Heart Full Family

Heart Full Family, a General Incorporated Association, provides comprehensive self-support activities for single mothers and single fathers, helping single parents and their children lead vibrant social lives. In this interview, we spoke with Nishida-san, a board member who was the driving force behind the establishment of this organization and continues to play a central role in its operation.

How did you decide to start the Heart Full Family?

Based on my own experience as a single mother and my involvement with single mothers, I had been considering tacking the fundamental problems of single parents. I also felt that obtaining a "stable job" and "rewarding work that reflects the results of one's efforts" would help to solve many problems that single-parent families face, and that support to promote their financial independence was not enough.

It is extremely difficult for a single parent to work full time while caring a child. The average annual income of single parents is one-third of that of an average family, and 70% of single-parent families earn less than 2 million yen a year. There is still a lot of prejudice against single-parent families on the corporate side and little support provided, which makes it very difficult for them to obtain stable work.

When I became a single mother myself, I had no other choice but to start my own business. I hired single mothers and counseled them. Although I was able to listen to their stories, I was not able to solve their problems. I felt so helpless. There were times when I was so depressed by my own powerlessness that I stopped listening to their stories.

In addition, information on government support is hard to find and the procedures are complicated, requiring a lot of time and efforts. This sets a bar too high for single mothers who struggle with daily work and childcare and do not have enough time to sleep.

From what single mothers told me, I realized that this situation had not changed at all even several years after I had finished raising my own child. I was inspired to support them to achieve their economic independence. When I shared my thoughts with Fujisawa-san, who is now the Representative Director of our organization, he encouraged me to start and work together with him, which led to the establishment of our organization.

How do you use the donations from the FIT?

The donation is used to introduce a member management system. Currently, we support over 12,000 members and the number continues to grow. In order to manage each member's sensitive personal information safely and provide appropriate support, we need a robust system to record interactions. We are rapidly preparing to introduce and transfer to the new system in August 2023. Thanks to the FIT donation, we were able to implement a system that is easy to use for anyone and requires less manual work, which enables us to handle increasing number of members going forward.

How can we help further?

"Surprise Gifts", a monthly activity which sends food and other supplies to our selected members, and "Christmas Gift", an activity which sends gifts to all members at year end, are the key activities that we value. Although those measures of support are a temporary solution, it is a meaningful measure of support for our members during the summer holidays and at year end when demands for supplies increases. It is thus an important activity that we continue to show psychological connection and support for our members.

What makes those activities possible is donations for supplies and delivery costs, and volunteers who support packing and shipping. As the number of members increases, approximately 8,000 boxes were shipped at the end of 2022. In addition to material support, we need human support as we plan to reach 10,000 households and 15,000 children in 2023. We would be grateful for support from companies and organizations and are always looking for more.

Christmas gift packing and shipping in 2022
HIGHFIVE CHRISTMAS2023 Project, a special website for the year 2023

What are the plans for expanding your activities?

As a new initiative, I am involved in the planning of "MOUCHA BoooK," a comprehensive kids' entertainment program that aims to help daily child-rearing and comfort children. The program is distributed every Tuesday and Friday at 6:00 pm. Brother Tom is the executive producer, and the music is provided by splendid artists including Keizo Nakanishi, Naoto Inti Raymi, and GAKU-MC.

With the increasing members, more funds are needed, but corporate budgets for donations are limited. On the other hand, companies have various budgets such as those for advertising and events. We would like to encourage these companies to use those various budgets by utilizing this program as a source to continue our activities.

The program is modeled after Niihau Island, a real-life private island in Hawaii where about 170 people live, and no outsiders are allowed. It is an entertainment program that provides laughter, music, and answers to what children want to know. Please watch it.

Official YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/@MOUCHABoooK

Finally, is there any message for those reading this article?

I feel that donations and volunteer activities in Japan are different from those in the West in a way that only a limited people are involved and how those are perceived. I believe a way to support a cause can be like the one of FIT for Charity Run, meaning you and your family have fun and benefit the society at the same time. Being easy and fun will lead to more people participating and continuing to support the cause. I feel that Japan needs to expand this kind of donation and volunteer culture. I hope that everyone will not take donations and volunteering too seriously and will start with what they can do in front of them, cheerfully and joyfully.

“Heartfull Bank" information site to support single families
"555 Days Challenge”, Single family self-reliance support project

General Incorporated Association Heartful Family