By Mr. Masaya Takahashi (Yonezawa Church, Niigata Diocese)
Mr. Masaya Takahashi tells about "floating park" which he has been eager to talk about.
<Realizing my dream>
I had a dream for long time. It was "to make a park where the village children can run around." When the teachers from St. Theresa Kindergarten in Matsumoto, Nagano Prefecture visited us, they saw the small houses in the floating village and said, "Children do not have space to run around. That's a pity." I had never thought of that. They were aware of it because they were taking care of the children everyday. I admired them for having children's point of view.
The village children can swim in the lake but cannot run around as there is no land or big house. They cannot do what the children on the land can do naturally. "To frolic around" is like a symbol of children. It is certainly a pity that they cannot do it. Since I realized it, I no longer tell the children to be quiet so strictly when they make noise running in the church and classroom for the literacy course which are the only big spaces for the children to run around. The children who live a stressful life in small houses become energetic and active making big noise when they come to a big space like a church. Then the church women scold them fiercely, "Don't frolic around in the church!" I pity them.
In these situations I got the idea of making a park where the children can run around freely. It was August, 2006 and after that every time I go back to Japan, I expressed the idea in my debriefing sessions. However, I failed to get people interested in making a park in a floating village and after a time my enthusiasm faded out.
In September, 2009 I suddenly received an e-mail saying "need to contact you." It was from an NPO "Shiba-no Kai" I joined a study tour to Vietnam organized by Shiba-no Kai in 2004. In the tour we visited many orphans' homes and met the youths to hand the scholarship. The NPO was founded by Fr. Koichi Kasuya. I replied to the e-mail, and then the person in charged said that they had ended to support Vietnam in the previous year and Fr. Kasuya wished this time to support Cambodia where I was working. I was very surprised.
Fr. Kasuya defined an era of Japan Catholic church. He is very sharp, stubborn, solid and warm-hearted. He is already over eighty and always encourages me.
He said that he wished to support Cambodia through me and Shiba-no Kai asked me what kind of support is needed here. I answered modestly, "I have a dream to build a park in the floating village but it requires a lot of money. Your support to our normal activities will be appreciated." I said in a regretful way, "I have such a dream but it costs too much. Please forget about it." My words, however, caused the unexpected result. I received the answer that Shiba-no Kai would pursue my idea of making a park. In due course we worked out our plan step by step and finally my dream realized!
Just after I had received the favorable reply from Shiba-no Kai, my local staff who had been working with me very long betrayed me and resigned. I got hurt and almost lost my motivation for the activities. I did not want to extend my contract and thought of returning to Japan. Then their offer of support to making a park gave me a hope and I wanted to work here again to realize my dream and for the sake of the children in the floating village.
Shiba-no Kai decided to donate full amount of the cost to make a park. We bought the materials such as wood and bamboos and the construction started.
First of all flat boats were made by professional boat makers and the surfaces were strengthened with many layers of coating. The boats are the base of the park and joined together. It took one month to complete.
After that the frames were set up. Floors, fences, ceilings and passages were built. Then corrugated iron roofs were placed and the whole frames were surrounded by bars. These works were done by our church people and took another one month. They live by fishing and the fishing was out of season. They worked very fast and did an excellent job with sophisticated technology. The construction was a good opportunity for them to get a temporally income. Even so, they worked very hard. I was impressed by their hard working from morning till night with very little food and rest. I also admire their potential though they are not the specialists. The whole process was done on the water. It is amazing! The construction started in April and completed in July.
I was in Japan till the middle of July. When I came back to Cambodia, the leader called me and said, "We have a park here!" I was very excited and returned to the floating village. I saw a nice garden and children playing there. I couldn't help crying and when my boat was approaching the park I took many photos. Finally I made my first step on the park. The leader ran to me and asked smiling, "How do you find the park? Are you happy?" I answered, "It's indeed great. Beautiful! I'm so happy." He looked proud and said, "Right? You are happy, right?"
Other people also asked me, "You are happy, right?" and said, "All those who have seen the park say it is nice." Then I have realized something. Though people ask, "Are you happy for your dream's having come true?" they themselves are happy seeing the park where the children are playing around. Now the village people tell me their dream, "We can do many things in this park."
Many children play in the park everyday. They play soccer and jump rubber rope. Not only children but also youths come to play "shuttlecock-kick" and jump long rubber rope. I also join them. I like their smile. Though we cannot play very well we play until dark. Now my recreation is to play and get wet with perspiration in the park!
15th August is the anniversary of the end of World War II and Assumption in churches. After the mass Fr. Sobar from Kompong Luong Floating Church blessed the park. The church people and the youths were present and sent the message toward the video camera, "This park is a hope of the village and it connects the people here. It is also a proof the friendship between Japan and Cambodia. We thank Japanese people who supported us and thank you, Masaya!" I was rather shy because I am not the one who donated and worked on the construction. I also had a little ego "to realize my dream." Therefore it is not my attainment. I did not make so much effort but the park was fortunately built with the support of some Japanese people. That is God's attainment.
When I have another dream next time, I want to be more confident and make efforts. But I am not sure because making efforts is not my nature. Anyway the park debut was achieved in four years since my first conception.
"How happy you are to believe that the Lord's message to you will come true!"
This park was built not only for the children but also for all the village people to gather for occasions. They have a plan to rent it to poor people for ceremonial occasions at low rate or free. It will be something like a community center. I hope that the park will be used for the village people for long time.
I thank those who supported us to build the park, and I hope they will visit the park on holidays and interact with the children!