The following updates touch on a few of the many activities that grantees of the Japan NGO Earthquake Relief and Recovery Fund are carrying out with support from this fund and other sources.
As previously reported, World in Asia (WiA) has received support from JCIE's Relief and Recovery Fund for a project to promote social entrepreneurship. With this and other funding, WiA has been working to support a number of entrepreneurial groups working in the Tohoku region. From time to time, we will highlight some of those WiA projects.
One organization receiving assistance from WiA is SEELS Inc., which stands for Social Enterprise Education and Language School. Entrepreneur Cesar Santoyo is from the Philippines and was working in Japan when the earthquake struck. After the disaster, he started an emergency evacuation center in Tokyo for displaced Filipinos and others from the Miyagi area. Santoyo found that there were many Filipino migrant women among the disaster victims who were not eligible for official assistance, and so he began a training program that would create alternative employment for them as English language teachers and as English language school and preschool owners. This also addressed a second critical problem, which was the difficulty Japanese families were having in the aftermath of the disaster in accessing preschools for their young children.
Another organization supported by WiA is Flatohoku, which is focusing on community tourism and job creation for women in Watari, Miyagi. Entrepreneur Kosuke Matsushima, who is originally from Miyagi, worked with the volunteer center in Watari after the disaster, coordinating with local hotels to lodge the many volunteers who were coming to the area. He realized, however, that to truly rebuild Tohoku would require a sustainable community effort rather than temporary volunteers. The question was how to engage members of the community in that development plan since many people are used to relying on the government to handle such things. His idea was to create community tourism centered on local residents in order to create a sense of ownership in community development. Flatohoku seeks to create "fans" of the Watari community, especially among young people, through volunteer coordination from urban areas, local product development, and workshops based on the unique skills of the residents. Some of the projects have included the development of a "Recovery Sauce" by local tsunami-aaffected women, local history workshops, and tree-planting workshops to create a seawall forest.
Two years after the disaster, the Japanese Red Cross reported that new psychological stresses are arising among 300,000 displaced survivors, particularly children and elderly people. In light of this situation, one of the many assets of Sankaku Planning Iwate's Delivery Care project is the staff's ability to monitor the physical and mental health of their elderly clients while hand delivering basic necessities they bring from the grocery store. In some instances, the staff members were the first to detect and respond to physical and mental health issues their customers are experieincing. As more clients openly consult the staff on their mental, social, or physical tolls, Sankaku Planning Iwate has organized a staff training session on counseling. Staff members point out that this project goes beyond providing delivery services, and it is not unusual for them to see their customers eagerly waiting for their arrival so that they have a chance to chat.
When Sankaku Planning Iwate launched the Delivery Care project in August 2011, the organization operated in three cities in Iwate prefecture with only 10 staff members available to shop for basic necessities on behalf of survivors who lost their homes in the disaster and do not have any means of transportation to run daily errands. Fueled by the region's urgent need for this service, Sankaku Planning Iwate's most recent report to the JCIE NGO Earthquake Fund notes that the organization has expanded its outreach to incorporate two additional cities in Iwate, including one of the hardest hit regions, Rikuzentakata. Simultaneously, the number of staff has doubled, and it now employs 20 women, all of whom were also affected by the disaster.
JCIE thanks the Japan-America Society of Kentucky, its board, and all of its members for their generous donation this month of over $75,000 to the JCIE Japan NGO Earthquake Relief & Recovery Fund! Their support will allow us to assist more organizations involved in the recovery.
To learn about how JCIE has been distributing the more than $3.7 million that we have raised to date, see http://www.jcie.org/311recovery/jcieresponse
Toyo Keizai recently ran an article on World in Asia (WiA) director, Mio Yamamoto, who reevaluated her life after the Great East Japan Earthquake and is currently working toward her MBA at MIT with the goal of bridging the gap between the business and nonprofit sectors. JCIE is supporting WiA's efforts to promote social entrepreneurship to respond to and rebuild after disasters. The article is titled "If You Learn Leadership from the Homeless."
One of the JCIE NGO Earthquake Relief & Recovery Fund grantees, Sanaburi Foundation, has been recording how teenagers in Japan have made positive contributions to relief and recover efforts following the 3/11 earthquake. The project, funded by Save the Children, is discussed in a recent Yomiuri Shimbun article.
The JCIE NGO Earthquake Relief & Recovery Fund has announced another grant for economic recovery, made possible with funding from the BTMU Americas Community Recovery Award.
This grant supports efforts by Kamaishi Platform, a group that is working to revive Kamaishi's oyster industry, a key part of that community's identity. The industry was devastated by the 14-foot waves of the tsunami. Kamaishi Platform's initiative is building connections between small artisanal oyster producers in Kamaishi and Tokyo-based consumers and restaurants. The customers make contributions to support the rebirth of the industry an in return receive an allocation of oysters for the next 10 years. The goal is to build brand awareness for Kamaishi oysters as a way of restoring the economy and the local pride.
Two groups working to provide long-term support for seniors in the region and for the revival of communities have received new grants from the JCIE NGO Earthquake Relief & Recovery Fund. These grants are made possible through funding from the MetLife Foundation and other funders.
Art Revival Connection TOHOKU (ARCT) is an arts group active in the disaster recovery in Miyagi Prefecture, that creates and hosts participatory programs each month for senior citizen facilities in the city of Higashi-Matsushima. It also supports the performances of a 20-person theater troupe that consists of senior citizens from Sendai. These performances encourage interaction and help strengthen community ties.
Leading Aging Society Forum received funding for its "Coordination Platform for Senior Citizens Health and Welfare." Through this initiative, the forum works with local government agencies, social service providers, and area nonprofits to survey the actual needs of seniors in the Ishinomaki area and ensure that none slip through the cracks as different agencies try to respond to their various needs. They have been targeting seniors who remained in their homes rather than living in temporary housing, compiling a database of people's health and needs in an effort to prevent isolation and suicides, and to revive the community. This model is also going be replicated in new locations thanks to this grant.
JCIE continues to offer updates on the activities of organizations we funded in the early stages of our disaster relief efforts to offer a sense of the developments in the disaster zone.
JEN continues to support efforts in the Tohoku region that rebuild the community, provide emotional support, and help residents recover economically. In the spring of 2012, for example, JEN's staff began working on a program to restore the livelihoods of local women by creating and selling jewelry made from abalone shells. And in December 2012, they held a "Fun Work Festival" at a food court at an Ishinomaki market where they focused on women who wanted to use their skills in a business, who wanted to work but found it difficult due to childcare issues, and those who wanted to start a business but did not know how.
In January, JEN held a workshop on the theme of "generating ideas to meet regional challenges." They invited people from a wide range of fields in order to get different perspectives on the issues, including the volunteers who have been providing long-term assistance in the area. The ideas gathered there will be shared at a local workshop next month and then translated into specific plans.
In cooperation with Meiji High School, an Ishinomaki Nichi-Nichi Shimbun Soccer Tournament was held for local boys and girls. A total of 14 teams from around the city took part in the two-day tournament. JEN has carried out a number of these events as a way to encourage exchanges with organizations from throughout Japan and abroad, and as a way to rebuild the community.
As previously reported, World in Asia (WiA) has received support from JCIE's Relief and Recovery Fund for a project to promote social entrepreneurship. With this and other funding, WiA has been working to support a number of entrepreneurial groups working in the Tohoku region. From time to time, we will highlight some of those WiA projects.
One group receiving WiA assistance is Guruguru Cheer Up Supporters, which is working to regenerate local transportation and build a community hub in Ishinomaki and Kesennuma, two hard-hit areas in Miyagi Prefecture.The tsunami-damaged transportation infrastructure has led to increased costs and lower mobility. This creates daily inconveniences for residents, disrupts communities, and limits opportunities for employment and social activities. The loss of residents' previous daily routines has led many to become withdrawn. In response, this project is working with local providers to operate an on-demand bus for those residents without access to transportation. It is also working to combine access to schools, hospitals, and restaurants with social services like meal delivery and elderly care. In addition, the project is launching a community restaurant in downtown Ishinomaki to create jobs for local residents such as former restaurant owners. The projects are aimed at long-term sustainability.
Another project supported by WiA is an effort by a group called Familiar to address the dual issues facing the region of employment for those with disabilities and job creation in the agricultural sector. The young entrepreneur launching this project was previously involved in Marche Japon Sendai, a collaborative farmers market project. Immediately following the earthquake, he organized a food distribution project and provided over 20,000 meals. He is now working to provide training for the physically and mentally handicapped for jobs in a farm restaurant in the tsunami-affected area. He is also expanding the facilities as a shopping mall for additional value to create well-compensated employment both for those with disabilities and for other affected local residents.
The Japan Fundraising Association has just published, Giving Japan 2012, its annual report on giving and volunteerism in Japan. The publication (currently available in Japanese only) specifically examines the giving and volunteer efforts in the wake of the Great East Japan Earthquake, noting that a total of approximately ¥600 billion (roughly US$7.5 billion) was raised for relief and recovery efforts in FY2011, of which roughly ¥119.4 billion came from abroad.
The report also highlighted the role of a number of Japanese organizations that played an intermediary role in the fundraising efforts, raising and re-granting funds to the appropriate nonprofit organizations on the ground in Japan. According to the report, the top three such organizations were the Nippon Foundation (¥817,340,000), Japan Platform (¥557,640,000), and JCIE (¥227,700,000). We at JCIE would like to once again thank the many individuals, organizations, and corporations whose generosity is helping the people of Tohoku rebuild and recover.
