Hayato and Sachiko stand together in a classroom.

Houkago NPO Afterschool: “Without this help, I could not have continued to work”

21 December 2020

When the COVID-19 outbreak first swept across Japan, 11-year-old Hayato worried about his parents working on the frontline as healthcare workers, and he was anxious about missing school. But the staff at Houkago NPO Afterschool were there to help – with guidance, support and creative play in a safe and protected environment.

Life changed dramatically for 11-year-old Hayato when the pandemic struck Japan. For a little boy who loves science, soccer and riding a unicycle, the irregular school days and the lack of interaction with his parents as they worked on the frontline left him feeling “extremely bored”.

“The nature of my job does not allow me to work from home,” explains his mother, Sachiko, who works at a care home for elderly people in a residential suburb of Tokyo. 

“My main job is to introduce care trainees to the care home, and the pandemic meant I also had to help protect our high-risk elderly residents. But I was very anxious about the risks of infection to myself, and also to my family.”

Like in many other countries, daily life in Japan was riddled with restrictions: “We couldn’t travel, we couldn’t meet family and friends and we couldn’t let our kids play outside,” remembers Sachiko. “We had to be very patient, but I wasn’t always able to help Hayato relieve his anxiety because I was so busy at work.”

Hayato rides a unicycle.

Houkago NPO Afterschool offered Hayato a safe environment in which to play, meet new friends and maintain a routine.

Barclays listened to our needs and extended excellent support for us to help thousands of essential workers, like Hayato’s parents, to continue to work amid the pandemic.

Kuniyasu Hiraiwa

Founder and Chief Executive, Houkago NPO Afterschool

Sachiko poses for a photo outside.

With Houkago’s help, Sachiko was able to continue working on the frontline during the pandemic.

Supporting families on the frontline

As schools closed across the country, childcare non-profit Houkago NPO Afterschool made a commitment to support the families most adversely affected by the pandemic, including frontline health workers like Hayato’s parents. Thanks to Barclays’ £100m COVID-19 Community Aid Package, Houkago – along with more than 370 charity partners around the world – were able to receive crucial funds at a time when they needed it most.

As a result of this support, the team at Houkago were able to offer meals to more than 5,000 children of essential workers, whilst training its 2,588 team members and volunteers to master the art of online schooling. This enabled an incredible 9,400 children to continue their education with confidence.

For Hayato, this was particularly welcome. He has been attending Houkago NPO Afterschool for more than four years, so the care staff already knew him well. Houkago has become an integral part of his daily life and, if this facility had also been closed, he would have felt even more anxious – especially as he understood the pressures being faced by his parents. “I knew they were having a hard time at their workplace,” he says.

The team at Houkago noticed that during the pandemic Hayato was finding it difficult to control his emotions, which also worried his parents. So Houkago NPO Afterschool allowed him to choose how he spent his time each day, without interfering in his decision.

Hayato decided to start with some handicrafts and, when he became interested in the craft materials being used, he started to explore the topic of sustainability. In the charity’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) programme, designed to help children learn more about sustainability and discover how to incorporate environmental habits into their lives, he was able to nurture his curiosities and connect with other like-minded children. 

“I was worrying that we would have to close down”

In turn, the non-profit has acknowledged the value – and timing – of Barclays’ funding support. “The COVID-19 pandemic totally disrupted our childcare operations, and I was spending sleepless nights worrying that we would have to close down,” said Kuniyasu Hiraiwa, Founder and Chief Executive of Houkago NPO Afterschool.

“Barclays listened to our needs and extended excellent support for us to help thousands of essential workers, like Hayato’s parents, to continue to work amid the pandemic.”

“Houkago NPO Afterschool is a prime example of responding dynamically and thoughtfully to a crisis. By using Barclays’ financial aid and our training programmes to rapidly upskill its team, Houkago NPO will be able to support more children on their education journey for years to come,” adds Kosuke Morihara, Country CEO and COO at Barclays Japan.

Looking back, Sachiko describes the relief she still feels at the help that was offered. “One of the reasons why we originally chose Hayato’s school is Houkago NPO’s after-school childcare,” she explains. “Houkago NPO takes good infection-prevention measures, so Hayato has been able to play in a safe environment. The organisation has also enabled him to maintain a routine, so that he can still focus when he studies, and he can enjoy playing. He has also made a lot of friends there.

“If Houkago had not kept its doors open, I could not have continued to work.”

Barclays’ COVID-19 Community Aid Package

Barclays has established a £100m COVID-19 Community Aid Package to support communities impacted by the social and economic crisis caused by the pandemic. It consists of two components: charitable donations to non-profit partners working in the communities where Barclays operates; and a commitment to match personal colleague donations to their chosen non-profits who are helping COVID-19 relief efforts in their communities.

Find out more about Barclays’ COVID-19 Community Aid Package.