On Aug. 21, our class visited Kibo no Sato in nearby Isahaya city. In the facility located in a quiet mountain area, some 50 mentally challenged people aged between 18 and 52 reside and learn skills necessary for living independently.
Here is an article written by one of our participants about the Kibo no Sato visit: “I may have had my fair share of pre-conceived notions of mentally disabled people before Kibo no Sato, but due to that eye opening community interaction, I will forever look at them in a different light. There was a slight feeling of tension among the group when we arrived at the facility. We were met by the employees, who were very friendly, and then lead on a tour of the facility.
The first building that we saw was the arts and crafts room. The residents seemed to be having a good time and welcomed us with curious fascination. I suppose it’s not every day they have about thirty people from twelve different countries come to interact with them. I was really surprised, as I’m sure at least a few others of our group were, at how readily and without any apprehension the residents came up to us. I was expecting them to be much more withdrawn and afraid of anything outside of their normal routine. During the tour, we learned that it was not just a housing facility, but actually a place for those with disabilities to learn and, for some, eventually be on their own in society. They are given skills which will help them get a job and lead a normal life on their own.
After the tour, we played some games with the residents. They were so happy and playful with us. As I looked around the room, I could practically see the faces of our group change from apprehension to compassion. Within moments of the first game, we began to understand that these people were absolutely no different from any body we might encounter on the street or in the grocery store. If anything, they are more kind and outgoing than the average stranger.
After a long day of awakening and fun, it was time to leave. I could tell that they were overjoyed to have had us. The question was posed later as to whether we might have influenced any of the residents in a positive way. To that question I have this answer. It was them and their pure and open hearts that influenced and changed us for the better. I know that many in our group really grew that day, and that none of us will ever forget them.” – Parker Kellen (USA)