With an unwavering commitment to empower people to be change makers through community engagement, we have operated since 2002 thanks to the generous support and donation of numerous volunteers, individuals and corporations.
It all started with a small act...
Started with cleaning up the beach
When our co-founder Noriko Hino first came to New York in 1994, she visited a popular destination, Coney Island. To her dismay, the beach was full of trash. She started picking up the trash alone. Seeing her act, others joined. A small act on her part, ended up with a group of instant volunteers that recognized the value of picking up trash even if it was not theirs.
Inspired by the group’s enthusiasm to engage in volunteering, Noriko with her friend Kazumi Terada (current Board Member) started organizing more activities. They invited their friends who in turn invited their friends. The group grew and in 2002, “NY de Volunteer” (NYdV) was born. NY de Volunteer became a 501(c)(3) organization in 2003.
The name “NY de Volunteer” in Japanese means “to volunteer in NY” . True to its name, we provide opportunities for those who are interested in volunteering but don’t know how to start. NYdV helps them take the first step to do something new in New York.
Becoming the go-to place for Japanese looking to volunteer
“What do we need to do to make those interested in volunteering feel comfortable? What does NYdV need to do to ensure that both volunteers and the beneficiaries of our volunteer activities are getting what they need?” These questions were constantly on her mind, Noriko reflects.
The first step was to ensure that NYdV was a trusted organization. The team worked on creating a website that showed what type of volunteer activities NYdV was engaged in as well as send out press releases to all the major Japanese media outlets. To our delight, we received over 100 inquiries and wide coverage which led to increased awareness, and more importantly, an increase in the number of volunteers. In this way, we were able to be the “place to go” for members of the Japanese community who wanted to volunteer in New York.
A 3 page proposal turns into the start of our core program, “Explore Japanese Culture”
In the beginning most of the activities involved cleaning up public spaces in New York. In 2004, however, we started our first original program, “Japanese Spa Day” where we would offer beauty services like hair cuts, manicures, makeup to residents of an elderly care facility.
Noriko, however, had another program idea. What would a program that could a) utilize Japanese culture, b) provide volunteers with “experience, exchange, education” and c) address a community need look like? The 3 page proposal she wrote would become the beginning of NYdV’s core program, “Explore Japanese Culture” (EJC).
EJC’s objective is to address the disparity that exists through education. Even in a glamorous city like NY, income inequality is prevalent. Seeing this, the team strongly felt the need for all children to receive a high level of education and to be able to dream big. They wanted to promote diversity education through introducing the children to Japanese culture. The challenge for Japanese people was how to do so.
After a year of pitching this idea to various city agencies, the EJC program was approved as an official part of the NYC’s After School Program run by the Department of NYC Parks & Recreation Center. This could not have happened without the support of department staff who had supported us since our early days of cleaning up public spaces.
NYdV Resilience: the financial crisis cuts off funding but we continue on and receive commendation from the city
Just when NYdV’s core program was gaining traction, the 2008 financial crisis hit. The grant we were receiving from the city was terminated (and to this day, has not been reinstated).
Despite losing this grant, the team decided to continue to provide the programs—the mission could not stop. Noriko used what she learned in Columbia University’s NPO Management course to help NYdV think about how to design and implement programs from an academic point of view.
As a result of the resilience shown by the team and external support, NYdV’s efforts were recognized by the city. NYdV has won the NYC Department of Parks & Recreation’s “Volunteer Appreciation Award” in 2010 and 2011, and its “Volunteer of the Year” award in 2011.
Expanding further into the education field. Global study tour for Japanese students
While running the core program EJC, NYdV started to accommodate requests from Japanese students and professionals that included arranging internships in NY to training programs around working in NY and in English.
This became more formalized when a travel agency asked NYdV to collaborate on a global study tour for high school students. This was the beginning of another core program for NYdV, the Global Leadership Study Tour (GLST). The experience and knowledge cultivated through EJC and other programs, the wide network of schools and universities in NY and the ability to mobilize many volunteers was critical in designing and launching this new program for Japanese students.
Sudden change to U.S.-Japan operation and reaching the 10,000 volunteer mark. Then Covid-19 hits.
Noriko was in the process of applying for permanent residency in the U.S. but was rejected and had to suddenly go back to Japan. Taka Juba, who had long been part of the NYdV team became the Executive Director and Noriko supported the team from Japan as a member of the Board. Taka, an American of Japanese descent, had a wide network of people and was able to expand the operations and reach the mark of 10,000 volunteers.
Covid-19 has turned everyone’s world around. For NYdV, this meant all the activities had to be cancelled as they were all in person. So we turned our programs into remote experiences. To our surprise, this actually expanded our geographic reach from residents in states outside of NY to even people in Japan. Our “team” has expanded.
The key to our success: having fun while fostering a positive attitude and paying attention to detail.
Aside from a number of New Yorkers, NYdV volunteers and staff include Japanese expatriates and their families as well as students. Therefore the turnover can be quite high. We see this as an asset as having people from different backgrounds is what makes us able to learn from each other and make the organization stronger.
On the other hand, there are things that remain the same: our commitment to having fun, having a positive thinking mindset while providing programs with a lot of attention to detail so the beneficiaries and volunteers both can enjoy the experience.
The goal of NYdV is to cultivate as many change makers as possible who have broad perspectives and the desire and drive to solve challenges in their communities.
Through our volunteer programs, what we have gained goes beyond our beneficiaries but has resulted in growth of our volunteers and staff. It has been rewarding to see those that volunteered with NYdV grow into such change makers over the years.
All of us at NYdV wish for a better community and happiness for our beneficiaries and growth for all those involved.
We ask ourselves everyday, “What can we do?”
Come join us!
Noriko Hino (NY de Volunteer Founder/Board Member)