Blind Soccer Kids Camp

The Japan Blind Football Association (JBFA) hosts Blind Soccer Kids Camps every summer, to provide children with visual impairment with the opportunity to experience sports and enjoy sports on a daily basis outside school. The Kids Camp program aims to offer participating children a place for three types of encounters: an encounter with friends from around Japan, an encounter with sports, and an encounter with their own new aspects. The program also helps discover and train children with visual impairment who wish to become blind soccer players in the future. The Kids Camp program was launched in the Kanto area in 2013, and a Kids Camp has also been held in the Kansai area every year since 2015. Santen has supported this program as a sponsor in the Kansai area by sending its employees to work as volunteers and other means.

Outline of the Blind Soccer Kids Camp in FY2017

On July 29 (Sat.) and 30 (Sun.), 2017, the Santen Blind Soccer Kids Camp 2017 in Kansai was held at Green Echo Kasagata in Hyogo Prefecture, for the first time since Santen became its sponsor. A total of over 100 people, including 27 children, 30 caregivers, 26 employee volunteers from Santen, and a number of JBFA staff members, participated in the Camp.

Introducing the Camp

The two-day Kids Camp included a wide variety of activities, such as exercises with balls, a physical strength test, and river play. Below is an introduction to the Camp with photos.

==Day 1==

After the opening ceremony, the participants were divided into groups and introduced themselves to the group members.
The children started doing exercises with balls! Employee volunteers actively supported them.
After doing exercises with balls, the children cooled themselves down by playing in the river and grasping at fish!
Apart from the children, their caregivers attended a program for caregivers on raising children and other topics.
Participants enjoying a long-awaited barbecue! Both the adults and children felt fully satisfied.
After enjoying after-dinner recreation, the children went to bed at 9 pm.
After the children fell asleep, the caregivers, staff members and volunteers had a get-together, and talked with each other about various topics, including their own experiences and the reasons why they were participating in the Camp, till late at night.

===Day 2===

All the participants took a stroll early in the morning
Children and employee volunteers having their breakfast together
Children striving to do their best in the physical strength test
Continuing exercises with balls on day 2, the children grew more accustomed to the activities, and became able to move with greater agility!
With every participating child presenting what they enjoyed and so on, the closing ceremony capped the successful two-day-and-one-night Camp.

Role of employee volunteers

Employee volunteers assumed the role of participants standing by the children and sharing the joy of the Camp with them, while supporting them in Camp activities in general and watching over them to prevent them from incurring injuries, as well as giving advice to children who had difficulty making friends with other people. Some Santen employees who participated in the Camp as volunteers said that they had noticed and discovered many things that they could not usually notice at work.

Voices of employee volunteers

[Participating volunteer] Marketing staff member

The Camp made me consider the company's initiatives and my own way of living.

As a marketing staff member in the glaucoma field, I participated in the Camp, aiming to learn what those with failing eyesight or who have lost their eyesight feel in their lives, and for the opportunity to confirm the mission of my job. This Camp has forced me to acknowledge that I had been too optimistic. Hearing a blind soccer player say that he had long used eyedrops but had lost his sight as a teenager, I came to believe we should consider developing our business to not only prevent and cure diseases that might cause the loss of eyesight but also give blind people "light." This means we should radically change our thoughts, in addition to pursuing Santen's mission. I myself had my perspective changed completely by coming in direct contact with visually impaired people and learning they could do almost everything in their everyday lives for themselves. However, I also learned they sometimes stumble on slight steps, so I decided to be ready to talk to those I encounter on the street carrying a white cane, and ask them, "May I help you?" I will share what I felt during the Camp with my coworkers, and recommend that they participate in the next Camp.

[Participating volunteer] Medical Representative (MR)

Children's smiles made me notice the importance of patients' viewpoints.

Because I had not come in contact with the visually impaired during the four years after I became an MR, I decided to participate in this Camp to interact with such people. Although I had been very nervous because I had seldom dealt with children before, I was soon able to become friendly with the participating children. Remembering my own childhood, I realized that I might as well deal with them as my usual self. I first learned that visually impaired children communicate in slightly different ways: for example, firmly holding the hands of others to share delight with them. The children's innocent smiles greatly invigorated me. At the same time, I noticed my thoughts had previously tended to focus on products, despite my expressed customer-oriented attitude as an MR, and felt once again that I ought to focus on patients. I will talk with medical experts in my charge from the perspective of how our products can help patients in addressing the troubles they suffer from.

