Global Fund for Education Assistance

Student interview: Collapse of an ideal family – Envisioning a bright future after overcoming the past hardship

Mr. Taniyama’s parents divorced when he was in high school. He had a very difficult time due to the court trial and having to move. Though he felt as if his happy life was being destroyed all at once, he was able to change his feelings into positive energy after joining BEYOND Tomorrow. What did he realize after he joined BEYOND Tomorrow?

A very normal and happy family was destroyed all at once… I could not get that negative image out of my head when I was in high school. 

At Orientation on March 2019

Could you please tell us about your background?

I have grown up in Osaka since kindergarten. There were four people in my family: my father, mother, me, and my sister, who was two years younger than me. However, when I was in the first year of high school, it became clear that my father had a relationship with another woman. My mother told me about it with tearful eyes… I still vividly remember that my sister, who was in the second year of junior high school at that time, stood crying next to me.

I was really shocked and felt anxious at that time, and some thoughts such as “What should I do to go forward?” or “What will happen with us after this?”, came up to my mind. After that, my parents started to fight very often. The fights sometimes escalated, even in the middle of the night, and I sometimes woke up because of the yelling during their fights. I called the police to stop them. I could only feel fear at that time. Then, after a while, my Dad left home. After that, my mother brought my dad to court and the three of us moved to a place where he could not find us. Up until then, however, I was in a normal and happy family. I went to a high school, did club activities, got clothes, played games, and had delicious food every day. But it all fell apart at once. 

How did you feel about your father?

I really want to ask my father “How could you do such a thing?”. Yet, another idea, “just as I suspected…”, was also in my mind. From the beginning to third year of my high school, when my mother and father had been fighting intensely, I was always worried and thinking like “Has Dad found out our home?” or “Has he done anything to Mom?”. Even during my classes, I could not get rid of those negative thoughts out of my head.

BEYOND Tomorrow has a good environment where you never have to feel embarrassed and can say what you want to say.

Can you tell us how you got involved in BEYOND Tomorrow?

It started with a poster I saw at school. An introduction of BEYOND (BEYOND Tomorrow) was included in a poster about scholarships. A very close friend of mine asked me “Why don’t we apply for this?”. What caught my eyes the most were the scholarship not necessary to be repaid, and the leadership development program. I decided to apply considering it a great opportunity to be able to receive a scholarship and also join a leadership program.

I see. So you found BEYOND Tomorrow by a word of your friend!
Could you tell us your impression when you participated in BEYOND Tomorrow?

First of all, it was very good for me to think about the assigned topics for the first test in the application process. The assignment was to write an essay about “my background”, “what I worked hard in high school”, and “what I want to do in the future”. I was able to reflect with a broader perspective on what I have been doing so far and from my background. It was particularly good for me to review the difficult events and moments I have experienced for the first time. When I joined BEYOND, I had a gut feeling that I would not be ashamed to say anything, and I would do my best.In fact, at the very first meeting, each participant had a “background sharing” time to share their experiences. There were some participants who could not digest to talk about what has happened to themselves on the spot. But I felt very passionate about hearing things like “I want to do this” and “I want to be this”. Being here makes me I want to do something and to move forward. While sharing my background and exposing the other side of myself that I can’t usually share, I realized this was the place where you could freely expose yourself and recognize everyone’s sympathy. It is not something you can talk with a person you meet for the first time, but can do with your friend, and that is BEYOND. I was also inspired by my senior colleagues. I got a lot of energy from their stories they shared with me such as “I’m doing this now” or “I’m aiming for something like this”.

Local school visit at US Summer Program 2019 (center of photo)

Why do you think you can open yourself up?

I think that there is “a sense of security” that people listen to me even if I share with them my background. The people who come to BEYOND have gone through some hard feelings and experiences. That’s why they understand me. I think that is what is different from talking to your friends. If I tell my story to friends, they would say something like “Are you okay?” or “I’m sorry to hear that”. What do they mean? I don’t feel sorry for myself. When someone said “I’m sorry,” to me, I feel like I’m coldly pushed away and my whole situation is cleared up in the word. I then can’t speak any more. On the other hand, sometimes I feel sorry when I hear the story of a person I meet in BEYOND, but I don’t think it’s something you should say. I think there is a sort of philosophy in BEYOND that we all move forward, driven by adversity rather than console against each other. 

