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【Build bridges not walls】～What We Can Do Now～
Hi all, this is Lee from Borderless House.
Currently, the impact of the new Coronavirus can be seen and felt all over the world. Various individuals and industries have been hit very hard by this pandemic and its effects.
As you may know, Borderless House is a company which heavily relies on the support of tenants from overseas. In particular, March and April are commonly two of the busiest months for Borderless House as many students begin their new semester, and post-graduates begin a new chapter of life.
The impact of the Coronavirus has by no means been small, and we have been disheartened to see many long-awaited individuals forced to cancel their trips to Japan, and current tenants need to unexpectedly return home. It is a time of uncertainty for many.
Even during these times, we will persist in our mission to create a multi-cultural society void of discrimination.
In light of the current worldwide pandemic, I'd like to introduce some things that I feel we can and should do to support this mission.
Discrimination and Division as a Result of the Coronavirus
The novel Coronavirus has been labeled as an "Asian problem," and has lead to severe discrimination against Asian residents, particularly Chinese individuals. Human rights organizations in various countries have reported shocking cases of harassment and assault. Awareness of discrimination against Asians has been once again brought to light. However, this discrimination is by no means a foreign affair unrelated to Japan. We cannot claim with certainty that Coronavirus-related discrimination against foreigners will not be born in Japan.
The rampant virus has been kept under control by immigration restrictions as well as self-isolation and restraint measures. As a result, immigration measures have built "physical walls" and the unending stress and uncertainty has built "emotional walls."Anxiety surrounding the invisible enemy which we are now all fighting has been misplaced as hatred and discrimination towards a specific race. Specific groups of people are now experiencing prejudice and isolation, as others intentionally make efforts to avoid these individuals. My fear is that this prejudice and discrimination against foreigners will continue to visibly increase in Japan even after travel restrictions are lifted in the future.
Now is a critical time for us to come together. Let us build bridges, not walls.
Not all recent events have been negative. The entire world has united to take action during this crisis by cooperating across various fields, exchanging knowledge and resources, as if confronting a common enemy. Here at Borderless House, we have been doing our best to decide on and implement the necessary measures which will prioritize the highest level of safety and health for our tenants, partner companies, and for our staff and their families.
※Click here for more information regarding the Borderless House Coronavirus measures
With this all being said, and given the current state of the world, we are faced with a few questions.
What can we at Borderless House do?
What should be our approach and response?
I am convinced that our current role is to promote connections rather than divisions. Our staff has summarized this sentiment with an encouraging and impactfull phrase:"Build bridges, not walls."
Due to the Coronavirus, business at Borderless House has been heavily impacted in various ways. However, what overshadows our business worries are our tenants, a community of individuals who had been eagerly awaiting the opportunity to foster connections and make memories with people from all over the world. Our hearts ache hearing the stories of tenants who have lost their dreams of coming to Japan, individuals whose once-in-a-lifetime work and study opportunities abroad have been cancelled, foreigners who have been forced to return home due to travel restrictions, and those who have been robbed of the ability to make long-lasting memories with their housemates, never given the time needed to have felt fully at home in Japan.
Even if they are not in Japan, will these individuals be able to build up excitement for the next opportunity to come to Japan, to learn something about Japanese culture or language, or to build international friendships? Are these things that we at Borderless House are still able to provide?
We should aim to eliminate discrimination, prejudice, and division! We should strive to take our society in the opposite direction!
It is important to say these things and to put them in writing, however, arguably more important is taking direct action to support these claims. Borderless House exists to support this type of action by challenging individuals to leave their comfort zone, directly confront their own preconceptions of foreign societies and individuals, and join a multicultural environment. This is the mission, brand, and purpose of Borderless House.
We have taken action and started an online "Language Exchange" matching program.
This new program is based upon a simple idea.
We will be matching foreigners who no longer are able to come to Japan with current tenants of Borderless House to create a free online language exchange program! Therefore, housemates who were supposed to meet will have to opportunity to do so virtually and can still form lasting friendships which transcend borders!
By speaking with Borderless House tenants, we can use this program to provide a look into life in a multicultural environment in Japan, and reignite some of the excitement that may have been extinguished by the ongoing pandemic. We hope that these language partners will ultimately have the opportunity to meet face-to-face in the future.
Please check out the program page for more details regarding this new program!
Ultimately, we would like to extend this program not only to those who were unable to come to Japan, but also those who were unexpectedly forced to post-pone or cancel their reservations with us.
As self-isolation measures persist around the world, I, as well as all the staff at Borderless House, hope that these small and impactful actions will help restore any lost anticipation and excitement, and help redirect our focus from the dark present to a bright future.
Additionally, for tenants who made reservations with Borderless House but were forced to cancel, we have prepared personalized video messages from the staff members who coordinated their reservation details.
With the combined efforts of all members of Borderless House, we will continue to move forward with passion and heart!
The worldwide fight against the Coronavirus is expected to be a long battle.
If the role of the government and politicians is to build walls in order to keep the world safe, I think the response of all global citizens should be to build bridges between our hearts to overcome these barriers.
And we as Borderless House aim to be one of the engineers crafting these bridges. Although not always perfectly made, we will continue to build bridges with a smile, and take pride in our efforts!
Borderless House has previously experienced a similar unexpected and tragic event in the past, and was able to persevere and overcome the resulting challenges.
During the Great East Japan Earthquake of 2011, fears of the earthquake and radioactivity lead to the evacuation of both Japanese and foreign tenants from Tokyo, resulting in many cancellations.
Despite this, we continued to maintain the ratio of our tenants at 1:1, foreigner:Japanese, and did not abandon our mission. We held out hope that people would return to Japan again, and by standing firm, Borderless House survived this hardship, our brand grew, and we emerged stronger than ever before.
In light of the current virus situation, we will of course work to prioritize each individual's health and safety.
We may continue to face difficulties in all aspects of our life, both in the personal and economic spheres. However, Borderless House will continue to face these challenges head-on, doing whatever we can do to help and keeping our eyes fixed on the hope of a bright and exciting future!