[Participating volunteer] Researcher

I strongly felt Santen has its own social mission to pursue.

I participated in the Camp because, as a person involved in research and development in the ophthalmic field, I hoped to learn about the lives of people with visual impairment and the troubles they suffer from. During the Camp, I kept in mind to take the initiative in actively communicating with the participating children. I learned many lessons from my experience with the children; I was very surprised to see completely blind children running around without a white cane with loud footsteps, and was deeply impressed by the children making positive efforts to make friends during the Camp, even though some of them studied alone at schools for the blind without classmates of the same age. I also learned the difficulties they faced at mealtimes because they had to ask someone what kinds of dishes were placed in what positions. Talking with their caregivers, I came to firmly believe that we as a producer of ophthalmic medicines have to change the environment for visually impaired people by seriously considering what we can do for them. I hope to support visually impaired children so that they will be able to have many more future job options.

Voices of JBFA staff

[JBFA] Secretariat staff

Employee volunteers helped provide more comprehensive support for the children.

Operating our Kids Camp, I place importance on the smiles of the children. With the highest priority on considering how to create an environment where the children can enjoy themselves, I take various measures to help them relax and enable them to spend the two days with smiles, through such activities as river play in addition to soccer. Although it had previously been difficult for us to ensure that each child was supported by a staff member, the help of employee volunteers enabled us to move and guide the children more easily and provide more comprehensive support for them. Although the volunteers were participating in our Kids Camp for the first time, they devoted sincere efforts to supporting the children. Our coaches also highly rated the activities of the employee volunteers. I hope that JBFA and Santen will cooperate in developing activity plans, and that Santen will continue to participate in our Kids Camp program in a deeper and more extensive way.

[JBFA] Coach

A place for us to share the joy of success with children and enable them to gain self-confidence

Our Kids Camp is attractive because children can become friendly with each other by experiencing the overnight event together. During the Camp, the children seem lively through having experiences they cannot enjoy in their ordinary lives. Their caregivers can also exchange information and build relationships with each other. In giving guidance to visually impaired children, I place importance on watching over them from a proper distance, rather than taking too much care, and sharing delight with them. I praise children warmly when they succeed in kicking a ball, scoring a goal, and doing other things. Sharing the joy of success in such a way leads the children to self-confidence. We need a long time to become able to provide the participants with appropriate support in such an intensive program as our Kids Camp. The employee volunteers helped us immensely because they had a strong sense of responsibility from the beginning of the program, and made active efforts to support the children. I was greatly impressed by them, as they fulfilled our expectations of a company dedicated to the ophthalmic field.

Voices of the caregivers of participating children

[Caregivers] Parents of a participating child (in the third year of elementary school)

We hope that people will learn that visually impaired children can also do exercise.

Since we have few opportunities to have our son play with people who have a good understanding of visual impairment, we decided to participate in this Kids Camp soon after we saw a leaflet about it distributed by a school for the blind. Our son cried from tension at the beginning of the Camp, but he became able to move following the coach and ask what was located in what position by himself, while playing in the river. We believe it was a moment of considerable growth for him to realize that he needed to do something for himself and fit in with the other children in a team comprising children of the same age or slightly younger than him. By maintaining a proper distance from him, we also noticed that we had been too protective of him. We felt very happy to learn at the get-together that employee volunteers participated in the Camp with a sense of mission. We hope that many more people, including Santen employees, will know there are visually impaired children who can do exercise.

[Caregiver] Father of a participating child (in the sixth year of elementary school)

The Kids Camp program is attractive because it helps build horizontal relationships among children and among parents.

Since it is difficult for my son to do the same things as his classmates and take ordinary lessons outside school just as other children do, I strive to have him experience various lessons actively, aiming to provide him with the opportunities to find what he wishes to do or what his dream is. This year's Kids Camp was the third one we participated in. The Kids Camp program is attractive because it helps build relationships among children and among parents, extending horizontal connections centered around blind soccer. Continued participation has helped my son strengthen his trunk and harden his lower body. He has also become able to talk to other children actively by himself. Recently, I have sometimes found him taking care of children younger than himself. I feel truly grateful to people from Santen because they carefully look after the children and I can leave my son in their care without worry. I hope to continue to participate in the Kids Camp program and that the Santen volunteers will continue to support us.