Ghana native helps Yokota give to those in need

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Natalie Doan
  • 374th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

Most people donate to the Yokota Airman's Attic without thinking twice about where the items will go, but they just might end up on the other side of the world, in the arms of someone who needs them most.

The Airman’s Attic is a non-profit organization run by volunteers who aim to provide quality clothing and household items at no cost to all military members, civilian contractors, and their families.

The base’s donated goods also travel far beyond the confines of the Yokota fence line though, thanks to James Asante, the owner of Shinrai Shoji, a car export company based in Iruma, Japan.

Asante began his partnership with the attic 10 years ago, through his brother who worked at the Yokota medical facility. Since then, he has been relieving the attic of excess goods and finding them a meaningful home.

“The great thing about our partnership with Asante is that we can get rid of items guilt-free, because we know they will be used with great intentions,” said Master Sgt. Ryan Aubert, 730th Air Mobility Squadron unit program manager, who also manages the attic.

Originally from Ghana, Asante returned to his home country in 2010. He visited a church with an orphanage home and discovered that life in Ghana had not changed much since he was a child who shared a single pair of trousers with his brother.

“From Africa, where we come from, it's very hard,” said Asante. “People just dump children at the church, and then they don't come back.”

Asante spoke with members of the church and learned that they don’t receive any donations, leaving the children in need of clothes, shoes, and blankets.

With his own childhood in mind, Asante felt compelled to help the children he saw. Upon his return to Japan, he contacted the Iruma city office to ask if he could pick up any excess donations from their center, using his own trucks. Soon after, his efforts connected him with volunteers at the Yokota Airman’s Attic as well.

Today, Asante and his team at Shinrai Shoji now collect donations from cities across the Kanto Plains region, including Akishima, Iruma, Tachikawa, and Yokota Air Base. The items are then brought back to his warehouse in Iruma, where they are sorted and compressed into bundles that fill the extra space in shipping containers his company uses to export vehicles to countries like Australia, Tanzania, and Ghana.

Asante has received messages of thanks for the bundles, making the process even more fulfilling for him. “Sometimes when you hear the messages, you cry,” said Asante.

For Aubert, Asante’s partnership with the attic is invaluable, as it allows the organization to help people around the world.

“It feels great knowing that we can help support people in need on a global scale, not just on Yokota Air Base,” said Aubert. “To me, it's a big deal.”