Disabled people provide eldery-care services
Ajisai (hydrangea) is a local welfare business center, located in Matsudo City (Chiba Prefecture). The center mainly provides a day-care service for elderly persons under the Long-term Care Insurance System. In addition to the care service, the center also runs a job training station/program for people with disabilities. The training station helps people with mental disabilities or difficulties to be socially involved (“hikikomori” or “NEET”) to live independently through a combination of medical, daily life, self-support training, and employment transfer support. The job training program is financially supported by Chiba Prefecture; it is designed to provide a four-month care training to people with a slight mental disability, and they can obtain an introductory caregiver’s certificate after completing the program (25 people with disabilities have so far obtained the certificate through this program).
In “Ajisai”, those who graduated from the job training station/program are working as caregivers to the elderly. Now there are 19 worker members in “Ajisai”; among them, six members have mental disabilities or difficulties to be socially involved, while eight members are elderly persons of 60 years and over. Also, about 20 local residents support the care center as volunteers.
Ms. Fumie Kobayashi, who manages “Ajisai” had worked in various care centers but was disappointed with the treatment meted out to the residents. She says, “Our center is unique in that people with disabilities whom we train are employed as caregivers to the elderly. This empowers the individual and gives them the confidence to stand on their own. Here, it might be difficult to make a distinction between caregivers and care receivers. Instead, you can see the mutual support being provided by the caregivers (person with disability and elderly persons) and the care receivers (elderly persons) to each other!”
Disadvantaged people operate cleaning services
WORKERS NET RINGS (WNR) is a local welfare center providing street cleaning service, house clearing service, various services in childcare centers, and so forth. The manager himself is still struggling with alcoholism. He was divorced from his wife due to his alcoholism, and was also separated forcibly from his daughter, while having no occupation. He says, “I got money even by doing nothing when I was a welfare recipient…but I am here now, and working, maybe because I want to maintain my ties with a society…Even in the darkness, I want to share hopes with others…”
Then, he became a member of JWCU in 2011, and everything has changed. Our working style—“associated work”—allowed him to work in cooperation with colleagues, and thus to regain social relationships with others. He quickly became a professional clean worker, and a leader of the WNR.
Under his leadership, the WNR receives anyone who wants to work, aiming at developing into the workplace that “no one is excluded”. Indeed, their working members include those who are suffering from various difficulties (mental disabilities, alcoholism, Asperger syndrome, drug dependence, HIV, etc.,) and also ex-prisoners, ex-homeless, “NEET” and “Hikikomori”, and so forth.
Linking people to nature, again
Next Green Tajima (NGT) is a worker cooperative located in Toyooka City (Hyogo Prefecture), and conducting forestry management and other related businesses. JWCU currently runs four forestry projects throughout the country—all of them are managed by worker cooperatives.
In Japan, forest industry has dramatically declined over the past decades; today few young people become involved in forestry businesses, while most of forestry workers are getting old. In Toyooka City, too, there are many mountains and forests that are left by their owners.
In 2009, JWCU created a program called “Youth Support Station” in Toyooka City, which was government funded. This station provided a combination of medical, daily life, self-support training, and employment transfer support for young people who not only suffered with poverty and unemployment but also had difficulties to be social involved. In 2012, JWCU also launched another job training program particularly focusing on forestry management; a young person who had been a user of the “Youth Support Station” participated in it. Next year, NGT was established by graduates of the job training program.
Today, there are five worker members in NGT; some of them worked as temporary or non-regular workers before, while another member was a user of the “Youth Support Station”. Also, there is a young female member having a small child. Their businesses include forest management (yamamori), the sales of wood-burning stoves/boilers, beekeeping, small-scale agriculture such as mushroom cultivation, and so forth. With the strong support from local residents, five members of NGT are earnestly working on the project of community development centering on forestry management towards a common goal of creating a society in which foods, energy and the care are self-sufficient and recycled.