity

Teaching for charity is an excellent and "noble" way to teach and learn about peace and global education. Teach, learn, and help. Charity teaching gives students the meaningful experience of supporting charities and learning about humanitarian-ism via class fees or volunteer activities.

In this article, I want to share my experience teaching a charity English conversation (eikaiwa) class that I organized in my town of Miwa-cho, Kyoto, Japan. I'll also introduce ideas for charity teaching, and invite language teachers to try their own teaching for charity.

Why Do Charity Teaching?

We are all affected by a variety of issues on various levels: local, national and global. Different responsibilities are required of us depending on the gravity or effect of these issues on our lives. Many significant contributions are made to society through the giving of time, money and other resources. These are willingly done by individuals who regard their world citizenship as a responsibility.

The word "volunteerism" refers to efforts to serve beyond personal interests and family spheres. The minute we stand up for something without expectation or reward, we are essentially "volunteering." As world citizens, we all have a responsibility to be mindful of the needs of other human beings. Sharing knowledge and educating is paramount to that awareness, for education is the most powerful impetus for human development. It gives people a voice, provides them with skills and empowers them to improve their lives.

Through charity teaching, our 'gifts' as English teachers can be shared much more profoundly. Assistant Language Teachers (ALTs) like me in Japanese schools are fortunate to be able to teach English, yet our mere presence in Japan promotes inter-nationalization. Through charity teaching, students gain a meaningful experience in global international understanding. "Importing diversity" into Japanese schools can take place by introducing students to a third culture (beyond Japan and the nation we represent) that is studied, taught and, most significantly, helped.

Charity English in Miwa, Japan

While employed by the Miwa Board of Education (BOE), one of my (volunteer) duties included a weekly evening English conversation class. It was a short course, spanning 15 classes within a six-month period. The BOE allocates classes among three areas of town, providing 5 classes per area. With a target of 20 students per area/class, the aim was to give ample opportunities to citizens interested in learning English. The students attend for free and may come and go as they please. This proved somewhat disappointing, so I devised a scheme where they would be motivated to come by giving them a purpose: asking for class fees for charity.

The venues where we held our classes were arranged by the BOE, thus there was no need to worry about rental fees. My problem was how to relay this appeal to my BOE and convince my supervisor that charity teaching is a noble and humanitarian cause. At first, my supervisor didn't think it was a good idea. However, after countless appeals, translation help from co-workers, much perseverance and not taking NO for an answer, he finally approved!

I then contacted Ms. Atsuko Takahashi of Minsai Centre Tokyo, a Japanese NGO I had read about in The Daily Yomiuri, about their appeal to help children in Laos and Thailand. From our discussions, we agreed that Miwa Charity English would sponsor a child from Laos. For only 10,000 yen, a Laotian (or Thai) child can attend school for a year. Armed with this powerful statement, my BOE (finally!) was convinced and inspired to support this worthy cause, and advised me to charge 500 yen per student. In a class of 20, my goal was to raise 10,000 yen and for all three classes, a total of 30,000 yen. Thus, we chose an annual donation of a one-year scholarship for three years. This allowed us to support the same student through his/her elementary or junior high school years.

Student Support All the Way!

I am proud to say that the idea of a Charity English class went well with my community and my students. My students ranged from age 6-60, of (very) mixed ability and levels of English. My English lessons were simple and lively. Nonetheless, I felt I was able to achieve my goals of charity teaching. Since everyone who registered for the classes knew it was for charity, I informed them of the purpose and regularly updated them about Minsai Centre.

Snowball Effect

My students responded eagerly to the idea of Global Education: teaching, learning and helping. It amazed them that for ONLY 500 yen each, they could both learn English and help a child go to school. I was also amazed that, with that amount, I could teach and learn about humanitarianism.

Although our last Charity English class ended in December 2000, I extended the idea of Global education in my town and junior high school. This time, with the help of my superior, fellow teachers and the Junior High School (JHS) Student Council, we decided to once again support Minsai Centre Tokyo with their children's education campaign in Laos and Thailand.

I contacted Ms. Takahashi again and she suggested we collect miswritten and used /unused postcards. 250 miswritten postcards is equivalent to 10,000 yen, a year's worth of schooling for a Lao or Thai student at primary or junior high school. With this information, Miwa JHS started a fundraising drive collecting cards. The student council appealed to the community by putting donation boxes in shops, the town office, the elementary schools, and even made a broadcast on local radio. A total of 1,728 postal cards was collected. The monetary equivalent was astounding!

Global Education in the Classroom

Charity teaching need not be limited to English class. It was also my hope to extend global education into Junior High School. Since we were learning about diversity, I felt my junior high kids also needed to learn about the plight of less fortunate children in developing countries. I used the example of Laos since that was the country Miwa Charity English elected to support. Since the JHS Student Council had already started their fundraising drive, my Japanese colleagues and I decided we'd incorporate this volunteer activity into a global issues lesson. Our 3rd year English textbook, New Horizon, contains a story "What's in our future?" which mentions volunteering via JOCV and JICA (Japanese NGOs).

The Laos campaign proved to be a great supplement to the textbook. With the support of Minsai Centre, which generously lent me videos, reports, posters and photos, we presented global and peace education.

First, background information on Laos was provided. The Laos study/work tour video was particularly interesting as it showed the "real" experiences of Japanese volunteers in Laos. Since the video was in Japanese, it was more meaningful to our JHS students. Afterwards, we asked them to write their impressions and personal reflections (in Japanese) about the video.

