It was winter 2016 when I first visited Rainbow school. Since then, I have been a big fan, visiting there every winter. Captivated by the children, school environment and nature, this experience surely has shaken my values in my life. What was shocking was that we had to go and find food on my first day of arrival. In Japan or England where I currently live, we have too many choices on food whether you are eating out or shopping in the supermarket. In the area of Rainbow school, that was not possible and where we arrived was a swamp. There were pretty lotus flowers blooming in the water, whose stems were chosen to be our dinner. As soon as we arrived, children jumped in and began collecting the stems. Inspired by them, I also joined them, clumsily walking in muddy and slippery swamp and caught some of the stems. I remember how delicious it was seasoned with oyster sauce because we physically caught them by ourselves.
On that night after the evening briefing, children had a freetime. Children began to play with hands such as rock-paper-scissors and lasted almost 40min. If it was children living in a city, they would play with computer games or smartphones. But without these gadgets, children were simply using hands to play, which reminded me of my childhood memory.
From the first visit to Rainbow school, inspired by some activities they engage in, I also began to do something for the school while I was away. For example, children and teachers do street live on Mon bridge in the new year time in order to collect some funding. As soon as I came back to London, I also started street live playing the violin in the streets of London. Although it was bitter cold outside in January 2017, thinking about these children gave me a drive to continue playing. After a year of playing in the street, I saved almost $2000 to go back to Thailand next winter. Usually I wouldn't have imagined myself doing street live but that year gave me an opportunity to try something new as well as learn that strangers can be kind and giving, thanks to Rainbow school.
Moreover, I began to feel that I want to teach something from my experience as a dance performance artist. When I went back in 2017, I brought some props and materials with me for them to dance with, which were enjoyed from younger to older children. In 2018, I made a dance film called “We Belong” with children. Due to their stateless situation, they have no nationality nor IDs, which don’t allow them to travel or even leave where they are without permission. I hoped if the dance film we created traveled for them and gave them hopes and dreams. The film has been screened in the USA, Canada and England so far.
Rainbow school has become almost like my life purpose, of which reasons are many. Firstly, due to statelessness, they have no such future opportunities that other children could have. This fact is hurtful and unacceptable. Even in the 21st century, I found it severe to have such children who are marginalised and treated unequally. As a Japanese person and a global citizen, I feel responsible to do something about it. Secondly, it is vitality and life of the children and people living locally that inspire me. Even though their situation is harsh, living away or without parents, they are fundamentally bright and strong. Of course, there are times when they feel down or want to cry. However, their eyes have spark that many people in developed countries have lost. The spark represents to me beautiful souls that know what is important in life. We, as a collective human, have created an ideal urban environment to live, that we had desired for a long time. In that environment, we can easily transport with trains and cars, plentiful choices in materials and foods, shiny hygiene houses and medical systems that could cure many diseases. But does that make all of us truly happy? How many of us are not satisfied, complaining about every possible aspect that is not “perfect”? Until my mid 20s, I lived feeling something missing in my life. And even life in this kind of environment didn’t allow me a space to ask myself questions about what they would be, spending time on TV and the internet. I didn't face some important questions in my life.
In 2018, I had a chance to help the rice harvestation. Using the traditional knife, I felt slightly behind and frustrated as other children were good at doing it. Under my own pressure, I cut my little finger quite deeply, which ended up bleeding badly. Soon after, Aun ran to a nearby stream to get some medical herbs and applied to my cut. The pain disappeared in 5 min. I was touched by his kindness and knowledge that he learned from the land. I think it is a sign of having mental space when someone shows empathy and compassion, and acts immediately. Every visit, I discover mental richness in people there, which doesn’t correspond to material richness. Although I go there to help and teach the children, it was me who has been helped and taught something really important.
Lastly, I would like to show respect to Tomoko, Yusuke and teachers who support and teach these children. I only experience a tip of the iceberg when I can stay for a few weeks only every time. In reality, I believe there must be much more work to be done with immeasurable patience. And hat off to these people at Rainbow school who protect and nurture the children with smiles and love. I have a message to those who are reading this right now. Please visit the school. Please spend time with children and teachers. Please take a deep breath in the foggy morning in the lush forest there. Please look up at the sky with children sitting around the fire. I am sure you notice something deep and meaningful that cannot be expressed by words. Thank you.