Many of you will be aware of the magazine The Big Issue founded in 1991 by London social entrepreneur John Bird. If you have lived or spent time in Tokyo, Osaka, Sapporo, or Kyoto you will have seen the Japanese version of the magazine being sold by individual street sellers at train stations and major intersections.
The Big Issue was founded as a way for homeless people to regain self-sufficiency and self esteem, and has spread throughout the world including Australia, South Africa, Kenya, Namibia, and as of September 2003, Japan. Not a charity, the magazine was created as a business model to allow individual homeless people to earn direct income through the sale of the magazine. In Japan, the price is 300 Yen per issue, and the seller keeps 160 Yen of that as personal income. A great deal of effort goes into each issue of the magazine, so if you read Japanese, please do pick up a copy.
We like that they sponsor a soccer team of homeless athletes now called Nobushi Japan, a reincarnation of The Big Issue's previous soccer team that participated in the Homeless World Cup!In this event, soccer teams comprised entirely of homeless people from around the world compete to raise awareness of world poverty. As the homeless in Europe and some developing nations are often younger than the average in Japan, some of the participating athletes from those nations in the past have landed contracts with professional teams, making this a special event in more ways than one.
The current Big Issue Japan team was formed on January 20, 2008 to participate in the 2009 World Cup to be held in Milan, and has been practicing once every two weeks.
According to Moritaka Hattori, a staff member of The Big Issue and the person in charge of supporting team practice, "many people might want to tell them to get a job before they play soccer, but what the homeless people really need is hope."
Among people who become homeless, many of them have difficulty taking a positive outlook on life. Some of them suffer from serious cases of self-denial or distrust of others. Anyone has experience of losing trust in people at one time or another, but for the homeless it is a different order of magnitude. Watching the homeless people at The Big Issue, it seems that the ones who get back on their feet again are the ones who regain the ability to take a positive outlook on life. It is very important for the ones who have lost hope to develop the feeling 'I want to do something' or 'I want to change something.'
The team and other similar activities are supported by The Big Issue Japan Foundation, established specifically to tackle this need for developing hope. Other activities supported in Japan include a dance team and big band.
More important than providing the homeless with jobs is giving them hope for tomorrow and the motivation to move forward. This is the main reason why Nobushi Japan was created.
"The goal of course is to go to the Homeless World Cup, but more importantly, I'm just glad if everyone can have a goal," says Moritaka Hattori. "Anyone can join the Nobushi Japan Supporters group to support the team. Our stance is, if there is somebody who has the motivation, then let's do it together!"
(Photo: Members of Nobushi Japan from the right, Hirose, Sasaki and Fujita. The COLD PLAY issue was recently on sale here in Japan)
This entry was originally written on greenz.jp as part of Blog Action Day.