Astellas’ Flying Star Fund by Astellas and its volunteer employees: Donations of more than 200 wheelchair accessible cars.
"We would like to expand the range of our activities by utilizing wheelchair accessible cars in the future."
Yoshie Hirohara, the representative director of Happiness-Tokai, a general incorporated association in Ibaraki Prefecture, Japan, expressed her gratitude for receiving a wheelchair accessible car from the Flying Star Fund, the Astellas Employee Social Contribution Fund.
Donation of a total of 215 wheelchair accessible cars as of Dec. 2020.
The Flying Star Fund was established in 1996 by Astellas’ volunteer employees and began its activities the following year. The primary activity of the fund is to donate wheelchair accessible cars to welfare and other institutions in Japan to facilitate the expansion of the daily activities of people with physical disabilities so that they can gain more opportunities to participate in community, as well as reduce the burden on family members. The fund has also supported organizations that help children with intractable diseases.
In Fiscal Year 2019, the fund donated a total of five wheelchair accessible cars, one to each of the following five Japanese welfare institutions: Happiness-Tokai (Ibaraki Prefecture), Kinkikai-Smile (Ehime Prefecture), Mirai-Fukushi-Kai (Fukuoka Prefecture), Hikari-Works-Furin (Aichi Prefecture), and Amane (Saga Prefecture). This year, Fiscal Year 2020, the fund donated a total of four wheelchair accessible cars, one each to the following: Minori (Hokkaido Prefecture), Kibouno-Ie (Yamanashi Prefecture), Tomogaki (Osaka Prefecture), and Kuramachi (Tottori Prefecture). The cumulative total of wheelchair accessible cars donated by this fund has reached 215 as of October 2020.
Wheelchair accessible cars expand the range of activities of people with disabilities.
Naoko Tokunaga, a mother of a child who goes to Amane, and the organization that received the donation, said, “Actively going out with the donated wheelchair accessible car shows people that there are children like my child in the community.”
Osamu Kaneko, the vice chairman of Astellas' Flying Star Fund Steering Committee, said, “I joined the Astellas’ Flying Star Fund just as I joined Astellas and was told about it during the training for new employees. I currently engage in its management activities as the vice chairman of the fund. The wheelchair accessible car donation ceremony that I participated in for the first time was held in Mirai-Fukushi-Kai. There, I met the people with disabilities who would be using our wheelchair accessible cars along with their families. They were full of gratitude, and some were in tears with joy. I was reminded of the importance of the Flying Star Fund, which has garnered tremendous support from Astellas’ volunteer employees, with donations of 100 yen every month from each employee.
Kaneko explained the importance of the fund in the following way.
“One caregiver told me that it was hard to support people with disabilities without a wheelchair accessible car. I realized that having a wheelchair accessible car was a matter of life and death for them. Several caregivers expressed their gratitude by saying, among others, “I'm so glad that the fund gave us a vehicle,“ and “I am very happy that I can provide better service to everyone and contribute to the operations of my institution.” Participating in this ceremony was a great opportunity for me to think about what else I can do to further support them. I also strongly feel that I participated in this donation ceremony on behalf of the employees of Astellas and am eager to share with as many of them as possible, the voices of those who received our support, as well as to convey the significance of the activities.”
Each employee donates 100 yen every month, and the company matches the total amount donated.
The Flying Star Fund consists of 4,411 members, representing 71.1% of Astellas and its group employees in Japan (as of March 2020). The fund has adopted a matching gift system in which the company would contribute with a donation that matches the total amount donated by the employees. Rather than asking for a large sum of money, the fund decided to expand the circle of support by collecting a small amount of money. Employees donate 100 yen every month regardless of their position.
Osamu Kaneko, the vice chairman of Astellas' Flying Star Fund Steering Committee, said, “I feel grateful for Astellas’ senior colleagues who built this fund, including those who originally came up with the idea of setting up the fund. I am also grateful for the continuing contributions to the fund, and the support of employee ideas.
Hideko Miyazawa, the deputy secretary general of the National Federation of Parents for Children with Physical Disabilities, which recommended candidates for donation recipients, said, “I think this is truly a great thing" because she has heard of funds run by companies, but has hardly ever heard of funds funded by volunteer employees of a company and also supported by the company as such.
The fund’s activities were initiated by volunteer employees. "Starting with what we can even if a small thing." The fund members feel that these activities that contribute to the improvement of welfare in local communities are rewarding experiences.