Through the JCIE Japan NGO Earthquake Relief and Recovery Fund, JCIE and MetLife Alico Japan launched a one-year program last spring to help children and their families cope with the recovery process. One of the grant recipients is Niko-Niko Support. The group runs a daycare center for children in Sendai, supporting mothers who are working or in need of occasional assistance. Niko-Niko Support created a café where children and their mothers can gather and engage with one another. To celebrate the New Year, the children had a calligraphy contest—a tradition in Japan.
Asuiku (Education for Tomorrow) received also received a MetLife Alico grant to offer tutoring programs in temporary housing locations in Sendai and the surrounding areas. Those efforts have started up gain after the New Year, as Asuiku supporters continue to meet with elementary and middle school students to assist them with their work.
Another grantee is Peace Jam, which has been organizing "Oyako Salons" (mommy and me salons) that provide peer support and community-building for mothers with small children who are trying to recover from the disaster. At one recent session, an instructor was invited to teach the mothers baby massage and yoga techniques. Particularly during the winter, the ability to communicate with other parents to discuss their challenges and concerns is of great importance for these young mothers, and helps them provide better care for their children.
Two groups that are working to rebuild community ties in the disaster zone, AidTAKATA and Fukushima Organic Agriculture Network, have been selected as the latest grantees of the JCIE NGO Earthquake Relief & Recovery Fund. Their grants are made posisble through the BTMU Americas Community Recovery Award and by other funders.
The Fukushima Organic Agriculture Network is working to integrate farmers displaced by the nuclear accident – many of whom are senior citizens – into the local community by matching them with local farmers who need employees. They also run a number of other programs to strengthen farming communities, such as teaching safer farming techniques and distributing accurate information on Fukushima produce.
AidTAKATA has launched Radio FM Rikuzentakata, one of the region's only local radio stations in order to better engage community members in the reconstruction process and to provide information and entertainment for residents. The radio station broadcasts a wide range of programming including area news and community affairs, local folklore, interviews with residents, and city council meetings.
JCIE continues to offer updates on the activities of organizations we funded in the early stages of our disaster relief efforts to offer a sense of the developments in the disaster zone.
JEN hosted an exchange between Shingo Kunieda, two-time gold medalist in wheelchair tennis at the Paralympics, and the children of Ishinomaki. Mr. Kunieda asked to see how areas were damaged by the disaster, and so JEN took him to the "Rehabilitation Fureai March"—a temporary shopping arcade to enhance opportunities for regional rehabilitation—where he spoke with local residents. After seeing the Ishinomori Comic Museum, which is scheduled to reopen at the end of November, they traveled to Kawaguchi, where debris has been temporarily piled up, the Ishinomaki fish market, where the ground level had sunk more than one meter due to the earthquake, and Minamihama, where one can still see the scars left by the tsunami. JEN then took him to a tennis club in Ishinomaki, where he met local elementary and high school students, answered their questions about his Olympic experience and his medals, and gave them lessons. Another event was held at the Kama Elementary School, where he was greeted by nearly 500 students.
In his message to the children, he emphasized the importance of holding on to your dream, having a mental image of realizing that dream, and never giving up. Finally, one child thanked Mr. Kunieda, saying, "I was learning tennis. But I haven't been able to practice for a year since the disaster, so I have had a tough time. But now I find pleasure in being able to play tennis. I was more inspired than ever by Mr. Kunieda's talk to become a professional tennis player." The Kama school district was an area where quite a few residents and students perished in the disaster, and this event is part of JEN's effort to offer psychological support for the area's youths.
For many who watched the coverage of Hurricane Sandy, the scenes of the devastation left behind were eerily reminiscent of the aftermath of the 3/11 tsunami. Although thankfully the magnitude of destruction and the loss of life was much lower than in Japan, nonetheless Sandy took a tremendous toll in terms of the loss of lives, homes, and property has been tremendous, with estimated damages in excess of $50 billion.
Just as Americans and others around the world have been so generous in their support of Japan's recovery from the Great East Japan Earthquake (see JCIE's report on US giving, the Japanese community—in Japan, the United States, and elsewhere—has responded generously as well, launching a number of initiatives to assist the victims of Sandy. Among the prominent efforts is that of the Japanese Chamber of Commerce & Industry of New York, which has donated $500,000 for relief efforts and created a special fund to raise additional support. Japanese corporations have made substantial donations to the American Red Cross for hurricane relief as well, including Toyota ($1,000,000), the Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group ($500,000), and Mizuho ($300,000).
Meanwhile, the Central Community Chest of Japan, which has served as a conduit for channeling millions of dollars in donations from the United Way system into the Tohoku region, has now launched a campaign to encourage the Japanese public to donate toward relief for this disaster in the United States.
JCIE continues to offer updates on the activities of organizations we funded in the early stages of our disaster relief efforts to offer a sense of the developments in the disaster zone.
Peace Winds Japan has been supporting students and faculty at Koyo Maritime High School, a vocational school located in Kesennuma, Miyagi Prefecture. The school prepares its students for careers in the fishing industry and other maritime careers. About 360 students enroll at Koyo High School every year. The March 2011 tsunami devastated Koyo Maritime High School, destroying the school building, training equipment, and educational supplies. Fortunately students and faculty had retreated to the school rooftop and suffered no casualties. In November 2011 the Japan Government constructed a new Koyo Maritime High School building. Peace Winds is supplying classrooms with equipment to properly educate and train Koyo students.
Most recently Peace Winds upgraded the chemistry and cooking laboratories to ensure safe and functional laboratories for the 360 Koyo students. In the chemistry lab, a new fume hood limits exposure to hazardous and odorous chemicals. Also in the chemistry lab, a vacuum freeze-dry machine now provides students the opportunity to study and experiment with food processing and packaging techniques. Peace Winds also installed hot water heaters and plumbing in the cooking lab and in the chemistry lab. Prior to installation both labs had sinks and faucets, but no running water, hot or cold.
In the autumn 2012 term, over 50 students are using the chemistry lab daily. Students receive hands-on training in nutrition, food development, canning and other food processing methods in both laboratories. The equipment enables vocational training to prepare students for maritime careers, particularly girls. Ninety percent of the Koyo students in the Business and Industry Department are women who gain employment at Kesennuma's numerous seafood processing plants.
The Kamaishi Kitchen Car Project continues to provide a means for former restaurant owners to earn a living as they hope to rebuild their shops. The project is currently recruiting operators for a new restaurant car.
Mr. Miura is one example of those that the project is now helping. He had opened a restaurant in 2002 in the Tadakoecho section of Kamaishi, then moved to a new, larger space in the Omachi area in December 2010. In just a few months, he had been able to nearly double his clientele and was looking forward to a bright future when disaster struck. The restaurant was destroyed and the supply of sake that he had carefully selected from around the country was swept away by the tsunami.
Despite losing his shop, however, Mr. Miura's spirit has remained strong. He speaks of the many people he has been fortunate enough to meet as a result of the disaster and how it has broadened his perspective. He stresses that you can't just sit around complaining about how terrible the disaster was—you have to take action, and that will lead to rebuilding the community and to economic recovery. His hope is to eventually rebuild and reopen his pub, "Kanpai," but for now, operating a kitchen car under that same name is one step forward in that process. Mr. Miura's juicy sirloin steak over rice is a particular favorite, and thanks to the use of the "yatai" (a portable, enclosed dining area that can attach to the kitchen car for dining at nighttime or in inclement weather) and to his cheerful personality, he is once again building a loyal clientele.
Mr. Miura and his children pose by the Kanpai Kitchen Car
Message to the JCIE NGO Fund donors from WiA
WiA is a recent grantee that works to support social entrepreneurship as a way to address the critical challenges facing the Tohoku region. They recently sent a note, thanking JCIE for our support.
Thank you so much for your continued interest and support. The 3.11 earthquake has not only brought tremendous physical damage but has also intensified the problems of an aging population and a declining economy in Tohoku. At the same time, because so much has been lost, social entrepreneurs are taking the recovery process as a chance to build new initiatives, picking up the real voices of the local residents one by one.
Founded six months after the disaster, World in Asia (WiA) supports social entrepreneurs whose projects need a hand in scaling their impact. WiA provides hands-on support over three years from strategy and organizational development, fundraising support, impact assessment, coordination across the border between for-profits and non-profits, to regional and global replications.
The projects supported by WiA include ultra-affordable E-learning for kids from low-income families, community transportation for the aging population, town development with community tourism and microfranchising, value addition of agriculture with employment for the challenged, women's post-childbirth healthcare, and a community marketplace in Fukushima. Additionally, WiA has launched a web-based platform, called StoneSoup (http://stonesoup.jp), for providing updates on the projects and building a support community.
The disaster connected communities across borders, from social entrepreneurs in Tohoku to the global society. If we work together beyond the borders, not only can we solve the issues in Tohoku, but we can also catalyze innovations from Tohoku, for Japan, and for the world.
World in Asia (WIA)
JCIE has continued to follow the activities of the organizations we funded in the early stages of our disaster relief efforts. Here are a few updates on their recent activities that offer a sense of the developments in the disaster zone.
AAR Japan: Because of the impact of the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, children in Fukushima Prefecture seldom have the opportunity to play outside. Furthermore, outdoor play areas for children are limited around the temporary housing complexes. Not being able to play outside not only leads to psychological stress for the children, but constant lack of exercise, which causes obesity and the weakening of the immune system, is also a concerning matter.
