SOCIAL SERVICE AND THE BELIEF IN HUMANITY
We lived in Japan and felt the strong sense and impact of sacrificial service and belief in humanity. We were invited as outstanding young persons, but we felt that the Japanese people, especially the members of the Junior Chambers International in Osaka, were outstanding in the premium they placed on social service. I found myself in the midst of senior corporate executives, enterprise owners and busy social service experts who continued to schedule their time to shepherd us around to fully experience the Japanese society. I know that there is a great difference between the economic well-being of Japanese, as against a country like Ghana. But it is important to note that this is so because the Japanese people were entrepreneurial and most of those I met had their own businesses. Even for those who were in mainstream civil service, they had plans to develop an enterprise of their own and secure their economic future. It is my deduction, from what I observed, that the average Japanese was seeking to work more and establish more for the achievement of social fulfilment than because of economic sustenance. Most business enterprises owned by my hosts, were borne out of need to solve social needs and plug holes cultural practices (eg. Social Welfare Homes for the aged, Traditional Tea Clubs, and Traditional Story Telling Company). This means that we could achieve the dual objective of making economic gain whilst at the same time solving social problems; which underlies the principle of social entrepreneurship. Japanese young men and women know this so well and I believe that Ghanaian men and women (and our country) could gain a lot if we started looking at such enterprises.
When I spoke to my Japanese friends about my desire to get a PhD in the near future, the surprise on their faces suggested to me that, probably the average Japanese did not crave for higher academic progress. Maybe because those academic laurels were not the main determinant of whether you are economically independent or not. This observation no way belittles the high calibre academicians responsible for the technological prowess of Japan. In Ghana however, gaining higher education has somehow become a social expectation, even in business, in order for one to gain economic independence. I dare say that the other option is politics, which has become very popular among Ghanaian youth. The reverse was true in Japan. Throughout my stay, I rarely saw political discussions, except when there was the international news. Most of the time I saw discussions on food, entertainment, culture and technology, especially when Tokyo was voted to host the Olympics 2020. There was very little room for politics, even for such an advanced country. This focus on society, people and culture emphasizes the premium that Japanese place premium on Social Service and People.
There were a number of personal experiences that validated this. Starting from when Hiromi Yamaguchi tried to rally all my PCY friends to come meet me, including the wonderful gesture by Prof. Taniguchi to drive 30 minutes in her mournful mood to come see me with presents, Mr. Kanazawa and Mr. Kojima’s efforts to make me feel at home with Japanese Wasabi (spice), Mr. Daisuke Koga’s offer to go to great lengths to show me round Tokyo and the mind-blowing opportunity to meet not just the Prince but also the Princess of the Imperial household. All of these were there highlights of value for people. It has re-enforced my own believe that there was greater reward investing in people than in materials. Japan has obviously invested in its people, entrenching national pride and optimism in its people.
The imperial couple, Highnesses Naruhito and Masako had taken time off their busy schedules to meet five young people (Srean Chheat, Dennis Penu, Melissa Yeung, Richard Sandlin and Kythzia Barrera Suárez) who have devoted their time to try brighten the corner where they were; doing little things with the aim of effecting change. These are the motivations volunteers all over the world need. At every level, in every corner of the globe, national leaders and stakeholders should look out of their comfort zone to acknowledge those who work (sometimes without adequate motivation) to make the lives of other people better. It is such practice that makes volunteer work popular in the developed world but shunned in the developing world.
I end this series with much gratitude to all those who have motivated me to put these experiences, thoughts and practices in writing. These are mostly opinions formed from my experiences and which communicate the lessons I learned from this worthwhile journey into the land of Japan on the auspices of the Junior Chambers International in Osaka.
I learn to share; I ‘develop to develop’.