Born in 1991 in old Mikkabi-town (current: Hamamatsu City), lives in Tokyo.
Her family runs a non-profit organization that offers “a third place which is neither school nor home.” She has grown up with children and young people who have no place in school or at home since childhood. In college, she worked as a local representative at an NGO in a conflict zone in Bangladesh, and then participated in a peacebuilding project as an intern for the United Nations Development Project.
Ms. Watanabe moved to Tokyo when she enrolled at graduate school, where she met refugees from Africa.
What she felt at that encounter was not ‘pity’, but “I want to build a society that gives them hope and has future options.” In March 2016, she established WELgee with a slogan to make a colorful world together, putting aside differences of nationality, race, religion etc., and also not as refugee ‘support’.
Now she’s working non-profit on a refugee homestay and sharehouse through utilization of empty houses project, and an employment transition project for refugees or refugee applicants who come to Japan seeking hope. ‘WELgee Salon’, a place available once a month where people involved with the projects may talk to each other has attracted over 1000 participants.
Her favorite food is spice filled Bangladeshi curry and motsunabe. Her special skill is that she can speak a Bangladeshi indigenous language that does not use written speech. Apparently there are only two Japanese including her can speak the language.
Not talk ABOUT refugee but talk WITH refugee