In response, this past summer AAR Japan held the "Nishi-Aizu Waku-Waku Kids' School" (waku-waku describes a state of excitement in Japanese) to help reduce the stress that the children experience from living in temporary housing and to combat the problem of lack of exercise. The event was held in the town of Nishi-Aizu in Fukushima Prefecture's Yama County. Twenty families fromSukagawa City were invited to Lotus Inn and the International Art Village to take part in nature workshops. With a population of about 7,000, Nishi-Aizu Town is a remarkably nature-rich area with a beautiful landscape that is located in western Fukushima. The amount of aerial radiation is relatively low at about 0.8 microsieverts per hour, which is about the same level as that of the Kanto region. The participants learned to build their own fire, make soba noodles, and carve bamboo cups and musical instruments, and they were allowed plenty of time to play outdoors.
JEN: On October 14, a "Fureai-Hiroba Festival to 'Revive Kamikama'" was held with help from JEN. It was a festival intended to provide an opportunity for residents to interact with each other and renew their resolve to revive Kamikama, as well as to celebrate the resumption of the park, where tulips were planted. Some 200 victims were temporarily buried in this park last year because of the shortage of space to lay out the remains in the aftermath of the disaster. At the beginning of the festival, people gathered in prayer for the repose of all the disaster victims and those who were buried in this park. The mayor of the city of Ishinomaki delivered the opening address and a ribbon was cut to open the park. After the opening, children plantedtulip bulbs and various events were held including a traditional dance, a tug-of-war, kite flying, and a picnic. JEN asked people in Higashihama, Sasunnohama, and Kaduma—where JEN is supporting economic recovery efforts—to open stands at the festival as a way to encourage local communities in Ishinomaki to interact with each other, promote better understanding and ties between them, and advance together toward recovery. The festival also attracted people living in temporary housing and those who are taking shelter in other places and they enjoyed a happy reunion for the first time in quite some time. JEN is committed to assisting in the revival of local communities.
Message of Support to Americans from Japan
AMDA, one of the first recipients of a funding from the JCIE Japan NGO Earthquake Fund, played a key role in responding to the 3/11 disaster in Japan. As one of Japan's leading humanitarian assistance organizations, they respond to disasters around the region. They have sent the following message to Americans affected by Hurricane Sandy, many of whom were so generous during Japan's time of need.
I represent AMDA, the Association of Medical Doctors of Asia,… and I was deeply touched by the compassion and support of the American people toward the victims of the Great East Japan Earthquake.
We, at AMDA Headquarters in Okayama, Japan, have been closely following the news on Hurricane Sandy which wreaked havoc on the areas along the US East Coast. The damages to the lifelines, transportation systems, communication lines and to all other aspects of people's life must be tremendous, even to those resilient American citizens.
The road to full recovery is long and arduous but we are certain that American people will bounce back stronger than before. As we think and pray for the American people, we renew our commitment to all disaster victims around the world.
We hope that you, your family and colleagues are all well and safe surviving in the aftermath of the disaster. Please remember that our thoughts and prayers are with you and all our friends in the affected areas.
Director of President Office & Board Member
Association of Medical Doctors of Asia
JCIE staff recently attended a gathering of funders who are supporting recovery efforts in Tohoku. The event was organized by the Sanaburi Foundation, a JCIE grantee that has been working hard to support capacity building in the region. There were 11 organizations represented, including grant-making foundations, corporate foundations, and those like JCIE that are playing an intermediary role. According to calculations by the Sanaburi Foundation, these organizations have provided a combined total of ¥15.9 billion (more than $200 million) to NPOs working in the region. The funders also met with representatives of three "Renpuku" organizations, which are the Renkei Fukko Centers (literally, the cooperative recovery centers) established in Iwate, Miyagi, and Fukushima Prefectures. Participants discussed ways in which funds might be leveraged to gain public funding for NPOs, ways in which innovations occurring in the region can be shared with others (not only in terms of lessons for disaster recovery, but perhaps in terms of solving some of the social issues facing Japanese society more broadly as well), and how to provide effective institutional support during a crisis and in the post-disaster phase.
World in Asia (WiA) received JCIE funding for its work to support social entrepreneurship. Even prior to the devastating earthquake that struck on 3.11, the Tohoku region was facing serious challenges. The population was graying as younger generations moved away in search of jobs, causing a serious decline in the regional economy and the disintegration of communities. The disaster further intensified those trends. In order to promote long-term economic recovery in the region, WiA realized that you must not only rebuild the economic infrastructure that was there prior to the disaster, but also address these fundamental, underlying issues in order to create jobs and rebuild communities. They are developing a new model to support and expand the work of local entrepreneurs as a way to solve these issues. Read more...
JCIE staff recently visited with the Miyako City team of JCIE grantee Sankaku Planning Iwate’s “Mederu Car” Project, and spent the day accompanying the group on their delivery rounds and daily activities. The Mederu Car project currently has four teams delivering groceries in the cities of Miyako, Noda, Ohtsuchi, and Ofunato, and in certain cases such as in Miyako, the team has expanded coverage to include neighboring townships as well.
The Miyako City team began its activities in August 2011, with two staff members working out of their "Mederu Car", and it has since expanded to a staff of five. The team members include one "leader," Ms. Yokota, who is the main coordinator and contact person between Sankaku Planning headquarters and the Miyako City branch; two middle-aged mothers, Ms. Ishisone and Ms. Nakajima, who live with their extended families in temporary housing units; and two younger women, Ms. Matsumoto and Ms. Oomukai, who are in their early 20s and have also been struggling to deal with the impact of the disaster on their lives and their local community. While the word "mederu" means to cherish or to admire, the character used for the name of the program is a homonym meaning the sprout of a budding plant. The idea behind the program that drives and distinguishes it from a simple grocery delivery service is the critical and transformative importance of communication to the lives of both those who utilize the service and the women working to carry it out.
The Mederu Car staff took us to meet some of their regular customers living in one of the temporary housing lots in Miyako. Judging from the way they chatted with each other one would assume that they had been friends for decades. In fact, this time last year, the women they were talking with was among their first customers. For the first few visits last year she was withdrawn and very quiet, hesitant to open up about the health problems she was facing or to ask for the help and supplies that she needed. During this recent visit, however, she was extremely bright and upbeat and spoke about how lucky she was relative to her neighbors for having the support of her children as well as a steady income from the pensions that she and her husband had worked toward throughout their old age until the disaster hit. Though initially this had been a courtesy call and not a delivery, by the end of the visit she had put in a simple order for a few household and grocery items such as soda and ice cream for her daughter for when she returned after a long, hard day at work. Read more...
One of the organizations that JCIE supported during the relief phase of its funding efforts was NICCO, an NGO that continues to be active in the regional recovery efforts as well. In a recent report, NICCO described its psychosocial care program in Miyagi Prefecture.
In the town of Yuriage, in Natori City, Miyagi Prefecture, nearly 900 people out of the several thousand residents were killed, and more than 90% of the houses were destroyed. Few people now remain in Yuriage, and reconstruction programs have made little progress to date, leaving the remaining residents anxious and impatient. To help the community heal, NICCO has erected an open-access prefab structure called "Mémoire de Yuriage" in the center of a devastated area in Yuriage, believing that a common space can serve as a core part of reconstruction. This space allows people to gather, communicate, and work on plans for reconstruction. The structure has come to have multiple functions. It serves as an information and administration office for a memorial monument that was built at Yuriage Junior High School. It offers a café where people in the community can enjoy coffee or tea and chat with neighbors. It also offers an exhibition room and a space for storytellers who share their experiences of the disaster and feelings toward their hometown. The name "Mémoire de Yuriage" comes from the hope that this place will serve as a place for victims to come to terms with both precious and painful memories, allowing them to move forward with their lives and with rebuilding their community.
This January, the people of Tohoku will hold their first New Year's celebration since the disaster. In Japan, the first New Year's holiday after a tragedy is never celebrated out of respect for those who have passed, so there were no celebrations at the start of 2012. The Sanaburi Foundation, a JCIE fund grantee and Tohoku's first community foundation, has launched the "Tohoku no Oshogatsu" campaign, which will allow disaster victims in temporary housing whose lives have been in limbo to come together with the rest of their communities to finally celebrate. The New Year's holiday is perhaps the most important holiday of the year in Japan as a time for families, friends, and neighbors to come together and to look forward to the new possibilities that the coming year brings. The campaign is collecting donations through the end of October to help community groups organize New Year's celebrations, hoping to bring smiles and exchanges of "Happy New Year!" to disaster victims who have been working hard all year to persevere and rebuild their lives under trying circumstances. People can donate from overseas through the Sanaburi Foundation website (details available in Japanese only).
A JCIE survey of nearly 1,000 nonprofits, businesses, and philanthropic foundations reveals that, in the 1 1/2 years since Japan's Tohoku region was devastated by a massive earthquake and tsunami, Americans have donated at least $665.8 million (¥53.3 billion) for relief and recovery efforts. This outpouring of charitable giving represents the largest US philanthropic response ever to an overseas disaster in a developed country.
The latest tally represents a revision to an earlier JCIE survey that had recorded $630 million in US giving as of March 1, 2012, and the increase in giving is due to more accurate fundraising reports after the end of the Japanese fiscal year on March 31 and new donations collected in the last six months. For more information...
This past week JCIE staff made another trip to Tohoku to visit a few of the JCIE fund's grantees and other innovative local recovery efforts. On Friday they visited a Kitchen Car for lunch where Ms. Teiko Haga, whose ramen noodle shop was swept away by the tsunami, has been able to continue offering the same noodles that her father started selling 57 years ago. Locals are comforted by the familiar taste, and seeing them enjoy her noodles and homemade broth gives her the energy to continue with the hopes of eventually reopening a ramen noodle shop and coffee house in town. For more information...
