As a child I watched ‘Annie’ numerous times while singing along with the song, “The sun will come out tomorrow’ and occasionally referring to my mother as Miss Hannagain when she assigned unwanted chores. This past fall I was thrilled when my church group was gearing up for a project for one of the local orphanages. I’ve always loved working with kids, especially underprivileged kids, and of course there was that small part of me that wanted to see how the orphanages compare to Miss Hannagain’s. 


For several months we worked to gather needed supplies: clothing in good condition, toys, outside play things, and anything else that would benefit the orphanage. The kids didn’t sing songs from Annie, we did teach them the words to Jingle Bells and Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes (Although I think we ended up learning how to sing it in Japanese better than they did in English!)

The kids slowly warmed up to our group and we got them to play games with us and converse, mainly through gestures, while decorating sugar cookies. It was amazing how much we were able to learn from them in such a short time.

Although volunteering at the orphanages is a great way to get out and mingle with our hosts, it is not always the easiest thing to arrange. Occasionally you can find an orphanage that welcomes individual volunteers on a regular basis but you will likely have better luck being able to help them if you are part of a group, especially if you are doing a project for them.

Be creative, clothing drives, toy drives, school supplies, etc. Many of the orphanages, especially the privately funded facilities, can greatly benefit from your efforts. You may need to find a translator to help you as many orphanages do not have English speaking staff. I am looking forward to the next time I can participate in an orphanage project. I hope that our readers who have participated will share their experience and comments as well as any positive information on how others may get involved.


  1. HI my name is James Heskett MY daughter is 1/2 Japanese Her mother is Linda Etsuko Dengate her mother was adopted from the Orphanage born at 1.101 Banchi,Azaisshikawa,Tshikawa-Shi mother’s name is Toyoko Taira .adopted by Murail Dengate his wife Etsuko ? orphanage was called Ishimine Child home If you know of this place and were I can find any Information please let me know my daughter is now 45 her mother is about 65 +thanks

  2. Hi I am searching for my cousin who would be half Japanese half black. My uncle was Joe Lewis Cameron and he was stationed in Okinawa so I believe it was Kadena US Air Force base between 1969-1973. He got into a car accident and crashed into a store front along with a pregnant Japanese woman during his time in Japan. The child I’m looking for would be between the ages of 52-58. My Uncle passed away in 1983 so much if the info so have is from the things he told my mother, his sister. Can anyone let me know if there are any agencies or other sites that I can post on to continue my search?

    Thank you in advance for any information that may help me with my search.

  3. Hello Everyone,

    I see from the comments many people want to help but don’t know where to go. I am the Director for a Volunteer Community here in Okinawa Japan called The School of New Thought. We are not connected to any religious organizations but are merely a group of individuals wanting to make the world a better place here in Okinawa. I am a retired Marine and reside here with my wife who is Okinawa. We work directly with two orphanages here on Okinawa to include the homeless shelter and various other volunteer organizations on Okinawa. We are the first American/Okinawa volunteer community on Okinawa who connects everyone with one another. We also have trips that we take to various places to help build friendships with the locals such as volunteer trips with students wanting to learn English, etc. If you are interested please check out of Facebook page: The School of New Thought or go to our website We hope you will join us in making the world a better place then how we received it.

    Chris Nesbitt

    • Our website and volunteer organization has been changed from The School of New Thought to Help Oki. Our new website is You can find us on Facebook also, just search The School of New Thought or Help Oki. We work directly with the numerous orphanages here on Okinawa and also have recently opened Okinawa’s First and Only Thrift Store that supports the local community and those less fortunate. We will be having high school seniors from the local orphanages working at the stores in order to save money for college after graduation. If interested in more info please contact us via our website. Thank you!

      Chris Nesbitt
      Help Oki

    • Good Morning,
      Im Jessica Gonzalez , Im interested to voluntteer in the orphanages taking care the children, playing with them, doing whatever is possible to make them happy. I live in Camp foster so Im looking one close to my house.

