Welcome to the kick-off of our "NPO Founder Interview" series! In each episode, we'll be chatting with the inspiring minds behind various Non-Profit Organizations (NPOs). Our goal is to dig into their personal stories—finding out what motivated them to start their NPO, the challenges they faced, and what keeps them going.
Get ready to discover the unique journeys of NPO founders and stay tuned for a monthly dose of inspiration !
Getting to know you 🔍
Can you tell us more about yourself?
I’m Mizohata Sachiko, born on August 11th, 1950. I dedicated my life to Mikkyo Buddhism and am working as a caregiver even after turning 70. I occasionally work as a soothsayer in Sogo, a shopping center located in Yokohama.
What triggered you to start the NPO?
I have always loved cats. At that time, I was living in Kyushu, in my family house, a place with a huge land. People kept bringing me cats they couldn’t take care of. At the same time, even though I installed the right infrastructure to keep all the cats on my land, I started having problems with my neighbors who disliked cats.
I guess it was the turning point and I started looking for a new place. I initially thought of Nagano but I had an intuition that it had to be in Boso, Chiba prefecture. It took me a lot of time to find the right land, but after weeks of research, I finally found a place that was not listed in real estate agencies.
There were delays in construction, unexpected invoices, and other things that made the whole process extremely tedious. I had no plan to create an NPO but based on the advice from my surroundings, I understood that it was a necessary step to gain legitimacy from society.
Launching the NPO 🚀
What were the difficulties when you first started?
The whole construction was a hassle. I have asked three different local construction companies but none of them respected my requests, asking for a huge amount of money. I ended up asking a company based in Fukuoka, it was much cheaper and more effective.
At that time, I had no idea about how to set up an NPO. I asked a couple of people that I knew in my network, who then introduced me to lawyers, accountants, etc, and they all agreed to help me launch the NPO, handling all the legal and administrative aspects of the creation.
How did you cover the cost from the beginning?
One of my requirements was to not run the NPO for business and make it completely non-profit. I didn’t want to ask people for money and therefore, the NPO was running with my funds. For many years we had 5 to 6 employees and the salaries were also paid with my savings.
Did you get any support from your surroundings?
It was not from my surroundings but from people I would randomly meet. Neko Ten House has been facing real financial challenges for the last 2-3 years, to the point that it is sometimes difficult to even afford the commuting price to my other workplace.
Yet, there’s always someone who crosses my path and offers to help me without anything in return. There was this time in the supermarket when I was trying to find a way to get some cat food. Then I saw a lady, holding a cart full of luxury cat food, I talked to her asking if she could spare one for me. She said no because those were for her cats, but when that lady found out that I was running a shelter for cats, she offered me money instead. She had a very strong relationship with her cats and believed that doing good for animals was good fortune. I guess I overcame all the recent challenges with the unexpected help from like-minded people.
What keeps you going in the difficult times?
It’s my love for cats and animals in general. Here at Neko Ten House, we accept all cats, even those diagnosed with incurable diseases, we accept and we dedicate all our efforts to taking care of them until the very end. I initially wanted to call this place Paradise, but the name was already taken by other businesses. Tengoku is paradise in Japanese and Neko is cat so I shortened Tengoku to TEN and it became Neko Ten House, meaning that paradise for cats is right here, on earth. I also pray every day, spirituality is part of my life and I believe good things happen to people who take care of and save animals.
What would you do differently if you had the opportunity to go back in time?
I would do the same thing. My philosophy is focused on right now and the future. I have a couple of ideas and projects in my mind that I would like to set up. For example the creation of a small-scale nursing home for the elderly where they can live with their pets.
In addition, I'd like to build a separate home exclusively for pets (similar to a senior care facility). For a fee this place will serve as a permanent home for pets whose owners are no longer able to care for their furry companion.
How can people get involved with or support your organization's mission, whether through volunteering, donations, or other means?
Right now, we are accepting all forms of help, cat food, cat litter sand, volunteering, and donations. I notice that people are willing to help one or two times but it is difficult to find someone who comes and helps us in the long term.
I strongly believe in the importance of looking after animals, and that includes of course loving them, providing the right living environment, and of course taking the responsibility to look after them until the end. The animals will give it back to you.
This is my philosophy, we are “Neko First” (cat first, before us).
The interview in video:
(In Japanese language)
How to support NekoTen House ?
There are several ways to support them.
If you want to volunteer locally in Chiba, you can directly contact them: firstname.lastname@example.org
If you want to support them by donation, here are several ways !
Bank Name: Japan Post Bank (ゆうちょ銀行）
Branch Name: 058 (〇五八）
Account Type: Futsu/Savings Account (普通預金)
Account Number: 5717515 (or 10580-57175151)
Account Name: 特定非営利活動法人ネコ天ハウス
*For US or overseas bank transfers, please contact: email@example.com
Donating Amazon Gift Cards : firstname.lastname@example.org
Amazon Wish List
The Cat Sanctuary has a list of items needed every month.