Global Fund for Education Assistance

I thought about my dream for the first time after entering a group home.

Akemi Nishizuka

Year of Participation : Second grade in high school

My parents were born and raised in Brazil. When I was small, they never stopped fighting. One day, my father did not come home. That is how my life with just my mother, my two younger brothers and I started. My mother did not speak Japanese, so it was difficult for her to retain a job. We fell into in an economically difficult situation. My stressed mother started being violent towards me daily. It was painful and hard, but I grew up thinking all other families were like ours. However, when I was in 8th grade, I secretly went to sleepover at my friend’s house and realized this was not true. My friend was also part of a poor single parent household with just her mother and herself, but they enjoyed each other’s company and were laughing together. This incident had a strong impact on me.

From then on, I could not accept my mother’s verbal abuse and started harming myself. I cut my wrists and took dozens of pills at once. It was an unstable period for me. A little before I entered 11th grade, my mother said to me “You will not be going to school anymore. You will start working.” These words scared me, and I left home the next day lying that I was going to my part-time job. That was the last time I lived at home. I asked my teacher at school for help. I was put under temporary protective custody and sent to a group home. The staff at the group home were positive and cheerful and I wanted to be like them. For the first time in my life, I was able to think about my future dreams.

Around that time, the group home manager showed me a BEYOND Tomorrow flyer and suggested to participate. I was unsure but decided to participate. When I shared my past experiences with my peers at BEYOND Tomorrow, everyone listened. For the first time in my life I felt that I was not alone. I was deeply moved and did not want to go home. The event had such an impact on me I cried on my way home on the bullet train. I then participated in BEYOND Tomorrow’s one-year “Endeavor” program for high school students living in group homes. I was overwhelmed by my peer participants and frustrated at myself because I could not speak up or share my opinions.

However, I did not forget that frustration and decided I would become someone that can share her opinion. I made efforts to verbalize my thoughts in my daily life. The following year I helped plan and execute Endeavor workshops and was proud to see how far I had come.

Through participation in BEYOND Tomorrow programs, I was able to clarify my dream of working at a group home and creating a safe space for children. I went on to junior college to learn about early childhood education. I was also given opportunities to think about social problems such as poverty through volunteer opportunities academically supporting children from overseas. Next spring, I will finish college and join the workforce. Just as I dreamed, I will start working as a staff at a group home. I hope to stand by the children’s sides and work towards creating a safe space for them.