In the central African country of Rwanda, single mothers employed at a Japanese eatery have found a new source of income after their jobs took a hit from the novel coronavirus pandemic: babysitting Japanese kids online.
Despite the seven-hour time difference, the cross-cultural service sees women play and sing with children 12,000 kilometers away in Japan via the videoconferencing app Zoom. The mothers will sometimes stream themselves shopping, chopping vegetables and cooking, to the delight of the kids’ parents as well.
The service is provided twice a day for an hour each in a mix of local languages, English, and Japanese.
“There’s a groove that you can’t experience in neighborhood eurythmic classes,” said Toyochika Kamekawa, 36, from Takahama in Fukui Prefecture. His 2-year-old son regularly takes part in the online sessions and sings songs he has been taught, accompanying himself on his toy drum.
The initiative was started up by Rwanda resident Mio Yamada, 38, who hires single mothers to work at her Japanese restaurant in the capital city of Kigali, and her acquaintance Yushi Nakashima, 30.
Yamada, who studied Swahili at university and now has three sons, moved to Rwanda with her husband in 2016 and opened her restaurant the following year.
“I think my son will come to some realization (about the economic disparity between countries) when he’s older and compares his allowance with the sitters’ wages.”
Some of the songs performed by the sitters touch on these darker themes. In one that foreshadows the conflict, the lyrics implore a child to stop crying with the words that when the war begins, they will be given milk from a cow that isn’t sad.