The August 2012 edition of Sotokoto magazine includes a feature article on the Sanaburi Foundation, a recipient of the BTMU Americas Community Recovery Award through JCIE's Japan NGO Earthquake Relief & Recovery Fund. The article describes the origins of this unique community foundation, its mission of supporting recovery in the Tohoku region, and the way in which it raises funds. It also showcases some of the foundation's recent grantees, including a program that uses art and music to reach out to children in Fukushima Prefecture, as well as a "Recovery Support Center" in Miyagi Prefecture that engages the elderly to prevent them from becoming isolated. Altogether, in its first year of operations, Sanaburi supported more than 50 projects. It is also planning to start lend money to small business owners as a way to kick-start the rebuilding of the community.
The JCIE grant was focused on capacity building for the foundation and helping the organization improve its outreach. For example, the Sanaburi Foundation has hired a person with PR expertise for external outreach, which is critical for long-term fundraising and for facilitating the kinds of connections that make a community foundation effective. They are currently advertising for another program officer as well. And they have created an appealing and informative website, including information on their grantees and on how individuals, corporations, and others can contribute. As the Sotokoto article mentions, in the Japanese context it is often difficult to convince funders to cover organizational costs. Many want 100 percent of their donations to go directly to the grant projects. Institutional and capacity building support therefore is crucial in allowing the Sanaburi Foundation to conduct outreach to potential funders and fund recipients, research and create connections with grant organizations, maintain close ties with various actors in the community, and keep a close eye on the ever-changing needs in the community.
Several days ago, JCIE staff made another trip to the disaster zone in Iwate Prefecture to visit with the organizers of innovative recovery projects. While some areas still lag far behind, in many places the efforts to rebuild the physical infrastructure have made extraordinary progress. However, one constant refrain heard from residents is about the need for greater efforts to promote economic revitalization. Unemployment is a massive problem because so many businesses have been destroyed, and it seems destined to become a higher profile issue in September, when the last of the unemployment benefits provided to disaster survivors run out after 18 months.
Many people in the Tohoku region are especially quick to express their frustration with the slow pace of government action, both at the national and local levels, and the lack of clarity about government policy continues to hamstring the economic recovery. For example, disaster survivors point to the government's dithering over where factories and homes can be rebuilt and where they will be prohibited under new zoning regulations as being a major drag on the economy. To illustrate the point, one business leader in Kamaishi City told of how his great-grandfather quickly rebuilt the family home 7 times—twice after it was destroyed by tsunamis, four times after large fires, and once after the bombing of World War II. However, nearly 1½ years after the latest disaster, he cannot move forward because still has no idea whether he will ever be allowed to rebuild again.
Immediately after the 3/11 disaster, 340,000 people evacuated their homes in Iwate, Miyagi, and Fukushima, the hardest hit prefectures. About one in five of those people, or more than 70,000 residents, have still not returned to their native prefectures. In a July 2012 survey conducted by the Osaka Bar Association, half of the evacuees in Osaka expressed a desire to remain in their new home, citing as reasons the dangers of radioactive contamination, lack of job opportunities, and absence of a "home" to which they can return. NGOs based in prefectures that are now home to these evacuees are working to help Tohoku residents adjust to their lives in their new communities. However, the challenge is to bridge the divide existing between the evacuees and the local residents. This divide most likely stems from the exclusivity of Japanese communities and differences in the distinct and institutionalized community practices. To address this issue, NGOs such as the "Welcome, Attakai-Do" in Hokkaido prefecture are organizing events for evacuees that offer advice on employment and life in Hokkaido, as well as dialogue opportunities with local residents.
NPO JEN continues its efforts to assist the revival of the fishing industry in and around Ishinomaki. Their latest work focuses on the need to support those fishermen who now have to travel long distances from temporary housing to get to the sea. JEN is providing facilities known to fishermen as "banya"—essentially beach sheds where they can take a break or carry out their work. The first seaside banya was built in Momoura late last month on the former site of a fishing coop building. The coastal town of Momoura was largely wiped out by the tsunami. Currently, there are 16 fishing families that are working to restart their fishing businesses, but all of them are currently living far from the coast, with one person having to commute all the way from Sendai—80 km away! Particularly with the hot summer months ahead, the fishermen were extremely happy to have a place where they can take shelter from the sun. JEN will be setting up banya in five more locations as well.
As previously reported, the JCIE fund is supporting the Kamaishi Kitchen Car Project. One of the project's participants is Noriko Kojima, who decided to make a new start after the earthquake and start her own business. Having enjoyed crêpes in other towns, she always wondered why there were no crêpe shops in Kamaishi and had long wanted to start a crêpe stand of her own. After she heard about the Kitchen Car Project, she applied and launched the Yotsubaya (Four-Leaf Clover Shop) kitchen car, realizing her dream. The shop is particularly popular with young students, offering a place to meet when many of their other gathering spots were destroyed in last year's disaster.
Summer in Japan is a time for festivals, where people often wear a traditional light-weight cotton kimono known as a yukata. Unfortunately, those who lost their homes in last year's disaster have had too many other items to replace, so few have been able to replace their lost yukata. Hearing that residents were hoping to wear yukata to the summer festival that will be held in July in Oharahama on the Oshika Peninsula, JEN arranged to purchase cloth from a dry-goods store in Ishinomaki that had been damaged in the disaster and distributed it in mid-June to residents in temporary housing and others. From June 13, residents met at the Ohara Meeting Hall to begin helping each other to make yukata. Hopefully this effort will help make this year's summer festival a bright and cheerful event!
With funding from the BTMU Americas Community Award, JCIE provided a grant to Sankaku Planning in order to help strengthen communities' ties and serve vulnerable populations, particularly senior citizens and disabled disaster survivors, through a "Delivery Care Project." This hires unemployed women affected by the March 11 disaster to provide shopping services to other survivors—many of them disabled senior citizens, people who are ill, pregnant women, and others—who have lost their homes and now live in temporary housing. Much of the temporary housing is situated in higher elevations quite a distance from shopping centers, and since many people lost their cars in the tsunami and public transportation is not readily available, it makes it challenging for people to go out to purchase groceries and daily necessities. Through the Delivery Care Project, residents can place their orders and pay a nominal fee of to have the project staff to do the shopping for them and deliver the items they need. Through regular contact, the project staff can also keep track of the physical and mental health of their clients, who may otherwise be at risk of becoming isolated from their community. For more information...
NICCO has been carrying out a special project that uses food to promote economic recovery and support community building. In the early stages following the disaster, NICCO had been running daily soup kitchens to feed evacuees, but as local restaurant owners began reopening temporary shops, they eventually switched their focus to the development of products that use famous Tohoku foods. NICCO worked with various funders, chefs from the "Soul of Tohoku" project, and food manufacturers to produce a line of products that can be ordered online. Six products were announced in the fall of 2011, and now an additional 5 products are being offered through the summer of 2012. The involvement of a renowned group of chefs brings not only outstanding culinary knowledge and brand image to the products, but the fact that these chefs are involved in product quality assurance—including the radiation inspections—helps assure consumers that the products are safe. As a result, the products are being offered at department stores throughout the country as well as online.
In addition to this economic aspect of the project, a second key element is to support community building among those in temporary housing through dinner parties and cooking lessons involving the project's famous chefs. Neighbors in the temporary housing units generally were not neighbors before the disaster, so by holding events once or twice a month, NICCO is providing opportunities for them to get to know one another and build a new community—and to enjoy excellent food!
During a visit this month to Kamaishi, JCIE staff visited what remains of one of the city's junior high schools. Surrounded by mounds of rubble, the images are a haunting reminder of the devastation that occurred that day. But in what was called the "Miracle of Kamaishi," none of the children at this school were hurt. Thanks to ongoing efforts in the schools, the children had been given instruction about how to respond in disasters, including tsunamis. This effective disaster preparedness program gave children the tools to decide when to evacuate and the confidence to trust their own instincts contributed. The result was a 99.8% survival rate for Kamaishi schoolchildren—only 5 children were among the city's 1,044 dead and missing.
Another poignant site in the Kamaishi area were memorials that have been installed since last year's disaster, including one that marks how far the tsunami rose and urges people to run uphill to save themselves (pictured below; bottom right).
On May 11, JCIE staff visited the Omoe Day Care Center in Miyako, Iwate Prefecture, where they met with Ms. Fukiko Ishii of SakuraNet (our grantee for this project), and Mr. Hiroshi Kuzu of the Miyako Social Welfare Council, and learned a bit more about how this project came about.
Ms. Ishii first became active in disaster assistance efforts following the Great Hanshin Earthquake that struck her hometown in 1995, and she has since become an innovator and leader in Japan's nonprofit sector. She currently oversees the Joint Committee for Coordinating and Supporting Voluntary Disaster Relief Activities. Following last year's disaster, she has been assisting relief and recovery efforts in Iwate Prefecture. Several months after the earthquake, she was speaking with Mr. Kuzu, who had been hoping to find a way to rebuild the senior daycare center in Omoe. The remote location of this town—situated on a peninsula about an hour from downtown Miyako—meant that such a center was both more important to the community and lower priority for the strained government budgets. Ms. Ishii introduced Mr. Kuzu to a friend of hers, Prof. Munemoto of Ritsumeikan Univ., who challenged his architecture students to come up with an inexpensive, safe, and practical design. While the students worked on the actual design and construction, Ishii, Kuzu, and Munemoto garnered local and legal support for the center's creation, procured discounts on materials, negotiated assistance from local companies, and raised funds—including from the JCIE fund.
JCIE staff toured the finished center. It has a unique, spacious dome shape, formed by hexagonal panels. The windows are covered with film instead of glass, which keeps the building warm in the winter, and the building was constructed to be wheelchair accessible so that the seniors and others in the community can use the facility. Since opening, the center has been used once a week as a senior daycare center by the Miyako Social Welfare Council. Others in the community are also able to use the center, and little by little the members of the community have been bringing items to equip the center—a TV, whiteboard, children's books, a microphone and cassette player for karaoke, and so on.
