“I identify myself as a global citizen. My identity is not bound by nationality just because my passport was issued in Indonesia and I’m a second-generation Chinese Indonesian. I have a friend with whom I share values with that go beyond perceived differences. She’s Russian-American. However, it’s hard to find people who are also cosmopolitan, and we get a bad rap for being so privileged or a ‘bad patriot’. Here in Japan, it’s what’s visible about me that they use in order to understand me. They see me and hear me speak, and I’m reduced to my appearance, ethnicity, and gender. They’d be like, ‘Oh you look more Japanese than Indonesian’ or ‘You speak really good English’. I know Japan hasn’t been very open to the outside world for long, and it’s scary for them to deal with so many things foreign in their own home. But it terrifies me that they need to put us into boxes that they can recognize, even when they don’t fit. And it’s a problem for me because I really like Japan. I see myself being here for a really long time. So my hope for Japan is to have diversity in thought, not necessarily an increase in the number of nationalities for the sake of diversity.”
“I left my job looking at the world through numbers, charts, and the stock market. All I did was work, which got me burned out. And although I was given a promotion, there was this void inside of me, telling me to go out there, do some volunteer work, live outside office walls, and be in touch with reality. So I quit work and got involved in social impact projects. I also went back to school to do my master’s in public policy, since I have a huge passion for development and politics.
“I’m in Japan and it’s hard because the first conversation begins with, ‘Social problems are real and these people exist. They’re not just part of some plot in a drama.’ Then the next challenge is how not to let empathy stop at the level of pity. How do you go beyond seeing yourself as a feeding hand? Don’t just say, ‘We got money, we donate this money. You kids in Vietnam be happy.’ It’s a very one-way kind of approach. Development and social impact can also be about better mental health, so it can be beneficial to Japanese people. But they don’t acknowledge the problems. You even have politicians who say there’s no need to prevent suicide among LGBT youth because there aren’t that many.
“But I’m thankful to be part of a community that’s frustrated with the status quo, one where a lot of resources, time and attention go to pure money-making activities with little or no social good. We believe you can work and earn a lot and still have empathy to help other people at the same time. We’re determined to prove that it’s not an either/or world where these two things (money and doing good) can’t go hand-in-hand. And through this I’ve met so many wonderful people who understand the importance of living your life, being happy and fulfilling your needs, while also caring for others.”
(Cindy helps connect talented people who have professional skills, or graduates from top business schools, with social institutions or NGOs that need their expertise. Get to know her on https://www.cindyfransisca.com)