In Japan, roughly 1 in 7 children are living in relative poverty. That’s roughly 2.8 million children. And the dark side of relative poverty, as opposed to absolute poverty, is that it’s not immediately obvious to society. So when a 28-year old mother and her 3-year old son died of starvation in Osaka in 2013, it shocked the nation. Many were saddened by the news but one decided to do something about it. His name was Seirou Matsushima and he was a Buddhist priest.
To help solve the problem of child poverty in Japan, Seirou Matsuhima turned to the devotional offerings that temples around the country receive. And In 2014, Matsushima started an organization called Otera Oyatsu Club (“temple snack club”) that would sign on participating temples. By creating a community of like-minded temples around the country, Matsushima aimed to distribute the offerings to economically struggling families through other support groups. And the idea has worked. Since its inception, Otera Oyatsu Club has grown to become a vast network of 932 temples, collaborating with 377 support groups around the country. They currently distribute food to over 10,000 children in Japan.
And this year, the organization was awarded the grand prize at the Good Design Awards. The committee of judges recognized the temple’s ingenuity in redesigning the structure of a temple in order to connect what the temple has, with what society doesn’t. You can support Otera Oyatsu Club as well. On their website (which is all in Japanese) they accept donations of money, used books and foods.