Countries around the world have been significantly impacted by the spread of Covid-19. As transmission of the virus intensified, Japan declared a nationwide state of emergency and requested that people stay at home to reduce their exposure. Because Habitat for Humanity Japan’s priority is to maintain the health and safety of the people we serve, as well as our staff, volunteers, and partners, the Project HomeWorks program was suspended in February.

The need for a healthy living environment and positive household relationships is always important, but it has become particularly vital during this difficult time. Sadly, many people are struggling to maintain healthy living conditions when faced with the constraints that this pandemic has placed upon them.

Nakajima-san, an elderly disabled woman who lives alone, explained that even though she has a caregiver to accompany her when going out, she refrains from doing so for fear of contracting the virus. Unfortunately, old clothes and other belongings now clutter her home, making it unsafe. Yamada-san, an elderly man who also lives by himself, is constrained by health issues. He not only finds cleaning difficult but also has days where he is bedridden and confined to a room filled with litter and insects.

Quite often, when volunteers see such living conditions, they wonder how they came to be. There are no simple answers because each partner’s circumstances are different, but one common factor is that they all suffer from prolonged isolation. Because Nakajima and Yamada have so little social interaction, they live in seclusion and discomfort. It took each of them much time to recognize and ultimately request their need for help, an action that is avoided in Japanese culture. In some cases, Habitat volunteers too have had similarly distressing feelings from prolonged confinement and have required assistance to overcome them.

One of the priorities of Project HomeWorks is to visit the homes of those in need to see if they are struggling to maintain a decent living environment and to determine what assistance can be provided. Our goal is not only to improve their living conditions by providing safer, cleaner, and more comfortable surroundings when they must remain home, but also to mitigate their isolation. An added benefit to these visitations is the opportunity that it gives Habitat volunteers to see the needs of the disadvantaged in person and to gain the satisfaction that comes with volunteering and teamwork.

Our partners are hoping thatProject HomeWorks will resume normal operations in the near future. When it does become possible, Habitat will support people in and outside of Japan to the greatest extent that we can. We welcome you to join Habitat as a volunteer or a supporter. Please click here if you would like to contribute to our efforts with a donation. Thank you very much.