Japan nonprofit accepting stamps, postcards to help educate children in Bangladesh
NAGASAKI -- A donation drive by a Japan-based nonprofit organization to support the education of child laborers in Bangladesh is underway, and people can make a difference by sending in their miswritten New Year's postcards or stamps.
According to the Tokyo-based group known as Shapla Neer Citizens' Committee in Japan for Overseas Support, the economic effects of the global coronavirus pandemic have forced Bangladesh schools to close, worsening the country's problems for children being made to work as domestic servants or being forced to marry.
The group works with other organizations in Bangladesh to operate support centers in the country. By studying there, children find ways to get better jobs instead of being domestic servants, where the working environment is harsh, and gain the ability to speak their minds when parents and others try to force them to marry at a young age.
The campaign, which translates from Japanese as roughly, "Your postcard can help someone," is one of the largest of its kind in Japan, in which the value of unsent New Year's postcards and other contributions are redeemed to fund support activities. However, the group is facing hurdles as many people have decided to quit sending the cards in recent years, despite their status as a seasonal tradition in Japan. Also, for the first time in 42 years, the fee for exchanging postcards and other deliverables is set to increase this April, creating further difficulties for the group to secure enough funding.
According to the group, 10 donated postcards is enough to cover the cost of managing the center for one day. Twenty postcards cover a month's worth of reading and writing supplies. The group receives somewhere around 500,000 postcards every year. However, Japan Post's 5-yen increase in its exchange fee will translate into about 2.5 million yen (roughly $19,400) decrease in the donations' value. A representative said, "We fear this may result in the loss of around two years' worth of studies for 100 children."
According to a 2021 prefecture-by-prefecture survey on the use of New Year's postcards by the software company Sourcenext Corp., Nagasaki Prefecture tied with Tokushima for the top spot in the country, with around 80% of people sending them. A Shapla Neer PR representative said, "We look forward to working with the people of Nagasaki, who have such a strong interest in peace and who often send New Year's postcards."
The organization will continue to receive donations of undelivered postcards, as well as used or unused stamps, until the end of March. Donations should be made out to "Shapla Neer - hagaki campaign," and sent in an envelope to their address, found on their homepage at https://www.shaplaneer.org/english/.
(Japanese original by Takehiro Higuchi, Nagasaki Bureau)