Used randoseru, the backpacks used by most elementary students, have been collected for donation to schoolchildren in Afghanistan. Japan has been donating backpacks since 2004. To commemorate the almost decade-long charity, photographer Takeshi Uchibori released a photo book titled Randoseru wa Umi o Koete (“School Backpacks Across the Ocean”), which features Afghan children who received the randoseru donations.
The project was started by chemical manufacturer Kuraray Co. and the Japanese Organization for International Cooperation in Family Planning (JOICFP). Both institutes decided to donate randoseru as a way of initiating recycling as well as volunteerism. The randoseru is known to be sturdy that it can keep its good condition even if used for six years, perhaps even more. Over 100,000 randoseru have been collected by the group through solicitation and online donations. These were then sent to Afghanistan together with pencils and notebooks.
It was in 2001 when Uchibori started taking photos of people in Afghanistan. He came back in 2005, when he asked by some acquaintances to visit Jalalabad, a city in eastern Afghanistan, where children have become recipients of the donated bags. It was then when the Japanese photographer got involved with the project.
Uchibori’s book, Randoseru wa Umi o Koete, shows children wearing the randoseru on their backs and smiles on their faces. “I want to show that an ordinary item for Japanese people can be a lifetime treasure for Afghan children,” said Uchibori. Still, the children’s education milieu didn’t go unnoticed. With military aircraft flying overhead, the children are seen studying in open areas using their bags as desks.