We are currently in Kumamoto City and had the chance to visit the first and only Stork’s Cradle in Japan at Jikei Hospital. The Stork’s Cradle is a hatch at the hospital where you may leave your baby. When the door is closed, the nurse will be alerted that a baby is in the hatch and takes care of it. The baby hatch offers parents the possibility to give away their child anonymously.
There are supporters and opponents to the baby hatch. We had the chance to meet the founder of this program in person and were able to ask questions and to listen to his thoughts on this project.
I am convinced that giving a child away is not an easy decision for any parent. If you place your child in the hatch, you certainly have your reasons for that. And I am sure the parents do this to give the child a far better life than they ever could. I learned that it is not the best option to give the child away anonymously, but that it is an acceptable way to save the lives of babies. When you do not know the reason why the parents gave it away, you should not judge them. Just like you and I, every other human has the right to live.
February, 27th: The World Campus — Japan Class of 08 went to Minamata city, which is nearly two hours away from Kumamoto city by bus. This trip was especially arranged for the participants to learn about how pollution created the infamous Minamata Disease.
Minamata disease was caused by the high levels of methylmercury contained in the effluence released into the Shiranui Sea by the Chisso Minamata factory. The toxin accumulated in the tissues of fish and other aquatic life, which were then consumed by the local population. In the early 50s, villagers did not realize the severity of horrible disease but were merely laughing at those sick cats that were first poisoned by the polluted fish.
The laughter finally changed into somber sobs when the first human patient was diagnosed in Dec. 1953. Soon methylmercury poisoning was found in new-born babies because their mothers had eaten local seafood during pregnancy. Darkness and gloom enveloped the whole Minamata region. The disease did not only destroy people’s health but also shattered our trust in humanity.
Countless tears have been shed. The health and lives lost cannot be restored. We have learned this lesson with our visit to the Minamata Disease Municipal Museum and wish to prevent another such disaster from ever occurring again. Every participant in World Campus — Japan program is willing to pass on the message of the misery caused by pollution and the preciousness of life.
On Aug. 25, the class visited the City Museum for Minamata Disease as well as a glass recycling factory.
Located some 40 km south of Kumamoto city, Minamata city is known internationally for its tragic past. Due to the contaminated waste water from a chemical company which was dumped into the sea, many people in this coastal city suffered from severe mercury poisoning.
Today, Minamata city is one of the most environmentally friendly cities in Japan, having strict regulations on waste separation, and supporting many ecological businesses.
“I was so surprised to see how they recycle so well. I’ve got a very clear idea about how to recycle bottles and really wanted to take the idea back home. “Peace” and “Recycling” were two main issues I wanted to know when I decided to join the program. So far, I can say I achieved my goals. Thank you very much!” – Mary Ma (China)
We were also fortunate to visit Japan’s first “baby-hatch” on Aug. 27th. At Jikei Hospital, a local private hospital in Kumamoto city, we were able to take a closer look at the “baby-hatch”, or “Stork’s cradle” as well as talk to the director.The “baby-hatch” is a place where parents can leave their children anonymously if they are unable to take care of the child and has been a controversial topic ever since it was established in Japan in April this year. Upon our visit, the class was able to hear the director’s passion for saving innocent children’s lives from both physical and mental abuse by creating “Stork’s Cradle”.
“Dear Sir, I admire the courage to start the “Babyklappe” (German term for the concept) in Kumamoto. I think it is a great act of humanity to give parents and the infant child a solution to their desperate situation.” – Caspar Schwalbe (Germany)