At Yokohama International School (YIS), community and service are central to the school’s ethos and learning program. Established on the Bluff in 1924, the school has grown and changed along with the city, and plays an active role in the wider Yokohama community. YIS has enjoyed a long partnership with the Yokohama International Women’s Club, with students and staff volunteering at local orphanages YIWC supports. YIS elementary students host young children from the care homes for monthly visits and high school students organize an annual Orphanage Christmas Party for the orphanages in collaboration with the YIWC, a highlight of the holiday season here. YIS also works closely with two local NPOs that serve people in need, the Sanagitachi Center near Yokohama Stadium and the Chiku Center in Kotobukicho. Students and staff volunteer for regular night patrols, bring homemade onigiri and fresh fruit to serve in the soup kitchens, and they contribute with various fundraisers and donation drives to help those in our community who do not have reliable homes and meals.
The commitment to service learning also extends to the curriculum, as YIS has formed a recent partnership with Hijirizaka Special School in Yamate-cho. As part of their tutor program, YIS Middle School students collaborate with the Hijirizaka students for activities, sports, and school festivals, and their mutual understanding of others in the community is developed through these relationships. Also reflecting a respect for diversity, YIS hosts the Kanagawa Special Olympics unified basketball activity each year, with staff and students alike enjoying the competitively friendly atmosphere for shared training with the Special Olympics athletes.
YIS service learning programs span all sections of the school, from elementary to high school, and reach out across Yokohama and beyond. As Secondary Service Coordinator Sarah Urquhart explains: “When students authentically contribute to their local neighborhoods they feel more connected to the community and understand their role within it. As international school students, they engage locally but also consider ways that their actions connect to wider global issues.” One way YIS recognizes the importance of global connections is through an annual service activity in partnership with HOPE International Development Agency, in which student volunteers raise funds to build a school in an underserved village in rural Cambodia and participate directly in its construction. Whether serving others overseas or here in Yokohama, YIS students bring with them the empathy, skills and high levels of engagement that help them grow as individuals while making a positive difference in the communities they serve.