Koji Ogawa: A life dedicated to helping children in poverty

Koji Ogawa: A life dedicated to helping children in poverty
PHOTO: The Japan News/ANN

OSAKA - In June, Koji Ogawa established a group in Tokyo to support children of families living in poverty and conduct field studies of such children. Usnova, a general incorporated foundation, will also make policy proposals.

"It's my divine mission to be involved in this issue," Ogawa, 50, said. He said he feels he must help deal with the reality that one in six children lives in poverty, as shown in a recent government survey.

On Ogawa's eighth birthday, his father was seriously injured in a traffic accident, which led to his death after seven years of confinement to bed.

His mother, who worked to repay the costs of his father's treatment, once asked, "Shall we die?" Still a child, Ogawa was brought to tears by his mother's words.

He said he wondered, "Why do I have to go through such a hard experience?"

Ogawa said he was saved by a scholarship programme for bereaved children. With the help of the scholarship, he was able to go to high school and university and realised that he was not alone.

Because of his experience, he said he hopes to "create a society that warmly embraces children facing hardship and raises them to be adults who can make people around them happy." He also aims to provide such children with school enrollment subsidies and other forms of support.

He worked for Ashinaga, an organisation supporting bereaved children, and helped bereaved children experiencing inner struggles as a director of the Kobe Rainbow House, which was created after the 1995 Great Hanshin Earthquake to support children who lost either one or both parents in the disaster.

Together with Ashinaga scholarship recipients, Ogawa has also been promoting activities to break the cycle of poverty, in which children from families living in poverty also fall into poverty themselves after growing up. Their efforts led to the enactment of the law on measures to counter child poverty two years ago.

This spring, he retired from Ashinaga and started a new career. "I will work on this issue my entire life," Ogawa said with determination.

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