Saving “Manhole Children” in Mongolia

Saving

“I want to try to create a better environment for children throughout the world,” Akiko Teruya commented in her interview with the Ryukyu Shimpo.


October 12, 2012, Ryukyu Shimpo

It was when Tomoko Teruya went to an exhibition on the “Manhole children” that she was inspired to do what she does now. After seeing this exhibition, she set up a non-government organization (NGO) called “Yuimaru” to support and manage an orphanage in Mongolia called “Children of the Sun,” striving to save these children so they can embark on self-dependent lives. At the Ryukyu Shimpo Office, she commented, “I want to change the situation of those children who are living in such extreme poverty and I’d like to see similar initiatives spread throughout the rest of the world.”

The exhibition was held at her old school, the Okinawa Shogaku High School. One of the pictures had words that touched Teruya’s heart: “A boy with a swollen face, bitten by a mouse.” When she read this, she felt that she must do something to help.

She went to Mongolia and visited the orphanage when she was a student at Waseda University. Reflecting back on that time she said, “The purity of the children touched me, and I decided that I wanted to dedicate my life to helping them.” In 2007, she founded the NGO and created a scholarship program to financially support the children in their future university studies. At that time, she was studying to become a lawyer in order to support them from the legal angle, but she struggled to find a balance between study and her work. That was when the Great East Japan Earthquake occurred. This disaster made her understand the unexpected ways in which life can suddenly change, and this realization led her to focus more on her work for the orphanage. She was surprised to know that when children at the orphanage found out about the disaster, within only a month, they raised six million yen and sent it to Japan. This made her feel stronger that she wanted to serve those children as much as she could.

The scholarship program has been running since 2008, and from May in 2011, they officially took over the management of the orphanage from another organization. Teruya, who was selected as one of the Global Shapers announced at the World Economic Forum in 2011, said, “Children are children wherever they may be born. I want to try to provide opportunities for them to make the most of the talent that they possess.”

A charity concert will be held on November 25 at Ishikawa Hall in Uruma. The price for tickets will be between 1000 and 2500 yen. Please call 050 (3736) 8012 to purchase tickets.

(English translation by T&CT, Kyoko Tadaoka and Mark Ealey)

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