Teochew is an amazing place 潮州是一个的神奇地方
Hello everybody, my name is Harada Ryotaro from Japan. In my view Teochew is an amazing place. Here I not only met a beautiful and kind woman who now is my wife and became the son-in-law of a family in Thenghai (in Mandarin Chenghai, a district in Teochew), I also found a group of lovable people whom I call family. Through them, I found my purpose in life and a mission to strive for. They are the residents of Leng’au (Linghou) Leprosy Recovery Village in Teo-ann (Chao’an) county.
A photo of me with a leprosy recovery centre resident 原田燎太郎与麻风病康复村的村民
My dream at first was to become a journalist 最开始我的理想是当一名记者
I graduated with a political science degree from Waseda University in Japan. My dream at first was to become a journalist, to help remove prejudice and unfairness in society. In order to gain social experience during my under-graduate days, I participated in an international volunteer work-camp and through this I was brought to Leng’au village of Gou-hang (Guxiang) town in Teo-ann, a former leprosy “epidemic area”.
Before the 1980s the approach adopted in China to deal with lepers was strict enforced isolation. Leper victims were made to live in special treatment centres or villages built in places far away from cities and towns, highly inaccessible and sparsely populated. Today most of these patients have recovered and are allowed to return to society. Consequently fewer and fewer remain in these recovery centres to receive rehabilitation. Owing to poor or lack of timely medical treatment in the past, many of these residents have lost productive use of their limbs through deformity from rotting or stiffening.
In the course of working to improve their living conditions and hygiene standards, I slowly realised through my interactions with the old folks in Leng’au that there were many valuable lessons I could learn from them. In facing the worst difficulties and pain in life, they opted to be strong and optimistic. They were not given a choice of where to live, but they chose to live in their own way where they were.
In all honesty, before coming to Leng’au I was a pessimist in life. I was highly introverted and shunned from the cold human relations of modern society. While working with other Japanese volunteers to build toilet facilities here, I got to know Mr Sou Tsing-khueng (Su Zhenquan), a highly optimistic and open-minded man, who was also very capable. He cherished life, and despite a pair of badly deformed hands, was able to make rattan baskets, rear chickens and cattle, and plant vegetables. He invited me to drink and chat, and there and then I discovered for the first time the joy of intimate sincerity. Even though Mr Sou passed away in 2008, I am still deeply infected by his optimism.
After returning to Japan, I spent half a year searching fruitlessly for a job I desired. Amidst my despondence, I thought again of my time as a work-camp volunteer. Subsequently I returned to Teochew and together with good friends started a work-camp devoted to Leng’au. In 2004 the Joy in Action (JIA, “家” meaning “home” in Chinese) work-camp volunteer organisation was established in Guangzhou, and I became the main person–in-charge. In the following year I married my Thenghai girlfriend Kiak-sang (Jieshan), and our wedding was held at the Leng’au Leprosy Recovery Centre where we met. In 2008 our first child was born, and we named her Leng’au.
回日本后整整半年，我都一直找不到自己理想的工作，就在迷茫的时候突然想起来了半年前的工作营志愿者生活。于是我又回到潮州，和好朋友一起发起了潮州岭后村工作营的工作。2004年，“家”工作营志愿者协会（JIA, Joy in Action）在广州成立，我也成为了工作营的主要负责人。2005年，我与澄海姑娘洁珊结婚了，婚礼就在我们最初相遇相识的潮州岭后麻风病康复村举行。2008年，我们的第一个孩子出生了，我们给她取名为“岭后”。
In Teochew I found love and family. 在潮州，我收获了爱情和家庭
Running JIA has been anything but smooth-sailing “家”工作营并非一帆风顺
Running JIA since its set-up has been anything but smooth-sailing. Besides constant financial pressure, we have to face endless questions from others. In the eyes of most people, engaging in NGO work entails low income and no prospects. In reality JIA has created work-camp opportunities for more than 15,000 volunteers in leprosy recovery centres and rural schools in Guangdong, Guangxi, Hunan, Hubei and Hainan provinces. More than 90% of the volunteers are from China. As these volunteers help to enhance the living environment of the leper recovery centres and reduce prejudice against leper victims in society, they in return grow through their exchanges with the elderly and experience the meaning of life. Because of all these accomplishments, we will continue to persevere in our call.
Foreign college students from Hong Kong and Singapore with a JIA undergraduate volunteer together at a work-camp in a recovery centre in Guangxi 来自香港的新加坡国际学校高中生和JIA工作营的大学生志愿者一起在广西省崇左市大新县岜关康复村开展工作营
About the author 关于作者:
Harada Ryotaro is the co-founder of JIA (Joy in Action), a Guangzhou-based NGO. It organises work-camps for groups of 20 to 30 volunteers to spend periods of one to three weeks in leper recovery centres in China or in their vicinity, eating and living together with the residents. Project activities carried out include facility construction (such as water, sanitation and housing), education, counseling , friendship building, home economics and social advocacy.
原田燎太郎是家工作营志愿者协会 (JIA, Joy in Action) 创办人之一。家工作营志愿者协会成立于广州，是志愿者为主的非营利性民间组织。“家”举办的工作营是一种志愿者活动。20-30名志愿者在营地中（麻风病康复村和周围社区）通过长达一至三个星期的同吃同住，一起从事项目，例如工程建筑（如引水、建厕所、建房屋等）、教育、心理、联谊、家政、社会倡导等活动。
You may be interested also to read earlier submissions for The Teochew Store "My Teochew Family Story Sharing"
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