The center was built on land provided by the local fishing cooperative, and it has a beautiful view of the ocean. Next to the center is a temporary housing unit, and the residents there are enjoying having the center there to give them a pleasant place where seniors can relax, children can play, and neighbors can mingle.
Springtime in Japan is the time for cherry blossom viewing, and last month the Association for Aid and Relief (AAR) helped to ensure that local residents who are living in temporary housing could celebrate the season and enjoy a sense of normalcy by offering a sing-a-long bus tour of some of the best spots in for seeing the beautiful blooms in Sukagawa, Fukushima Prefecture. The idea was raised by the head of a temporary housing committee in that city, who was hoping to find a way to raise spirits and build a sense of community among the inhabitants. A keyboard was placed on the bus and a pianist led the participants, both young and old, in song. The event was held on two successive weekends.
Another springtime event in Japan is Children's Day (May 5), and in preparation for that, AAR carried out an event at Yunuki, located in Soma City (Fukushima Pref.). This was part of a larger project AAR has been carrying out in Iwate and Miyagi Prefectures to date to engage local residents in efforts to support the physical and mental health of those affected by the disasters. Since last summer, AAR has held various events that offered massage therapy, physical fitness activities, counseling, and other activities to get people engaged and active. This was the first event conducted in Fushushima Prefecture, and it involved having elementary school children and those in facilities for the disabled create the traditional carp-shaped streamers (koinobori) that are flown on Children's Day. One woman who had brought her grandchild to participate noted that last year there was no place to fly the streamers, so the children were delighted to see the colorful fish flying high once again.
The Tokyo-based Takagi Fund received a three-year grant from JCIE's Japan NGO Earthquake Relief and Recovery Fund to assist its efforts to educate and promote collaboration and information-sharing among grassroots groups in the Fukushima region and elsewhere that have been dealing with radioactive contamination. The project includes research seminars and technical lectures as well as a website to help the mothers' groups, neighborhood associations, and other grassroots groups that are monitoring radiation in the area. The ultimate goal is to empower the people in these communities by providing these groups with a more scientific basis upon which to make the informed decisions that will help them lead healthy and secure lives.
For more information...
The Association for Aid and Relief (AAR) reports that about 400 children are currently living in 13 temporary housing sites in the city of Soma, Fukushima Prefecture. These children, who have suffered through the trauma of losing friends, relatives, and their homes, have had no place to play outside at their new housing units, which has meant that they've had difficulty getting the kind of play and exercise that they need for their physical and mental health. In mid-March, AAR installed a small playground at one site, and they have since installed two more. Word traveled quickly and the playgrounds were quickly filled with the sounds of children laughing and playing. The playgrounds also provide a place for parents, grandparents, or other caregivers to gather and get to know one another since the people in the temporary housing units come from all over the region.
Peace Winds Japan (PWJ) has been working with children in Tohoku, using sports to help them heal emotionally. One of the problems, however, has been a lack of sports facilities. Following last year's disaster, many of the middle school sports grounds in the city of Kesennuma had to be used for temporary housing for victims. As a result, it was difficult finding space for children to exercise and participate in club and team activities. In response, PWJ has raised funds and begun planning for new sports grounds that are expected to be built this summer in the Shishiori section of Kesennuma. The grounds will be available for use by local residents as well. PWJ is looking forward to seeing children happily racing around the new facility in the near future.
The Association of Medical Doctors of Asia (AMDA) reports that it is continuing to work with an NPO in Sendai to provide food and hand warmers to the homeless. In April, the weather has started to warm up, but the nights are still very cold in northern Japan. They have seen more people losing their jobs and being forced to live on the streets, so they are continuing to keep a close eye on the needs in the city.
JCIE and MetLife Alico Japan announced 21 grants for organizations helping children and families affected by 3/11. These include groups such as Peace Jam, which aims to create a peer support group of mothers with small children in Miyagi who have been facing great challenges since the diaster, and Ai Chikara, which brings children from Fukushima whose outdoor activities have been limited due to radiation concerns on a 2-week program to Aichi where they will have the opportunity to play in nature. The program is made possible by donations from MetLife Alico employees, and it provides one-year grants to 21 Japanese groups for the grant period April 1, 2012—March 31, 2013.
For more information...
When Kamaishi was struck by the tsunami, its business district was destroyed and along with it, many of the town's restaurants. Thanks to contributions from the Japan-America Society of Indiana (JASI) and others, JCIE is providing a grant to the Fuji Social Welfare Foundation for an innovative "Kitchen Car Project" that is investing in the establishment of a small fleet of food trucks in Kamaishi, which are rented for a low fee to local chefs who have lost their restaurants. The trucks operate in different areas around town to provide low-cost, high-quality fare, in the process stimulating other local economic activity by attracting residents to these areas of the city. This grant will be used to procure one new truck and one "yatai"—a portable food stand with covered seating and vinyl walls that can be "docked" to the kitchen cars at night or in bad weather. Eventually, the project will provide a path back to restaurant ownership for the participating chefs, but for the time being, it is playing an important role in employing them and keeping them from deserting the region. For more information...
Although one year has passed, there are still many areas of Tohoku that still look much the same as they did right after the disaster. The Association for Aid and Relief (AAR) has launched a new campaign, "Flowers and Messages for Tohoku" to help add some much-needed beauty to the area. People are asked to contribute ¥1,000 to have marigolds, begonias, and other seasonal flowers to people in the affected areas in Iwate, Miyagi, and Fukushima Prefecture. The project has multiple goals. One is to help bring beauty back to the disaster zone. Another is to provide an emotional boost to victims of the disaster, both through the therapeutic effects of tending for flowers and through the accompanying messages of encouragement that are to be sent, letting people know that they are not forgotten. A third goal is economic aid since the flowers will be purchased from florists in the affected area and from facilities for people with disabilities.
Earlier this month, AMDA outlined the four components of its three-year program of support for Tohoku's recovery. (1) Dispatching Medical Volunteers: AMDA is continuing to support hospitals in Tohoku that are suffering from chronic manpower shortages by sending volunteer medical specialists, particularly during peak seasons. (2) AMDA Otsuchi Health Support Center: This center is intended to contribute to health enhancement and community rebuilding. Local members of the center are also reaching out to other affected communities in Tohoku, uniting resources to work toward common recovery. (3) Supporting the Young in Tohoku: AMDA is providing financial assistance to support education of young people in the region. It is encouraging them to communicate with other communities in Japan and abroad. In addition to a scholarship program, AMDA is supporting a high school club in Otsuchi, sports and cultural exchange programs, and the provision of school supplies and uniforms. (4) Ad Hoc Projects: This includes a variety of projects, such as support for the homeless in Sendai, and sending beds and supplies to a hospital in Kesennuma.
NICCO offered an outline of its efforts to provide "kokoro no kea"—care for the heart—focused on children in the Tohoku region who are suffering from or are susceptible to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a result of their experiences. With the help of child psychologists and counsellors, they are conducting programs at an ongoing workshop known as the "Sky Room," where kids engage in games and creative projects. Approximately 60 children are participating in activities designed to help children avoid PTSD and then to get over the past and rebuild their confidence. Some of the regular activities include a music program, a photographic expression program, a film-making program, and a drama program. They also hold other events, such as a workshop over the summer vacation and soccer events.
On March 25, JEN helped the people of Ishinomaki hold a festival of appreciation at Sasu Beach. Local residents and many people who are hoping for the reconstruction of the area visited Sasu, making for a very lively event. The oysters of Sasu Beach are considered to be among the best in the world. Guests were treated to steamed oysters and Ushio soup (soup made from blue mussels), and the venue was filled with many happy smiles. Among the visitors were people from Iketani in Niigata Prefecture, a site where JEN has been engaged since the 2004 Niigata Chuetsu earthquake.
As part of its efforts to help heal the emotional scars children have suffered from last year's disaster, NICCO held events earlier this year in which children participated in creating dioramas. The dioramas were built in 3 stages: (1) "Our town before the disaster" (5 joint projects); (2) "The scenes I remember from that day" (50 individual projects); (3) "Our town in the future" (5 joint projects). The projects were carried out under the supervision of a local psychologist and a mental health counselor dispatched by NICCO, and the objective was to help mitigate post-traumatic stress disorder by reconfirming that the children are survivors, helping them process their memories and emotions, and helping them to envision the future that they want to build. The children's artwork is on display throughout the month of March at the Aeon Mall in Natori (Miyagi Prefecture).
JCIE's Japan NGO Earthquake Relief and Recovery Fund has provided a grant to SakuraNet, a Japanese NPO, to rebuild and operate a senior daycare center, which will double as a community center, in an isolated area outside of Miyako City, Iwate Prefecture. This grant, which is part of the fund's focus on long-term recovery and particularly on supporting senior citizens—a large and vulnerable portion of those affected by last year's disaster—was made possible by MetLife Foundation and other donors to the JCIE fund. The Miyako Daycare project has brought together the nonoprofit sector, the local social welfare council, and architecture students and professors from Ritsumeikan University to rebuild a center that serves senior citizens and other residents in the small rural community of Omoe, a fishing community that was hard-hit by the tsunami. At this point, government funds are being used to rebuild senior centers in more urbanized areas, not smaller centers in less populated places. However, Omoe is an hour drive from the Miyako City center, which would be too far for senior citizens to commute each day, so this center will play an important role in meeting the local community's needs. For more information...