  4. Looking to volunteer at an orphanage for one day at the end on November. I have a group of 41 service members willing to play with the kids or do small projects around orphanage? Any suggestions and how do I go about setting this up?

  5. Hi
    I am too looking to volunteer at a local orphanage is there a group on base that helps out also if I can’t do locally then I believe they have volunteer opportunity in other near by counties if your willing to travel they have a group called IVHQ which you can find on face book

  6. My family is wanting to find out how to get plugged into volunteering a few times a month at one or two of the orphanages here on Okinawa. I am sure it is hard to do seeing that we know only a few phrases in Japanese but we are working hard on learning more. I keep asking around trying to figure out how to get involved but I can’t find anyone who can point me in the right direction. For each of our birthdays we also do different projects to give back instead of birthday gifts. We have had different drives in the past for children homes back in the states. My children have told me that they would love for our focus on our birthday projects to be on the children homes here. Could someone please help us with this?

    • Hi Heather, I am looking for a orphanage to volunteer at for our church here in Okinawa. I just contacted the one closet to Kadena air base and they told me that they have enough volunteer. If you do find a place can you please let me know. Would love to go with you or If I find a place would love for you to come with us.



      • Karen and Heather, I am also looking for a local orphanage to set up a Navy Comrel event. We could do anything from collecting money and supplies to small maintenance or landscaping. If we work together and get something started we could probably do some pretty amazing things. Feel free to email me at

  7. Hello,

    My husband and I are going to be stationed in Okinawa Japan next year. We are Navy and wanted to adopt so we want to adopt while in Japan if possible. I have questions and need advice on how to go about this. It has been my dream to adopt and I think adopting a child from Okinawa will not only be an amazing experience for my husband, our potential child and myself. Please can I get any information about adopting in Okinawa? Id love websites and just basic information about orphanages on Okinawa. Please feel free to email me ( with any helpful information.
    Thank you

  8. Hey everyone,
    My name is Mike and I have set up an NGO to get people here in Japan to visit their local orphanage. Our website is Smile Kids Japan. What you are doing is great 🙂
    Is there anyone I can contact about what is going on in Okinawa? Please can you mail me at smilekidsjapan at gmail dot com
    Looking forward to hearing from you 🙂

  9. My name is Bill Horn. I was an enlisted veteran , honorably discharged in 1964. I served at Kadena AFB from September 1961 thru March 1963 at which time I rotated back to the States…. Lockbourne AFB, Columbus , Ohio. My discharge was May 5th 1964.
    I was one of the original Missile Men to occupy one of four launch sites around the Island in 1961. We were assigned to the 873rd Tactical Missile Squadron on Kadena. I do not remember my AFSC but I was trained as a Nuclear Weapons Specialist. My area of expertise was the Warhead section of the TM-76B Mace Missile program. We were the original Pioneers of the ” Cold War era” missile program with the 5th Air Force on Kadena.
    I have been chosen by the Tokyo Broadcasting System to be the only participant in a historical documentary program being filmed on Okinawa at several locations where our original launch sites were located. This documentary film was originally suggested by the Prime Minister of Japan due to some recent secret documents discovered between Henry Kissinger, President Richard Nixon, and then Premier Sato. I consider this an fantastic opportunity , not only to return to Okinawa after almost 50 years ,but to help them understand our relationship with the citizenry at that time.

    My wife of 47 years has been hasseling me to take her to Okinawa ever since my discharge, now she has her chance to witness this part of the world.

    We are leaving Nashville TN on 12-13-10 and arrive in Okinawa the following day. The film crew arrives from Tokyo on 12-15-10. I am supposed to be the expert tour guide ( WOW !!!, are they in trouble )and I hope to remember where everything is located. I understand some of the Launch sites are now Buddhist Temples.

    The 2 of, us along with our 2 grand-chidren, ages 9 and 16 are staying extra days after the film crew leaves for Tokyo. We would love to visit the Orphanage, if possible.