Then, we asked them to do a group project wherein they would make "appeal" posters (in English) replete with artwork and civic-minded slogans. We stretched this global issue lesson into three class periods. It was amazing how creative, and reflective the kids got, and I was touched to see some students, who normally dislike English, get inspired by participating in this project. The resulting works of art were impressive and proved that not only money and time can be given away as an act of charity, but also hearts and minds. My kids did just that.

The students' reflections (in Japanese) were very moving. I sensed that they realized how fortunate most of them are, living in a well-off country like Japan. Even though they're unable to do anything concrete now, the knowledge they gained from this "volunteer" activity was enough to make then realize that they are giving by being mindful of their peers' needs. They all expressed a desire to help. That in itself was global education in action!

Results of Charity Teaching

Through my Charity English project, with the help of Minsai Centre Tokyo, the students were able to sponsor a beautiful 11-year old boy named Soda, from Khammounae, Laos. With donated funds, Minsai Centre can offer scholarships for children to attend primary school from third to fifth grade. It is hoped that such educational opportunities will foster individual self-reliance and local community solidarity. Under the Darunee Scholarship Program, a child can go to junior high school in Thailand or to primary school in Laos for only 10,000 yen a year. Our Miwa Charity English generated a total of 30,000 yen and with this amount we opted for a one-year scholarship for three years. This allowed us to support the same student for 3 years of primary school years (Grade 3-5).

Miwa Junior High School also collected a total of 1,728 miswritten postal cards. The students were very excited that they could collect such an amount and that they could sponsor a child in Laos or Thailand. In fact, they could sponsor MORE THAN ONE child!

Recently, our school was interviewed by two newspapers - the Kyoto Shinbun and Asahi Shinbun. My kids were very excited to talk to the reporters about the campaign and their involvement. Such an awareness-raising scheme via the media is a positive action to foster responsible world citizenship. We need to get the message across that we CAN help.

Miwa Junior High School's 3rd year class recently went on a school trip to Tokyo and part of their itinerary included a visit to Minsai Centre Headquarters. That to me was a sure sign that volunteerism is alive and well in the hearts of the children. They came back with comments such as "I was impressed" and with the feeling that volunteering is tangible, doable and beneficial to their less fortunate peers.

An Invitation

Charity teaching can be done by anyone. One only has to remember three key words: teach, learn and help. To start a charity class, teachers should find a cause they want to support, establish contact and convey the idea to the students. Set a fee in advance, pool the donations and have it sent to the organization. Find a good venue, ideally free or arranged by your institution or Board of Education (BOE). You can also spread the message of charity teaching via global issues lessons in the classroom.

Fundraising campaigns such as collecting money, miswritten postal cards and used telephone cards also help raise awareness. Ultimately, a volunteer trip to the country being taught, learned and helped would be ideal. If not feasible, students can opt to send clothing or donate monetary funds. There are many avenues to implement charity teaching.

At the November 2000 Japan Association for Language Teaching (JALT) Conference in Shizuoka, I met a group of like-minded teachers committed to Global and Peace Education, and we formed a network to make charity classes a reality in our communities. I invite all of you to join us and consider becoming involved.

There are numerous ways to start charity teaching, and this is only what I have done. All of us can be creative in so many ways. We may want to offer FREE English lessons to our neighbors and peers, join a volunteer study/work tour, encourage our high school students to do charity fundraising drives, etc. There are many NGOs in Japan and abroad that we can contact. We need only be resourceful and, most importantly, driven!

As we teach our Japanese students English, they are in turn learning about responsible world citizenship. By volunteering time and money, both we as teachers and our students are helping those who don't have much. This may be the biggest impact we can have on them. Lastly, to quote poet and philosopher Henry David Thoreau, "One is not born into the world to do everything, but to do something." In our little worlds in Japan, we CAN make a difference in someone's life!


10 Tips on Fundraising
  • Know your cause - the more you can explain about it, the better. Focussing on a particular cause is a good idea at the beginning.

  • Check out Japanese aid organisations - these can be found in your local international centre, library, phone book or the Internet.

  • Be creative! Think of a range of activities - some will not be feasible so prepare plenty of alternatives.

  • Target your school and community - schools may be reluctant at first, non-academic circles are usually more responsive. Take your project to town!

  • Community action - involve as many people as possible. A good mixture of Japanese and foreigners is best, an opportunity for "internationalization" at a local level. Network! Phone, fax and e-mail like crazy.

  • Contact your local international coordinators (CIRs) - they can do wonderful work and have all the right connections, plus linguistic skills.

  • Get in touch with your local voluntary association - there's at least one in every prefecture. These are excellent for people-power, arranging venues and lending credibility to your efforts.

  • Spread the word - publicise! Local media interest always helps. Be prepared to travel around your prefecture. Encourage spin-off events!

  • Back to your school. Badger away, raise awareness, bear with red tape. It might take an eternity but it's worth it!



Information on Japanese NGOs
Reference Sites for Charity & Volunteering
  1. Minsai Centre Tokyo:
  2. Related chat group:
  3. Go Mad Volunteers:
  4. United Nations World Volunteer Web:
Related Articles on Teaching for Charity
  1. Teaching for Charity (John Small):
  2. The Banyan Tree: Volunteer Teaching to Orphans in Korea (Wade Nichols)

  3. Junaline Banez, International and Cultural Studies Course,
    Kyoto Gaidai Nishi High School,
    37 Naemachi, Yamanouchi, Ukyo-ku, Kyoto
    Japan 615-0074 Tel: 075-321-0712


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