Previously, I posted about one of my students who I have referred to as "little old man" (or LOM for short). I had a lesson with him yesterday afternoon and he told me that he had been doing volunteer work before coming to the lesson.
One thing I must point out is that I rarely encounter a student who is doing volunteer work of any kind. I guess that the long hours most Japanese people work (and mostly working folks take English lessons) would make it very hard to dedicate themselves to other projects. LOM can probably do volunteer work because he is retired and only works on occasion as an adult education teacher (in computers and cell phones) or as a proctor for insurance employee qualification exams.
LOM said it would be difficult for him to tell me what type of work he was doing because the vocabulary was relatively complicated and the situation unusual but he managed to get through it with some help from his electronic dictionary. He told me that he was working at a halfway house for released criminals that was sponsored by the local government.
This information came as a surprise to me but this was mainly a reflection of my myopia about Japan and Japanese people. Despite knowing Japan has criminals and a slowly increasing crime rate, I assumed that they didn't have social programs to support convicts who had done their time. Given the fact that the culture sees criminal behavior as rather seriously shameful, I expected that they would simply choose not to recognize convicts by offering such programs. In retrospect, it seems naive of me not to consider they'd have such programs.
LOM told me that he's doing career counseling with convicts and trying to help them make the transition between prison and becoming productive members of society. I asked how it was for him and he told me that it's fine but counseling the murderers makes him a little nervous. I told him that it'd make me nervous, too.