CSR August / September 2010

NPO Helps Vulnerable Families

Home-Start International plans first Tokyo conference

We know a number of families in Japan have problems, as families do in all countries. Some here face disability, health problems, depression and stress. Mothers in particular can feel isolated at home with babies or young children and there are significant problems with poverty, child abuse and neglect.

Founded in 1973, London-based Home-Start International trains volunteer parents to help such vulnerable people. The energy, passion and commitment of the thousands of volunteers worldwide is very impressive.

Home-Start Japan, established in 2008, has shown extraordinary progress. It is always a challenge to establish a new Home-Start, which is not so well known as some charities with which I have worked, but no less impressive.

Supported by Home-Start International, the Japan chapter first had to recruit volunteers in a country with different traditions of helping others in need. They have overcome these challenges to make extraordinary progress by establishing themselves as an effective and impressive NPO offering life-changing support to vulnerable families.

Led by its chairman, Yasuyuki Saigo, a professor at Taisho University, the team has trained about 100 volunteers in 13 programmes in just over a year, and is planning to expand into dozens of communities nationwide.

After Prof. Saigo and the secretary-general, Yukie Yamada, attended the 2008 worldwide conference in Prague, the Czech Republic, they were so inspired by the training and support they received that they offered to stage a conference here. Japan is now getting ready to be the first country outside Europe to host what will be our biggest ever conference, in 2011.

The global conference is a wonderful event. At the last one, I was really excited about the amazing energy and enthusiasm of Home-Start practitioners from all over the world. Seeing them interact together, I realised that we have a huge amount to learn from each other.

Indeed, Home-Start reflects the cultures in which we work and nourishes cross-border partnerships. This support and friendship work in much the same way that our family support operates, providing friendship and information, building networks, counteracting isolation and building confidence.

The 2011 conference will feature a reception at the British Embassy in Tokyo, media events, public meetings and international speakers for delegates from some 22 countries on five continents.

Staging such an international event in Tokyo is a wonderful opportunity to raise our profile and highlight the amazing progress we have made. I hope to visit Japan in autumn this year to speak about Home-Start and explain how the conference will provide an excellent opportunity for firms to showcase their brands through sponsorship and to build their reputation for CSR.

For information on Home-Start and sponsorship opportunities for the worldwide conference: www.homestartinternational.org