    My contact info is:

    William G. Horn
    P.O. Box 49724
    Cookeville, TN.
    931-498-3585 Home
    931-239-2724 Cell

    I look forward to hearing from you.

    Billand Brenda Horn

  10. I’d like to Volunteer at a orphanage. I’m 22 and Have grown up in foster care in NYC my whole life and have always had it in my heart to adopt an older child sometime. As for now i think just helping out would be a great way to get to know and work with the children. Can some one help me in how to start. Is there a person I have to call? Thanks you so very much.
    God Bless


  11. I would like to donate money to an orpanage. During my stay on Okinawa as a Marine in 1963, I observed many beautiful bar girls having relationships with US serviceman. From those relationships I assume children were born and the US serviceman sent home to America. the pregant nasan would be left behind.

  12. As a frequent orphanage volunteer, I’m here to say that clothing/toy drives are very much appreciated by the orphanages. If you donate something that they just don’t have the need for, they will more than likely sell it in a yardsale fundraiser and use the money to further assist the orphanage. The nicest orphanage I’ve volunteered at on Okinawa thus far still had 12 kids per room and all of the kids’ belongings could be fit into one cupboard. As for volunteering your personal time, that is where the orphanages might be a little more particular. Some of the orphanages house children of abusive parents/convicted criminals and it’s paramount that the parents never find out where their children are being kept. For this reason, they do not like a lot of volunteer traffic in-and-out of their doors.

  13. I would confirm which orphanages, if any in Japan, will accept donations of items such as used clothing and toys. We think of orphanages as places in great need of financial assistance, and I am not sure that it’s the case in Japan, except maybe where the kids have special needs. Often, kids are in orphanages due to Japan’s cultural biases against adoption. I have been told that the Japanese government, as well as the extended families of the kids who don’t have a family member who can take them in, often provide financially for these children. I’m not saying that an orphanage is a nice place to be, just that however well-equipped a facility may be, kids still need all the love and attention they can get and volunteering your time may be more important to these facilities than donating items. A toy/clothing drive might be more appreciated by orphanages in very poor countries, where the children often have nothing, barely get enough to eat, and have no toys at all. I have friends in the US who have organized toy and clothing drives for orphanages in Central America and other poor areas of the world. However you choose to proceed, it’s wonderful that you want to help any child in need.

  14. Hi,

    I would like to organize a toy/clothing drive for a orphanage on Okinawa. I would need to select a orphanage for donation and get an idea on what age do the kids range from to maximize our contribution.

  15. for now the adoption workshops have been cancelled, so there will not be one in November. You can call the Personal Services Center on Foster and register your interest in having them again, but for now, there is just the yahoo group.

  16. Tamera- You should start by attending the next adoption workshop held at Camp Foster. It is really a valuable workshop to attend, and it also puts you in contact with other couples who are going through the same experience. As far as adopting here in Japan, you probably will not be able to do it. I have volunteered at several of the orphanages and the staff has told me that they cannot adopt out many of the children, even if it means the kids have to grow up in the orphanage. They also make it difficult for Americans to adopt Japanese children, so it’s virtually impossible.

  17. Hi, I have some infant clothes in great condition which I would like to donate to an orphanage on Okinawa. Do you take and distribute such donations or could you guide me in the right direction of how to get in touch with an organization which can do so?
    Thanks, K

  18. I am one of the people who organized the trip to this orphanage. The orphanage directors asked us not to post the pictures we took in public forums to protect the children, some of whose parents lost their parental rights due to crimes against the children. Would you please block the children better in the pictures or remove the pictures? I feel the blurring in these pictures isn’t sufficient to conceal their identities enough to protect them.

    • Hi Jill,

      I’m not sure if you’re still living in Okinawa, but I’m still looking for orphanages at which to volunteer. The link listed within the above article is broken. Also, I’m not military, so wondering if you know if that makes a difference in volunteering.

      If you have any further information, I’d be delighted. My email address is:

      Thank you so much,