Last Saturday Almond Community Network (ACN) co-sponsored a seminar and panel discussion in conjunction with the Kanagawa Prefecture Youth Center (Kanagawa-ken seishōnen sentā) to address the problem of social withdrawal (hikokomori). We organized it around the theme of “Reaching out to make connections,” and the event left many of the participants feeling energized and inspired.
For the youths who have withdrawn from society it may seem that time has stopped. Our hope is to get time moving again for them by forming institutional alliances that will create new environments to support them. Our goals are to establish personal relationships that encourage the socially withdrawn to step out of their homes and to create safe environments where they feel comfortable interacting with others. As a first step toward achieving these goals we made a proposal to the Kanagawa Prefecture Youth Center to host the seminar as part of its “Regional program to promote the understanding of social withdrawal.”
Participants in the seminar and panel discussion included a wide range of people with direct connections to youth-related problems, such as parents with children in their teens and twenties who have dropped out of school or are suffering from social withdrawal, parents of children with disabilities, and former “Neets” (not in education, employment or training) and school dropouts who are now in their twenties or thirties. Participants also included local government officials, school officials, staff of child consultation centers and child support centers, managers of kindergartens, volunteer community social workers, volunteer child support workers, staff of social support organizations, staff and managers of support facilities for the disabled, psychological counselors, mental health service counselors, and university faculty members. As always many of ACN’s supporting members (sanjo kaiin) also attended to lend a hand and to show their support.
We will host a second seminar on Wednesday, September 18, at ACN’s Kitayamata Aruku headquarters where participants of the first seminar will set sail on a voyage to begin providing support for socially withdrawn youths. We aren’t waiting until September to get started, however. During the summer break in August we plan on meeting with children and youths who have dropped out of school or withdrawn from society.
Thanks to everyone who made the first seminar such a big success!