Friday, February 02, 2007

Lecture by Stefano Tsukamoto, Professor of Peace and Conflict Studies Tokyo University of Foreign Studies and National Director of Habitat for Humanity Japan Kanto International High School 31 January 2007

On the 31st of January 2007 Kanto International High School was priviledged to have a visit by Professor Stefano Tsukamoto and Kentaro Yamazaki from Habitat for Humanity Japan. Professor Tsukamoto gave a presentation to students in the 1st year and 2nd year of the Study Abroad Programme. Professor Tsukamoto's presentation consisted of two parts:
  1. A DVD explaining the history of Habitat for Humanity, it's mission, and the work it does
  2. A Powerpoint presentation explaining the causes of homelessness
According to Professor Tsukamoto, there are three main causes of homelessness throughout the world:
  1. Poverty
  2. War
  3. Natural disasters
Professor Tsukamoto gaves examples and showed pictures that illustrated each situation.

During the lecture students thought of some questions and following the lecture they wrote down their questions. The questions were answered by Professor Tsukamoto and Kentaro Yamazaki, Habitat for Humanity Japan Youth Programs Manager. The questions and answers are below.

Questions answered by Professor Tsukamoto

Takehito and Kakutei want to know:
What made you decide to work for Habitat for Humanity?

I like to work in the field. Habitat for Humanity is great grass roots work; for the people, by the people and with the people.

Takashi wants to know:
Did you take the photos that you showed us during your presentation?

Yes, I took most of the pictures. Only one picture came from a book.

Akira, Shoehei, Yusuke and Misuzu want to know:
Don't companies donate furniture for the houses that Habitat for Humanity builds?

Yes, many companies donate furniture TVs, refrigerators, etc.

Akira, Shoehei, Yusuke, Misuzu want to know:
When you meet people who have been helped by Habitat for Humanity, what seems to be the biggest thing that makes them happy?

I think that they have a house and they have a way to survive poverty.

Charles wants to know:
Do you think that matters such as poverty and homelessness should be handled by individual nations or UN organisations rather than private organisations such as Habitat for Humanity?

I think we have to understand that all of the people in the world must pay attention to the world poverty issue, not only UN, NGOs and donors. I would ask you to think about what you can do to end world poverty. I recommend that you gather information about the poverty situation thorough the HFH webpage. Also, please think about what Japan as a country can do. Do you think the Japanese ODA is the solution for poverty reduction?

Atsushi and Corinne want to know:
How many houses does Habitat for Humanity build each month and each year?

We made about 20,000 houses last year. The rate is 1 house per 24 minutes.

Jouta wants to know:
How many volunteers does habitat for Humanity International have?

I am sorry I don't have that data now, but HFH Japan has 700 volunteers every year.

Does Habitat for Humanity have branches in Korea?

Yes, we have an office in Seoul. This is the webpage of HFH Korea.

Saki wants to know:
What kind of activities does Habitat for Humanity do for refugees?

We are not doing anything especially for refugees, but we do something for them when they are going to be resettled. We help build their houses.

Is Habitat for Humanity spreading all over the world?

We have branch offices in 100 countries and 2408 affiliates. Yes, we are spreading. We are opening offices where ever people needs the decent housing.

Takurou wants to know:
Does Habitat for Humanity hold any events?

We do not hold events, but our supporters hold events for poverty reduction or housing construction in the world.

Ayano wants to know:
How many poor people are there in the world?

I have heard there are 1.3 billion people who do not have decent houses.

Nao wants to know:
Do Habitat for Humanity volunteers have to work hard?

Yes, sometimes they work hard and sometimes they enjoy leisure time with the local people.

Nao and Kakutei want to know:
How long have you been with Habitat for Humanity Professor Tsukamoto?

I have been working with HFH Japan for just 10 months. I worked for our government as a consultant (peace building) for 3 years. Also, I worked for 20 years with other NGOs for disaster response and post conflict rehabilitation and peace building.

Manami wants to know:
How many countries are helped by Habitat for Humanity?

We have branch offices in 100 countries all over the world. We have built 200,000 houses over 30 years. We built 20,000 houses last year because there were many disasters in the world, especially in Asia, like the tsunami.

Does Habitat for Humanity get any support?

Yes, we get a lot of from the business sector and churches.

Shamina wants to know:
How do you get people to help you?

In Japan, we have clubs in universities, like Aoyama Gakuin, Meiji Gakuin, Tokai University and Kanda Gaigo Univeristy in Kanto. We have more University clubs in Kansai. You can see more information in our webpage.

What do you think is the most important thing for world peace?

I think communication is the most important thing for world peace.

Emi wants to know:
What does Habitat for Humanity do to help the homeless in India?

We are planning to build 50,000 houses over 5 years. We have to collect donations to help them.

Corinne wants to know:
Why did you want to know about peace and conflict in the world Professor Tsukamoto?

I wanted to know about peace and conflict because I saw the real situation of WAR. It is nonsense! Human beings kill each other on this beautiful Earth. Don't you think so? Think about why God created Earth and put human beings on this earth.

Yui and Ayana want to know:
How long does it take to build a house?

It takes around 4 weeks to build completely.

Ryo wants to know:
Don't you use the money you get for things other than houses?

We are concentrating on building houses first, but we also build communities. That means we take a wholistic approach for community development. People need not only houses but also schools and hospitals and infrastructure.

Lisa wants to know:
What benefits come from the work of Habitat for Humanity?

I think it is the fullness of living for the people, the satisfaction of working with people. This is the meaning of volunteer work. Why do people work for companies? For the salary? Do you think you can get satisfaction from only a salary in your life?

Questions answered by Kentaro Yamazaki

Charles, Mika, Katsuhiro, Yui and Ryo want to know:
How can we join Habitat for Humanity?

Ans: You have already joined us because we met and communicated with each other. Please just let us know what you want to do .You may choose from the following activities: 1. Building houses 2. Raising awareness, and/or 3. Raising funds

Rina wants to know:
What conditions do we need to meet in order to be volunteers for Habitat for Humanity?

Ans: There is a variety of volunteers working for Habitat for Humanity, such as office volunteers in the Japan office, volunteers in the field, and so on. However, first of all, your enthusiasm is sought for Habitat activities. Basically, no special skills are not required.

Atsushi wants to know:
Is it OK for me to join Habitat for Humanity if I am a Buddhist?

Ans: Of course, no problem. Without regard to race, religion, or personal background, Habitat for Humanity works with volunteers to provide low income families with proper housing.
Katsuhiro wants to know:
What can I do?

Ans: To volunteer is to do what you can do. What do you have for us? Energy? Leadership? Money?? And/or anything else??? Our main activities as follows: 1. Building houses (outside of Japan) 2. Raising awareness (in Japan), and/or 3.Raising funds (in Japan).
Through these activities, you can make a contribution.

Kiyono wants to know:
Is it easy to join Habitat for Humanity?

Ans: It is not difficult to do it. You can be a great partner as long as you voluntarily and continuously work with us.

Ayana wants to know:
How can I join a Habitat for Humanity house building project?

Ans: Make your team of around 15-20 members with guardians (teachers) and apply to us. For detailed information, Please see the website:

In conclusion, Professor Tsukamoto had this message for the students:

Thank you every one of the students at Kanto International High School. I enjoy making the answers for you. I hope you start to THINK what you can do for poverty and homelessness in the world. I believe you can do something for them. Keep in touch and hope to see you again. Stefano Tsukamoto, National Director of HFH Japan

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