I’m currently part way through participating in my second Kiva micro-loan. The first was to a Vietnamese metalwork shop, as part of a $675 overall loan, which was repaid on time, in full, by February 2012.
This second one is to a lady in Colombia, to assist a clothing business, as part of an overall 1,700 USD loan.
I feel a little bad for her – on her first payment expected in June, she’s a few cents behind, and is thus noted as ‘delinquent’ which sounds quite harsh, but is the term used. Let’s see how she gets on in future.
“We are a non-profit organization with a mission to connect people through lending to alleviate poverty. Leveraging the internet and a worldwide network of microfinance institutions, Kiva lets individuals lend as little as $25 to help create opportunity around the world.”
I’m going to add another $25 to enable me to do another loan, and have been looking again at manufacturing, possibly in Mongolia.
December 12th. 2010 marked the second Tokyo Toy Run (check here for last year’s).
Essentially the Tokyo Toy Run was a group of bikers and like minded individuals who got together donations and gifts for two children’s homes and rode down to the venues in an almighty convoy to personally deliver the toys to the kids and staff, and spend the afternoons playing tag, football and whatever else the kids wanted to do until exhaustion kicked in.
It’s based off, and organised by, the Gaijin Riders forum, but pulls in attendees from other forums as well as other bikers we know.
Last year’s event was a huge success, and so I was looking forward to this one. As before, I met up with a few riders I knew from last year’s event and the forum at NAPS Yokohama on Route #1 for those of us coming in from Kanagawa. NAPS must have been following the forum (they’re a sponsor), as they left the chains off the car park this time, so we could get in there to make sure we all knew the run in route and have a chat.
We decided that since ManyBu (sorry, it’s forum handles) had the Garmin Navi, we’d follow him, and since he was on the CB1300, he’d likely be the quickest too; the other rider was SomethingWild, who was also the coordinator for the second children’s home. Unlike last year, I have ETC on my bike this year, so no fiddling around for change at the toll booths, but SomethingWild didn’t, so we’d be waiting for him on the other side of the barriers, which is no problem.
The run in was great – we left NAPS around 6.45am, and essentially ran the Bayshore Route through Yokohama past Haneda to Odaiba, to this year’s meet up point at RICOland. It was a beautiful run-in watching the sun come up, and with minimal traffic and only a single error on the Garmin we made good time, and were already waving at families in cars, and at traffic lights as ManyBu was in a Santa suit, and my bike was pretty well adorned with tinsel and gift boxes.
At RICOland, the car park was already filling up quickly at 7.40, with a lot more santa suits than last year, and honestly, a very healthy demographic across ages, gender and nationality – many more ladies and Japanese for instance, which is a great sign.
The camaraderie at these meet ups is great – there’s just no negativity – and after a period of admiring some of the bikes and their decorations, the core organisers started explaining the plan for the day.
A few things had changed this year – the meet up being in Odaiba was obviously the first, but then it was much like last year in the middle – a ride over to Daikoku Futou service area for a rest stop and meet up with more riders, and then a ride over to NAPS Sachiura where the staff were ready and waiting for us with marked out car park areas and some more gifts for the homes themselves.
This was where a few competitions were judged (Best Dressed Bike and so on), and we divided up for the two homes – Elizabeth Sanders, which was the home we also supported last year, and Chigasaki Farm Home, a smaller place we were supporting for the first time, which is where I’d chosen to go.
Considering we had just under a hundred bikes by this point, it’s quite a feat the group can split into two easily, and quickly organise into sub groups with riders with navigation systems in each, and where possible make sure everyone had the right routes in them (they were available as files from the forum beforehand).
Unlike the ride to that point, which was mainly expressways with large groups of bikes, we were now going out onto normal roads, through Kamakura and down onto route 134 meaning we’d be in traffic and we’d be likely to get split up through traffic lights. In the event, it seemed to work out fairly well, no one seemed to get too lost, and that we were sat in traffic meant that people could take our pictures, children could wave at the Santas and we could even explain what it was we were actually doing, which is great. Mid-way down Kamakura’s main street a KTM blew coolant all over the road and Loco’s leg, but aside from that I don’t think there were many mechanical issues which is good – I’d hate to miss out on this through a bike fault.
Rolling, albeit slowly, down that Route 134 was actually quite nice, watching the ocean I’m quite familiar with, and once past Enoshima we could get a little speed up. We saw a tribe of bosazoku coming the other way on their noisily modded 125cc and 250cc’s – they’re a beach staple making as much noise as they can – and a few actually waved as they went past the other way. A shame we couldn’t get into their revving game (it’s against our own Run rules).
Soon enough we were at our final staging point, making sure we hadn’t lost anyone, and that we were all at the right place we prepped up for the final few hundred metres in to the Chigasaki Farm home, off the main road and into the venue down a narrow road.
Wow! It seemed like the whole place was there to applaud us in, both from the home and from a few people who seemed to have just happened to be walking down the street. That was pretty humbling, I have to say. We all just about managed to get a place to park in the small parking /recreation area, and after a few more minutes and some shuffling of vehicles, we managed to get the toy van in, and SomethingWild and the head of the facility managed to get a quick aisatsu done, before we could get all the presents moved into the chapel hall for the staff to divide up later; and the excitement level was already pretty high.
To me the highlight of these days are the actual games, and within minutes I’d got into a football (soccer) kick-about with some other bikers and some kids, before Loco broke out some goal markers and an (American) football we’d brought, along with some belts with velcro’d tabs on for some touch football. I wont pretend I understood the rules, but on 5-a-side with three kids and two bikers on each side, it didn’t seem to make much difference; the kids on my team picked it up way quicker than me (I was still having flashbacks to playing rugby which is a different beast entirely) and they were pretty much winning the game for us. It’s good to win like that sometimes! I don’t know how long we were playing, maybe about an hour, but I was sweating into my santa hat, and one of my team suggested maybe I was a bit overweight and unfit. Frankly, guilty as charged.
Eventually the game wound down, and as people started departing, and the sun got a bit lower we organised about four of the better riders to give the kids rides in the small car park with the others keeping an eye on everything, with the motorbike and sidecar doing circles in the ‘football’ area. That was probably the highlight for some – the kids loved being on the bikes and just bouncing around the bumpy yard at 10km/h.
Somewhat apologetically I had to head away before the bingo kicked off, but it seemed that everyone had had a pretty good day of it, and if nothing else, that was the point.
I think sometimes being in Japan, foreigners can feel a bit outside of things (yeah, hence the term ‘gaijin’ I know), especially with the charity system being quite different to say Europe and the UK. Events like this though remind us that that’s a bit wrong headed sometimes. Everyone on the run found a way to make it happen irrespective of where they came from, and even though it’s technically the bikers helping these kids, when you see some posts in the forum from after the event, and our faces at the homes, I can’t help thinking that in a major way, they’re helping us too.