It wasn’t easy or usual for an ordinary to establish and operate a volunteer organization in Guangdong, and it’s even harder for a foreigner. But Harada Ryotaro did this.
Founded JIA association in China, Harada Ryotaro is also the first foreigner to win Top Ten Outstanding Volunteers of Guangzhou in 2009. Graduated from Waseda University, Ryotaro failed to find a job in Japan. Feeling desperate, he by coincidence came to China to help with Leprosy rehabilitation village, where lives with old people who survived from leprosies.
Harada Ryotaro(R)and an old rehabilitation patient
"Intellectually I knew they were not horrible, but I still felt scared when looking at the malformed people", Ryotaro recalled the first time he came to the village. "After being isolated from the society for a long time, they were afraid to meet strangers as well, let alone foreigners. Some of them even suspected my incentive, because I'm Japanese."
Though being introverted, Ryotarolet let himself to communicate with the old people. It wasn't easy, but Ryotaro regarded it as a chance to learn communication and to conquer the fear. Ryotaro helped to build toilets, mend roads for villagers. Gradually he gained the trust of villagers.
"Instead of helping them, I would rather say they help us younger generations more, in spirits.” Ryotaro said, "I knew a 90-year-old people affected by leprosy”in Panyu, who couldn’t walk upright due to after effect.
But this won't stop her passion for life. She loves alcohol, and she is even able to buy and drink boxes of white spirit."
Survivors from leprosies left to live in isolated villages
Rehabilitation patients are recovered from Leprosy, but with sequelae. Over 90 percent of them are of old ages. They got ill when young, but they were abandoned by relatives even after recovery, despite the fact that they were not contagious.
"They cannot choose where to live, but they can choose how to live. Most of them are optimistic, and actually only optimistic people can live that long," Ryotaro said, “They cherish person-and-person ties. Every time when volunteers come to visit them, they are happy like children.”
11 years had passed; Ryotaro now speaks fluent Chinese and settles down in Guangzhou with his Chinese wife. And "JIA" has turned into an association in charge of over 2000 volunteers with mature operations. Introverted Ryotaro are responsible for more things. He gave speeches in universities, in activities that can help him raise funds for his "JIA."
“And I found my mission as well, that's why I stay here. I was once isolated and even bullied by other children in Japan. But things have changed, I now speak in the public to raise funds, and I take up the responsibilities of the association and my family. The development of JIA isn’t smooth, but it is happening”, he said, "The most grateful thing is to find my beloved career and beloved people in China. I believe in destiny. I cherish these person-and-person ties that I own now."
Speaking for the future of leper rehabilitation village, Ryotaro hopes that the village can be protected as a social property, to blend in the neighbor communities. Some day when the old rehabilitation patients pass away, their positive spirit and braveness can still be remembered and to influence younger generations.
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