Many residents in the Tohoku region were engaged in small-scale farming prior to the disaster of 3/11. Rice farming in particular has not just been a source of income, but an integral part of the region's culture and history. The tsunami had a devastating impact on these farms, both by depositing enormous amounts of sediment and debris and by contaminating the ground with sea water. Cleaning up these fields is therefore a key part of reviving the local economy, culture, and community.
For that reason, NICCO is conducting a project in various areas of Miyagi Prefecture to repair damaged fields by adopting the "fuyu mizu tambo" system of keeping water in the rice fields over the winter to desalinate the fields. Working with another local NPO, Tambo, they have been cleaning debris, conducting biological surveys, measuring radiation levels, and holding lectures and training sessions for local farmers. From the spring, they will assist in planting the rice and then help with the harvest after that.
The Association for Aid and Relief (AAR) Japan held a special event for children at a school in Koriyama, Fukushima Prefecture, in a town that has been affected by the radiation leak from the nuclear plant. Children are only allowed outside to play when the radiation levels are below 0.5 microsieverts—which has happened only five times since the disaster struck. The event included a storytime featuring a book that AAR had published, a visit from the AAR mascot (who is also the main character in the book), and gifts of chocolates and handmade bags, which were accompanied by messages of support for the children. The principal of the school noted, "The children's eyes were different than they usually are—they were sparkling and they looked truly happy!"
AAR staff also had a chance to speak to some of the parents who had come to pick up their children after the event. One mother was originally from the area around the nuclear plant that had been evacuated. She explained that before the accident, three generations of her family had been living together—10 people in all—but now they are scattered. Her husband had quit his job at the nuclear plant following the accident, but hadn't been able to find a new job. Clearly, the stress levels for both children and parents remains high, and AAR is continuing to try to find ways to assist them.
After a cold and unusually snowy January, the wakame seaweed harvesting season has finally started in the town of Minamisanriku. This area is known for its high quality wakame. In particular, in a fishery community called Utatsu, most residents have been involved in wakame-related work of some kind, such as in cultivation, harvesting, and processing. The wakame processing work has long been a family business and one in which most households owned their own processing equipment. However, the tsunami devastated the area and most people lost their houses as well as the wakame processing equipment.
With help from donors around the world, Peace Winds Japan (PWJ) continues to support programs to help fishing communities stand on their own feet again. "I lost my family members, my home and office from the tsunami. I stayed home for two months doing nothing. I was depressed and felt very empty. But I realized that only I could make myself stand up and move on with my life and I want to help other women in the area who went through a lot," said a woman from Utatsu. "I have been doing wakame processing ever since I was married, for over 35 years. I'm looking forward to going back to work soon." In mid-February, wakame harvesting began again. PWJ has been working closely with Utatsu Fishing Cooperatives to help women in fisheries in particular. The women waited by the port for the wakame to be brought in on the boats so that it could be processed. Once offloaded, they put it into the tanks and processors. Many women from Utatsu joined in the work, including an 88-year old woman who sorted wakame with skilled hands. The wakame processing will continue until mid-May, when this season ends.
Anime voice artist, Stephanie Sheh, presented funds raised by anime industry group "We Heart Japan" on February 24 to JCIE/USA. We Heart Japan has held numerous charity events throughout the year to encourage anime fans to make donations to support the victims of the earthquake and tsunami. A Facebook page has also been created to keep people up to date on their events.
The Association of Medical Doctors of Asia (AMDA) is planning an event in early March, just one week prior to the one-year anniversary of the earthquake, to promote exchange between two of the sites in which AMDA has been working, Otsuchi (in Kamiheigun) and Kesennuma (Miyagi Prefecture). With the passing of time, the external funding for recovery efforts has been decreasing, and thus the goal of this event is to connect NPOs in areas that were devastated by the disaster in order to share information and knowledge, and to form an initiative for a new renaissance. In other words, the goal of the project is to promote intraregional collaboration to leverage the external assistance that is gradually declining.
JEN provided planters, soil, and seedlings to people in temporary housing in Ishinomaki to help people restore a sense of normalcy. Residents planted violas to enjoy now and tulip bulbs that will bloom in the spring. Being able to participate in an activity that many had not enjoyed since the earthquake, as well as being able to enjoy the company of others, provided a welcome break for residents.
The Japan NGO Earthquake Relief & Recovery Fund is now concentrating on the recovery phase of its efforts. One of the first recipients of funding in this stage was the Sanaburi Foundation. The following is a thank-you note from the foundation.
To the supporters of the JCIE fund:
I would like to express my deepest gratitude for your funding of the Sanaburi Foundation, the Tohoku region's only community foundation. Our goal is to serve as a "resource" for those who seek to bring about social change in the region and those who are earnestly carrying out efforts to help the region recover from the recent disaster. We are taking a broad perspective in the search for solutions to the community's problems, and at the same time we hope to play a go-between role to bring together resources within the community that have not yet been utilized, people that have not yet met, and information and media that have not yet been shared. As we provide funding to others to conduct projects in the region, we intend to gather information on the various innovations and successful (or unsuccessful) cases. By sharing that information with the next people who are planning projects, we can contribute to the process of handing down knowledge that can raise the quality of the efforts being undertaken throughout the region.
In Japan, where the concept of the community foundation is not yet widely known, this type of institution-building support can provide a major boost to the growth of an organization. By strengthening this support function within the community, we can speed up the support of regional recovery efforts and leverage the existing funds. Thank you once again to all of those who contributed to this fund. I hope you will continue to support our efforts.
— Seiichi Ohtaki, Chair, Sanaburi Foundation
* The Association of Medical Doctors of Asia (AMDA) reported this week on a quickly growing problem of homelessness among the victims the earthquake. According to an NPO in Sendai, there are now roughly 100 earthquake victims who are on the streets in that city alone. A number of them are people who came to Sendai from other areas of Tohoku for reconstruction projects but were subsequently let go, or those who lost their jobs as a result of the earthquake and were unable to pay the utility bills in the temporary housing units and so had to leave. The NPO in Sendai has been making evening rounds to check on the homeless, offering them hot food once a week, but they did not have enough food or clothing and hand warmers to keep people warm. AMDA learned of this situation from a temple in Okayama (AMDA's headquarters are in Okayama) and contacted a number of groups and companies to help out. Supplies were quickly shipped out on a 4-ton truck, and at the end of this week (1/28), AMDA staff will start serving hot meals for the homeless. This project is expected to continue through the middle of April.
The Association for Aid and Relief (AAR) has continued to aid the elderly and disabled victims of the earthquake. In preparation for the cold days ahead, they have been distributing heaters, snow shovels, and snow blowers to those in government-rented temporary housing. They are also continuing to find ways to encourage interaction between those with disabilities who are likely to become isolated during the cold weather.
* A group of Harvard Business School students visited the JEN Ishinomaki office as a part of their Business Research Program. After a presentation on JEN's activities, JEN held an open hearing with the beneficiaries of the emergency clothing assistance project, which was carried out jointly by UNIQLO and JEN, offering a case study of NGO-business partnership in disaster relief. A group of 11 students also participated in voluntary clean-up work in the Watanoha and Ayukawa areas. Since it has been 10 months since the tsunami, the vacant lot was covered with weeds. Before they started working they asked why they should clean up a grassy place. However once they mowed the grass, they discovered all of the tatami mats, furniture, photos, and broken glass that had been deposited there by the tsunami. They worked hard in a sweat, and thanks to the great team, the place was totally cleaned up.
* Although 10 months have passed since the earthquake and tsunami struck the Tohoku region, a great deal of clean-up work still remains. In December, JEN volunteers along with volunteers from Mitsui Bussan entered the Yagawa Elementary School in Ishinomaki for the first time to start the process of removing debris. The school was situated in a lovely spot overlooking the Samenoura Bay on the remote Oshika Peninsula. On March 11, students were practicing for their graduation ceremony when the earthquake struck. Many people in the area at first fled to the school, but luckily some of the residents noticed something unusual about the tide and convinced everyone to flee to a nearby mountain instead. That quick thinking saved many lives. The school, however, was not so fortunate and remains filled with sand and debris even now. As seen in the accompanying pictures, a clock on a balcony in the main hallway clearly shows how high the dirt-laden waters of the tsunami rose that day and its now-immobile hands mark the time the tsunami struck. On the stairway leading to the second floor, tree trunks and vines block the way.
The students from Yagawa Elementary School are currently attending classes in other elementary schools in the area. JEN notes that there a number of remote areas, such as this site on the Oshika Peninsula, where recovery efforts have made little progress. JEN is therefore continuing to recruit volunteers and to work with companies and other organizations to direct resources where they are most needed.
* From December, the Association for Aid and Relief (AAR) has been carrying out a new project that targets residents of temporary housing in Ishinomaki. AAR realizes that the unfamiliar and often remote location of the housing units makes it easy for residents to become isolated, which takes a physical and emotional toll. Starting with a housing complex that is now home to about 500 residents, the project began with a daylong program that offered exercise, massage therapy, food (a special stew that is a local specialty and roasted eggplant with miso), and the distribution of winter clothes. The latter was particularly welcomed as the weather in Tohoku has been getting very cold and residents quickly snapped up the down jackets and other warm clothing that AAR provided. AAR also made sure to bring food to those residents who were physically unable to come out to the event. The massage therapy served a dual purpose: as people waited for their turn, they were able to talk to other residents and to speak with AAR counselors about their current problems and concerns. Communication among residents is an issue since the 236 houses in this location were built in a straight line that extends for 1km, making interaction difficult. The event was therefore intended to promote interaction among the residents.
