My Summer at RIJ

My Internship – Hina Washizu

Working at RIJ allowed me to realise the realities that refugees face every day.

screen-shot-2016-09-09-at-6-47-12-pmAlthough I do not pride myself for admitting this, before my time at RIJ, I couldn’t completely understand the refugee problem beyond the extent of the news articles and university lectures. It was not that I didn’t care for refugees and IDPs and their situation, rather it was that the information that I  sought out and was exposed to was broad and impersonal, and mostly political. I only read materials that explored the issues which were causing the refugee crisis, and rarely did I touch base on what happens to the people once they are forced to relocate. Through this internship, I feel that I have been able to make a great start to learning about the other side of the issue in an environment full of resources and plenty of interaction with staff, volunteers and interns. These months have finally let me realise the true severity of the crisis and the harshness of being displaced.

Throughout my time in the office, I was responsible for various tasks such as writing grant applications, corporate social responsibility research, updating country profiles and creating online fundraising platforms. But of all the tasks, what I enjoyed and learned from the most was collecting and summarising various beneficiary stories. I read countless reports of projects that RIJ has funded from every corner of the world, ranging from this past funding cycle all the way back to projects from the 80s. Not only did the reports teach me the various types of needs refugees and camps around the world lack, but it also let me see the real impact that RIJ funding has made. Although small organisations may have the reputation for having less impact, reading these stories made me realise how every little effort counts towards bettering the current crisis.

In addition to everything I’ve learned about refugees, I’ve also picked up a lot on how small NPOs operate. I had the chance to get an insight on admin issues like tax exemptions, upgrading the NPO status and how to interact with the Tokyo Metropolitan Government. To generate funding, small organisations may apply for grants, and Jane handed me the responsibility to write one in order to fund the Thai-Burma Border Community Project. With lots of research and time spent on this new challenge of mine, the application is now submitted and I have all of my fingers crossed!

When I first started at RIJ, Jane told me why raising awareness of the refugee situation to the Japanese public was difficult yet necessary. In an island country like Japan, the refugee crisis doesn’t directly affect our daily lives and as a consequence, the awareness level of refugee hardships is extremely low. I kept this in mind during my time at RIJ. 

As my first time working in the non-profit sector, I felt very welcome in the office, where my opinions and ideas were heard and I could choose to work on projects that interested me most. I hope that many of the Japanese public will have a chance to read some of the incredible beneficiary stories that are stored up in the RIJ office.

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