Are you curious about voluntary projects in Japan or Japanese workcamps over the world ? Then this article might interest you. The World Wide Watch went to Osaka to interview a representative of NICE organization.
Hi, Nozomi, can you please introduce yourself to World Wide Watch readers ?
Hi, I’m Nozomi. I’m a staff of NICE Osaka office. NICE’s main office is in Tokyo, and my office is one of the regional office. I’ve been working here for about 5 years because I love nature and traveling abroad! 🙂
Can you give our readers a short description of what is NICE ?
NICE (Never-ending International workCamps Exchange) is a non-profit and non-governmental organization that organizes workcamps and other types of voluntary projects mainly in Japan and sometimes in other parts of Asia with our local partner NGOs. Workcamps are our main project. In workcamps, volunteers live together in a local area and work for the local community for 1 to 3 weeks. We also send Japanese volunteers abroad to 90 different countries and host international volunteers in our projects in Japan too. We have long term projects where volunteer can join from 1 month to up to 12 months, as well as very short term activities where we call them weekend workcamps, lasting for only 2 days.
“NICE has organized over 4,812 workcamps
the past 26 years”
Our aim is to achieve a healthy and colorful world where diverse ecologies, cultures, communities and personalities are harmoniously co-existing in good health and glittered by their own colors. So far, NICE has organized over 4,812 workcamps and has more than 65,389 Japanese volunteers who had participated in projects in Japan and abroad in the past 26 years.
How has NICE project started ?
When our president was 20 years old, he traveled around the world and joined an international workcamp in Poland. He found the workcamp activities very valuable, and so, he wanted to introduce workcamp in Japan. Then in 1990, in an Izakaya, he gathered 7 Japanese who also had experience with workcamp abroad, and NICE was found.
What’s the difference between the work camps in Japan and abroad, in terms of tasks and aim ?
80 percent of Japan is forest. Therefore, we have many projects related to forest restoration and environment protection as compared to other countries. Currently in Europe, there are more projects focusing about refugees, which is not a major topic in Japan. In some of our cultural projects, volunteers’ main work will be to assist in the local festivals versus in European projects, there are festival work as well, but also castle restoration.
“We’ve lead 131 workcamps in Japan
and 141 abroad in 2017″
Also, Japan is a country where natural disaster such as earthquake, tsunami, etc are more frequent than other countries. Therefore, we also have some workcamps in this area.
Compare to workcamps in other parts of Asia, such as Cambodia, Nepal, Indonesia, etc, we have a lesser percentage of English teaching projects as a whole.
What sort of projects is NICE leading at the moment ?
We’ve lead 131 workcamps in Japan and 141 abroad in 2017. For example in Osaka, we are working in the forest to conserve SATOYAMA forest to maintain biodiversity. SATOYAMA means Japanese traditional agricultural landscape which is like the one you can see in Totoro movie! In Kyoto, we’ve been organizing workcamp with organic tea farmers for almost 20 years! In abroad, for example in Indonesia, we have workcamp in a prostitution area to take care of kids whose parents are working in the area.
In how many countries does Nice have work camps ?
NICE is a member of 3 big networks of international voluntary service (NVDA, CCIVS, ALLIANCE). Each networks consist of NGOs similar to NICE but representing and organizing workcamps in their own country. Therefore, we are exchanging volunteers with these partner NGOs of the networks in over 90 different countries. Sometimes, NICE will organize specific bi-lateral workcamp with these partner NGOs as well. For example, we have been organizing workcamps in Sri Lanka with the local NGO for the past 6 years already!
How many Japanese volunteers participate to international work camp every year ?
In 2016, we sent 961 Japanese volunteers to workcamps abraod and hosted 2501 Japanese volunteers in our own workcamps.
What are the big steps for a foreigner who’d like to participate to a work camp in Japan ?
Foreigners should apply to workcamps in Japan through the NGO/NPO representative of their country. They are free to contact us for information about all the workcamps in Japan and also the contact information of the NGO/NPO representative of their country. Once they have selected a workcamp they wish to join, they can contact and complete the application form of their country’s representative NGO. Our partner will then forward the application to us.
Feel free to visit NICE’s website to get more information about the project and how to join a workcamp.