Japan's first volunteer-run children's hospice to open in Osaka

Japan's first volunteer-run children's hospice to open in Osaka
Shin Okazaki.
PHOTO: The Yomiuri Shimbun

The nation's first hospice for children that is part of a local community rather than built next to a hospital is scheduled to open completion in Tsurumi Ward, Osaka, next spring, and for pediatric neurologist Shin Okazaki it will be a dream come true.

Okazaki, 44, wants the hospice to be "a second home for children and their families."

In dealing with children who suffer from intractable diseases for which there is no effective treatment, he realised that medical treatment alone is insufficient.

"I want children with intractable diseases to have quality time in childhood, without fears and worries," he said.

The hospice will be operated by volunteers and preparations are under way to select them before the official opening next spring.

A children's hospital in Britain gave Okazaki the idea of setting up one in Japan that ran on similar lines. The British hospice received donations and was run by volunteers. Sick children could play with their siblings, while their families were able to rest.

Since he learned about it eight years ago, he visited Britain to broaden his knowledge about such an institution. He became convinced that Japan needed a hospice where children could forget that they were sick.

On returning to Japan, Okazaki started to think about "what he could do." He began studying the types of "play" and "learning" that could be offered to children by visiting the homes of sick children with nurses and music therapists.

He also has started giving lectures at various locations and won the support of companies.

"What is needed at 'home' is not experts, but warm feelings like, 'If you are happy, I'm also happy,'" Okazaki said. He is continuing his activities to seek wider support for the hospice.

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