It is BEYOND’s colleagues and seniors who taught me to listen without bias and take initiatives.

Sharing his own experience to the Summit 2019 participants

Have you felt any changes within you since joining BEYOND Tomorrow?

There are two changes. Firstly, I no longer look at things with bias. Every member of BEYOND Tomorrow has a different personality and comes with different backgrounds, against which the old me may have held a bias. However, having joined BEYOND Tomorrow and through listening to everyone’s stories, all within the accepting atmosphere of BEYOND Tomorrow, I feel I am now able to listen carefully and accept the views of others. This is a significant change within me. For example, while watching the news I find myself wondering with curiosity about each topic and contextualizing them, rather than simply judging them with agreement or disagreement. By thinking this way, I find myself realizing many more things. Secondly, I learned the importance of being proactive. When I had the opportunity to participate in the Summer Program in the States, I somehow felt less fulfilling than the first time I participated in the same program. So, I consulted a close colleague of mine from BEYOND Tomorrow, someone who has always been very good to me. Through that conversation I realized that I was just saying “I see…”, and accepting everything in the program as is. I realized I wasn’t forming my own opinions of what I would want. After coming to that realization, I find myself thinking “how do others think?”. Through this, I learned that the same experience could influence me in different ways depending on if I am proactive with ownership, or reactive as an recipient.

How would you describe the members of BEYOND Tomorrow that have influenced you to find your own ways?

It’s slightly different between my same-age colleagues versus those more senior and experienced. My senior colleagues provide me with a lot of energy. They lead by example. On the other hand, there’s a kind of rivalry among us same-age peers, but we work well together through friendly competition. I dare not say it, but there’s a part of me that always thinks “I am ‘BEYOND’ them”, in a good way. No doubt though, both peer groups are definitely a huge source of inspiration. Plus, the fact that we have peers all across the country means a lot as well. Some of the senior colleagues have studied abroad to countries, such as Columbia or Indonesia, and it’s great to be able to hear interesting stories from their overseas experiences. Thanks to joining BEYOND Tomorrow, I’m able to show my true self and meet friends that can inspire each other.

Any memorable experience you can share from the programs you’ve participated?

I joined the program in fall as a leader. Participants in the scholarship program spent time with 60 high school students from all over the country. The end goal was to work together in turning an idea into a proposal. Initially it was hard to lead high school students that I had only just met, but we gradually united as a team after spending time and sharing each other’s backgrounds. I personally think we became a good team. We also did well on making our proposal. Thanks to this experience as a leader, I find myself getting less nervous than I used to. I feel that the experience has helped me gain self-confidence. In fact, not only this program but participating in various other programs have helped boost my self-confidence compared to a year ago. Financial support I get by joining BEYOND is important, but I feel the experience gained by participating in these programs is more valuable.

I Want to Commercialize My Grandparents’ Rice!

Proposal presentation on the last day of Summit 2019 (far right)

Finally, tell us about your dream and your current thoughts?

Before joining BEYOND, I didn’t really have a clear vision or a clear idea of things I want to achieve. But it (experience through BEYOND) gave me many opportunities to reflect on myself, and I’m now able to think more positively about my future. Now I have a dream to commercialize my grandparents’ rice production, and get it to market while I’m still a student! My grandparents live in the countryside of Tottori prefecture, and they always send me their rice. Plus, they send money to my family every month, and call us to check in on us. I love them dearly and want to do something to show my appreciation. At this stage, I’m not really sure about my big dream further into the future. For now, my goal is to help re-vitalize villages and regions of Tottori where my grandparents live. Hopefully I’ll have an even bigger dream after I build up a lot of experience out there! Lastly, as I look back, I feel that there is always someone to help. BEYOND was the help for me. My message to those of you that have gone through hardship or a painful past, and something I shall never forget myself, is that “everything is going to be okay, as long as you live, smile and eat!”

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