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February 2003 - Issue No. #49 (p. 10-11)

Serving the World as an English Teacher

by Adam Beck

Starship Hiroshima, Japan

Adam Beck shares his experience of raising donations for underprivileged children through a program of benefit English classes called Sadako's School in Hiroshima, Japan.

Christmas Eve, 2001. A large room at a small school. Dozens of excited children. Santa Claus and his sack of gifts. The children tearing open their presents. An incredible, infectious joy.

This scene could have taken place anywhere. But it took place at the Children's Shelter of Cebu, an orphanage in the Philippines, where many of the children had never received a Christmas present before that evening. A small, smiling girl dubbed Princess Apple, who was found abandoned at the port of Cebu and whose background - including her real name - is unknown. A shy, sweet boy named Al Bryan, whose parents had died in poverty. A bright, talented girl named Eralyn, whose father was in prison and whose mother neglected the children. 70 children, from babies to teenagers, each one with a background that was terribly sad, and yet they gave expression to a joy so spirited that it felt like I, too, received a remarkable gift that night.

I had come to Cebu to visit this orphanage after teaching a short-term English class, for adults, in Japan in which the students' fees became donations to support underprivileged children. The money we raised was shared with two children's organizations: Hiroshima Nyujiin, a children's shelter in Hiroshima, and the Children's Shelter of Cebu. During the course of the class, we had "met" many of these children from the Philippines through letters and photographs - and we were moved by their stories - but I was simply unprepared for the shock of compassion I felt when I spent Christmas Eve with these children. And I became convinced that the benefit work I was embarking on - work that brought me no monetary reward - offered a reward that was far more precious. It offered me the opportunity to serve the world - to positively impact the world - in a small, but crucial, way.

To be honest, my feelings on serving the world will sound somewhat paradoxical. On one hand, I realize it's arrogant to believe that I can really have much impact on the world through my actions - especially, when I view my own lifetime in relation to the lifetime of the universe itself. If humanity as a species is little more than a wink in the life span of the universe, then my own life span is barely a sparkle in that winking eye.

And yet, on the other hand, here I am. Here I am, right now, living out my little lifetime, and somehow I instinctively feel that I'm charged with a responsibility to do what I can, however modest an impact I might ultimately have. I sense an innate obligation - as a human being, and particularly, as a human being who has been blessed with a comparatively privileged life - to use my energy and ability for something beyond bringing benefit largely to my own brief lifetime.

By providing needy children with greater support, not only could we help better the lives of children living now, we would positively impact the future of the world itself. After all, the future of the world will ultimately be forged by the children of today, thus through them - and the generations that rise after them - our influence on the future will extend well beyond our own lifetimes. As someone wise once remarked, "You should constantly be aware that your impact on a single child may affect a multitude of others a thousand years from now."

Since that first benefit class two years ago, my work has grown into a nonprofit organization called Hiroshima Starship, based in Hiroshima, Japan. Through a variety of programs in education and the arts, this organization seeks to raise money and materials to support underprivileged children, both in Japan and overseas. (At this point in its history, Japan may be a relatively wealthy country, but there are still a significant number of needy children here, too.)

One of our programs - the benefit English classes - is called Sadako's School and this program is now expanding to include teachers in other parts of Japan and in other parts of the world. In fact, my long-term hope is that Sadako's School will ultimately have a fair number of teachers leading benefit classes in their own communities, at any given time. (Teachers are responsible for developing and delivering their own classes, but our base in Hiroshima can provide solid support to help make these classes a success.)

If you feel a yearning to serve the world in a new way - by providing support to underprivileged children both locally and internationally, while, at the same time, raising the awareness of your language students in regard to global issues - I would be happy to offer you the opportunity to do so through Sadako's School. I encourage you to learn more about Sadako's School and about Hiroshima Starship by visiting our website. And if you'd like to discuss the possibility of teaching a class for Sadako's School at some point in the future, please feel free to contact me at any time.

I can also offer lively presentations about Sadako's School and Hiroshima Starship - in either English or Japanese - and I would be eager to come to your community to share my work with you. Feel free to contact me.

Teaching a short-term English class for Sadako's School can be an extremely rewarding experience for both you and your students. At the same time, your class is engaged in studying interesting, meaningful content, the money raised through your students' donations are used to help underprivileged children. The commitment to teaching a class is small - just once a week for three months - but its impact on the children you support will quietly reverberate on into the future. And, quite possibly - to paraphrase another wise speaker - "the world may be a little better because you were important in the life of a child."

Adam Beck's Starship Hiroshima website has now closed He is currently working on a new children's "Peace Newspaper" project in Hiroshima, Japan. For more information, contact him at his e-mail address below or check out the following websites:

Adam Beck (E-mail:


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Kip A. Cates, Tottori University, Koyama, Tottori City, JAPAN 680-8551
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