Volunteers were members of Aeon Corporation's 1% Club and foreign students who are studying in Japan on Aeon scholarships. The residents were particularly touched to see that students from other countries were still concerned about their plight, and the students themselves noted how much they gained from the experience.
* Among those receiving assistance from the Association for Aid and Relief (AAR) since March has been the Warabi Gakuen, a training and care facility headquartered in Otsuchi (Iwate Prefecture) for people with developmental disabilities. While the Otsuchi facility was spared, its facility in neighboring Kamaishi was hit hard by the tsunami, as the disaster took the lives of 7 of the facility's users and 2 staff and completely destroyed the building.
In late September, during a conversation with Mr. Kobayashi, the president of Warabi Gakuen, it came up that the facility had lost drums in the tsunami. When the AAR staff asked what the drums were used for, Mr. Kobayashi explained that the people using the facilities trained to perform the area's traditional Tiger Dance (tora-mai), which is similar to a lion dance but is said to draw on the tiger's powers to prevent fires and provide fishermen with a good catch. They would perform the dance at school festivals and local events. The dance requires a tiger costume used by two dancers, drums, wind instruments, and handbells, but all of their equipment and instruments were washed away.
Hearing that, AAR set to work, trying to locate a local drum maker who could provide the facility with a new drum. They found Mr. Shinkawa, owner of the Shinkawa Shoe and Drum Store in Ofunato, whose own home and workshop had been destroyed in the tsunami. While the Tiger Dance usually calls for two large drums, AAR only had budget for one small drum, but Mr. Shinkawa decided that would not do, so he made them a large drum for about half the normal price.
The next problem was to find the costume needed for the dance since that too had been lost in the tsunami. AAR tried to order a new one, but the manufacturers were swamped with orders and could not promise when it might be done. At the very least, AAR wanted to have something in time for the school's festival, so they made a number of calls to see if they could borrow a costume, but to no avail. Finally, they received a call from the nearby Unosumai Tiger Dance Youth Association. They had also lost their costume and drums in the tsunami and were getting new ones made. Because their costume was used in religious events, they couldn't lend it to Warabi Gakuen, but instead they decided to order a second one and donate it to the facility. AAR offered to cover the expense, but the group's members insisted on paying for it themselves—despite the fact that most of their members had lost their own homes in the disaster! As the head of the Unosumai group said, "The Tiger dance is the heart of the fishing village."
While they wait for the new costume, the Warabi Gakuen group was able to use a makeshift costume and their new drum to perform a small version of the Tiger Dance at their school festival. In this way, AAR continues to serve as a catalyst, helping sustain local traditions, promote local businesses, and bring the people of the area together toward a common goal.
* JEN's staff in Ishinomaki participated in first aid courses held by the Ishinomaki Fire Department. Having become more conscious of the need for such skills in their work, the JEN staff received training in CPR, the use of defibrillators, the way to apply tourniquets, and so on. In the Watanoha section of Ishinomaki, JEN presented the Anti-crime Youth Development Association with crime-fighting equipment (uniforms, flashlights, emergency lights, arm bands, etc.) to replace the equipment it had lost in the disaster. Getting community groups up and running again is part of JEN's effort to get the area back to normal.
JEN also held a Christmas party on December 18 at Hana-sou, a community café in Ishinomaki. With support from L'Oréal Japan, the party featured wreath-making, massages, and other activities and treats for the visitors, both young and old. The café was launched In November as a place for the local residents to gather and reconnect, and they hosted a concert on Christmas Day as well.
* Peace Winds Japan (PWJ) posted a year-end report on its efforts over the past nine months since the Great East Japan Earthquake struck. Its efforts have been focused on providing support for youths, temporary housing, and economic recovery. PWJ has been working to provide a positive environment for children given there is a limited area where children can play safely. In response, PWJ has conducted an Arts and Sports Caravan that has reached more than 800 children, traditional after school programs, and special events such as science projects and concerts. They have also targeted caregivers, offering access to PWJ staff who are certified social workers.
In terms of supporting those in temporary housing, PWJ delivered household items to 8,588 homes in 9 cities in Iwate Prefecture (nearly 23,000 individuals), and delivered clothing to 560 households. In preparation for winter, PWJ has delivered 1,811 electric heated carpets in Ofunato and 2,148 gas heaters in Rikuzentaka, all locally procured. It is currently delivering another 3,900 heaters to "prefectural paid apartments."
Working with the local chambers of commerce in Rikuzentakata and Minamisanriku, PWJ has helped open 15 mobile shops that not only give vendors income but offer more options to residents in temporary housing. These shops include bakery, florist, produce, and grocery shops. PWJ also delivered store vouchers to residents of temporary housing in Ofunato to encourage them to visit local sotres. Vouchers had been delivered to 6,319 residents. Central government support for small to mid-size businesses is finally coming through, but many business owners are still having trouble equipping their businesses on their own. PWJ is trying to fill the gap between government aid and local needs by offering subsidies to qualified business owners in Rikuzentakata and Ofunato.
Another major PWJ initiative is support for restoring local fisheries since fishing and fish processing are major industries in the Tohoku area. They supplied equipment to help remove debris from the port and provided equipment to restart two fishing cooperatives in Minamisanriku. PWJ also provided a temporary facility and equipment for the Shizukawa Fishing Cooperative, whose facilities were completely destroyed by the tsunami. Next, PWJ helped with the restarting of wakame (seaweed) cultivation—a field that requires a relatively short cultivation period before growers can make a profit. PWJ provided the materials for the fall cultivation, including ropes, buoys, sand bags, etc. It also is setting up a space for wakame processing in Utatsu after the cultivation in the spring. Traditionally, people in Minamisanriku processed the wakame (boiling, cooling, salting, and dehydrating) at home. However, that requires physical space to pump sea water, and it is currently impossible for each family to find space to reconstruct factories or purchase necessary materials for processing. Therefore, PWJ provided the Utstsu women's groups who usually work on processing wakame with the shelters, pots, wash tanks, dehydrators, salting devices, and so on. They have similarly helped the Shizugawa Fishery Cooperative in their effort to restart the harvest of sea urchins and abalone, and helped the Ofunato Fishery Retail Association with the launch of their mail order sales service and with fixing the facility for icing fish as well. In Minamisanriku, PWJ has provided bus service to get people to the monthly "Recovery Festival," which helps people get together and provides a market for local merchants to sell their produce. And finally, they helped the Minamisanriku salmon hatcheries, which are the traditional means to keep the salmon population healthy in the area. If they missed this year's hatchlings, then they would not have income in four years when the salmon would be expected to return.
* NICCO has been working since June to help rebuild and repair schools in the town of Rikuzentakata, Iwate Prefecture, and Kesennuma, Miyagi Prefecture. Nine elementary schools and seven middle schools were severely damaged by the earthquake and tsunami, forcing the children to commute to other schools and facilities. The schools that sustained less damage became the site of evacuation centers and temporary housing, making it difficult for the children to participate in normal daily activities. NICCO's efforts have focused on trying to provide some sense of normalcy to these schools. One area that they assisted with was providing assistance to local baseball teams to participate in the prefectural tournaments, which not only helped the team but gave a much-needed boost to the spirits of their communities. They also provided gym clothes for middle schools that had lost everything in the disaster. They provided books for school libraries. And they cleaned and planted flowers on school grounds with the help of student volunteers from around the country.
* When the March 11 disaster struck, people with severe disabilities whose lives depend on respirators or suctioning machines were placed in a frightening position. A mother of a 9-year-old boy who requires a respirator recalled her experience: "When the earthquake struck, the bed and respirator were both shaking, and it seemed that the tube was going to come out. Luckily, we had two helpers there at the time who were able to hold the tube down for us. If the earthquake had struck just a little earlier or later, they wouldn't have been there, and that would have been dangerous. When the aftershock struck on April 7 and we were without power for three days, we used the car battery and borrowed a neighbors generator to try to keep the respirator going."
Such families live in constant fear that another earthquake or aftershock will place their loved ones in danger, but household generators are expensive—particularly for families that already are dealing with the medical costs of caring for family members with disabilities. To try to sooth the ongoing fears of these families, the Association for Aid and Relief (AAR) has been working to distribute generators in Iwate and Miyagi Prefectures. To date, they have delivered 113 gas or propane-based generators, providing the fuel and instructions on how to use the machines as well. They have had support from several German NGOs on this project. The distribution process also offered an opportunity to create connections between families in the area who are caregivers for severely disabled children.
* The Japan NGO Earthquake Relief & Recovery Fund is making $200,000+ in multi-year grants to two groups. One grant will strengthen the underpinnings of the region's nonprofit sector by helping the Sanaburi Foundation, the first community foundation in Tohoku, get off the ground.
A second one will help @Rias NPO Center operate "community buses" in Kamaishi City for youth--who have been cooped up in temporary evacuee housing and cannot take part in sports and after-school activities--as well as for senior citizens.
* We are delighted to announce that the BTMU Foundation, supported by the Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ, has just made a $288,514 grant to the fund. This was contributed by bank staff, customers, vendors, retirees, and others in North and South America, and it will be used to create the BTMU Americas Community Recovery Award inside of the fund. This contribution brings the Japan Earthquake Relief & Recovery Fund past the $1.5 million mark and enables it to help more Japanese nonprofits working to restore communities in Tohoku. Many thanks to everybody at BTMU!
* On December 18, the Association of Medical Doctors of Asia opened the "AMDA Otsuchi Health Support Center." The project planning for the center began in April construction began in early November. The official opening ceremony featured the traditional pounding of rice cakes, a concert, traditional performances, and a Christmas Fair with items created by local residents. AMDA has been continuing to offer acupuncture and moxibustion treatments in the area, so the center will provide stable and central facilities for those efforts. In November, they treated more than 110 patients who were suffering with everything from headaches and insomnia to loss of appetite and alcoholism. In addition to offering traditional medicine, AMDA doctors provide someone to listen to and counsel the patients, which helps relieve the stress the patients are experiencing. From July to September, AMDA had dispatched 71 doctors and nurses to volunteer at the Shizukawa Hospital. From October, however, they decided to provide financial support instead in the interest of spurring employment of local nurses.
* The Association for Aid and Relief (AAR) is continuing its "container house" project. To date they have built 30 houses in Onagawacho (Miyagi Pref.), some of which were used to create the Onagawa Container Village Shopping Center. Subsequently, AAR received a request for container houses for a shopping center in Rikuzentakata (Iwate Pref.). Rikuzentakata had been home to a pine forest that was on Japan's list of 100 top scenic locations. Sadly, the tsunami washed away an estimated 70,000 trees, and the lone pine that remained as a ray of hope is now dying due to the damage done to its roots by the salt water. The downtown has also sunk more than 80cm, which has resulted in some areas still being covered in water. To help restore the spirits of the town, local businesspeople came together to establish the "Natsukashii Mirai Souzo Co." (roughly translated, the Creating a Dearly Missed Future Co.) and launched a project to create a new shopping center. Two containers arrived in Rikuzentakata in November, and six more are scheduled to arrive in December. The ultimate goal is to have 30 container houses set up for business, providing a place where local residents can mingle, relax, and enjoy themselves, while at the same time stimulating the local economic recovery.
Today, JCIE and Metlife Alico Japan are launching the "MetLife Alico Employees' Children Support Program" as part of the Japan NGO Earthquake Relief and Recovery Fund. With a generous donation from the employees of MetLife Alico in Japan, this will provide 15 million (roughly $200,000) in one-year grants to 15-20 Japanese groups dealing with issues that children are facing in the recovery. Grant applications are being accepted until January 31, and more information is available online (Japanese only). On a separate note, the MetLife Foundation in the United States, which operates a groundbreaking funding program for older adults, has made a $150,000 contribution to the fund to help support senior citizens and others recovering from the disaster. Thank you MetLife!
*The Association for Aid and Relief (AAR) reviewed its nine months of relief efforts since the March 11 disaster. To date, it has provided sets of household items for 20,719 families living in temporary housing (the target is roughly 35,000). AAR is continues to provide relief items as needed, with the current focus being on heaters and clothing to help people prepare for the cold winter months. They also continue to provide meals at evacuation centers and elsewhere, and as of late November, they had served more than 25,000 meals in 72 locations.
AAR is also assisting a newly created NPO, "Soma Follower Team," that is focused on providing psychological care for the children of Soma. A team of six mental health experts and public health nurses was formed to work with children at the city's nursery schools, elementary schools, and middle schools. In November, a special counseling program began for elementary schools in areas where there are high levels of radiation from the nuclear plant disaster, forcing kids to stay indoors.
Another of its ongoing initiatives is a program in Miyagi and Iwate Prefectures to provide rehabilitation services, mental health care services, and various events in a comprehensive initiative to help disaster victims recover both physically and emotionally. The program is targeting those with disabilities, the elderly, in-home evacuees, and those in temporary housing. As of the end of November, AAR had also helped with repairs or provided equipment to 32 facilities for the elderly and disabled. (Their target is to assist roughly 60 facilities.) To date, they have also provided vehicles to 14 welfare facilities. They have also worked with 11 welfare trade shops where people with disabilities had been making confections and other types of products prior to the earthquake, but had lost their sales routes and customers as a result of the disaster. AAR has been helping them to find new markets for their products.
While some AAR activities—e.g., the bus services it had been providing or the efforts to control disease-carrying pests—are now finished, the organization is continuing to provide critical support to vulnerable groups in the disaster area.
*With help from JEN and from a German NGO that JEN has partnered with for nearly two decades, in mid-November a temporary shopping mall, "Oshika no Rengai," officially opened in Ayukawahama (on the Oshika Peninsula) after just one and a half months of construction. The goal was to get the shops up and running before the winter set in as a way to spur the economic recovery in the area. A total of 16 shops are now open for business, including restaurants, food and liquor stores, a beauty salon, a gift shop, an electronics shop, a shop selling household goods, and so on. The shops were quickly filled with shoppers, and there were many reunions of friends and neighbors who had not seen each other since the disaster. Prior to the opening of this shopping mall, the closest shopping area was a 40-minute drive away, so the shops are a much-needed sign of recovery in the area.
* Peace Winds Japan (PWJ) lent a hand to a similar economic recovery effort in Ofunato, where 60 percent of all businesses were damaged or destroyed by the tsunami. Prior to the disaster, the town had three shopping areas, but they were all destroyed on March 11, and the Shopping District Cooperative had been forced to disband. Most of the store owners were in their 50s, making the challenge of rebuilding even more daunting, but they gathered together, secured the land, and began planning. On December 3, a ceremony was held to officially open the "Ofunato Yume Shotengai" (Ofunato Dream Shopping Center), which has 33 shops. This symbol of recovery offers a ray of hope as the town looks forward to the New Year holidays ahead.
JCIE has been reporting regularly on the relief and recovery activities of the Association for Aid and Relief, Japan (AAR), one of the organizations JCIE has funded through our Japan NGO Earthquake Relief and Recovery Fund. AAR is also active in providing humanitarian relief around the world, and following the October 23 earthquake in Turkey, AAR dispatched 3 staff members to distribute food and other relief items there. Sadly, when a strong aftershock struck Turkey on November 9, the hotel where the AAR staff were staying collapsed, claiming the life of Mr. Atsushi Miyazaki and injuring one of his colleagues. Mr. Miyazaki had just joined AAR in September, having been inspired by the work the organization was doing in northern Japan. JCIE would like to offer our heartfelt condolences to his family and colleagues. His untimely passing serves as a sad reminder of the risk and sacrifice these brave relief workers accept as they pursue their mission.
* In Kitunezakihama, on the eastern side of the tsunami-ravaged Oshika Peninsula, NGO JEN brought 30 volunteers from one company to assist in the preparations for oyster cultivation—a staple industry of the region. Shells are strung together to provide a bed to which new oysters will attach themselves and grow. Each oyster farming household uses about 1,000 of these strings, so although the season does not begin until next summer, the preparations must begin now. The 30 volunteers were able to finish 175 strings on the first day and 290 on the second day. Many of the volunteers said they wanted to come back again to help, and the fishermen and their wives were truly grateful for their assistance and their company!
* On November 2, the Association of Medical Doctors of Asia (AMDA) broke ground for the construction of the AMDA Otsuchi Health Support Center in Iwate Prefecture. They plan to hold a ridgepole-raising ceremony and other traditional festivities this week to involve the local residents in the project, and are also planning on distributing brochures about the new facility and conducting a survey of residents. In addition to offering acupuncture and moxibustion treatment from AMDA doctors, the new facility will have a community space for activities that can bring residents together and help sustain their mental health as well.
* Peace Winds Japan (PWJ) reports that it has delivered supplies to 8,506 households in temporary housing in 9 towns in Iwate Prefecture. From the end of August, PWJ began surveying the needs of people in these housing units for the winter in order to effectively deliver heaters and other supplies. After that, the government decided to make the provision of heaters to temporary housing units the responsibility of the local governments, under the jurisdiction of each prefecture. As a result of its cooperation with the municipalities, PWJ was commissioned to provide heaters to all of the temporary units in Rikuzentakata and Ofunato. PWJ is distributing fan heaters to 2,148 in Rikuzentakata and heated carpets to 1,811 households in Ofunato. They are working with the local chambers of commerce to ensure that the purchase and delivery of these items are done locally in order to contribute to the economic recovery of the region.
PWJ is also working with the Iwate Prefecture Bureau of Reconstruction to deliver heaters to those living in employment promotion housing or government-borrowed housing. In this case, these households receive a catalog from which they can choose their heater.
* In late October, JEN helped deliver fertile soil to farmland in Otonari and Onagawa. The owner of the land, who is visually impaired, had already opened his land for the construction of 31 temporary homes, and he now has agreed to open his farmland for the use of the families living in those homes as well. A local welfare association negotiated with local farmers to get the soil, and then business owners who have received trucks as aid after the disaster donated the use of 5 trucks to pick up and deliver the soil. Three volunteers from local high schools joined 10 other volunteers to spread the soil, create furrows, and plant seeds. JEN was alerted to this project by its partner, Japan Platform, who thought JEN might be able to help in making this project a reality.
* The Association for Aid and Relief (AAR) Japan posted a report on its activities over the seven months since the Great East Japan Earthquake struck. They listed 13 areas in which they have offered support:
(1) provided items for daily living to about 35,000 temporary homes in Fukushima Prefecture;
(2) provided school lunches for children in Minami-soma, including 2 tons of rice, and provided rental truck to let schools districts deliver lunches;
(3) conducting project focused on physical and mental health of people with disabilities, the elderly, at-home evacuees, and those in temporary shelters (e.g., rehabilitation, regional exchange events, efforts to improve sanitary conditions, etc.);
(4) providing material donations and relief supplies (to approx. 75,900 people to date);
(5) provided more than 22,000 meals through August (meals are now being offered through the project described under #3);
(6) repairing approx. 60 facilities for people with disabilities and seniors;
(7) provided vehicles to 10 welfare facilities;
(8) carrying out container house project (41 homes and shops built so far);
(9) carrying out tote bag project to gather hand-made bags from around the country with messages of support for the victims of the disaster (5,000 bags were donated in the May round; another round is being held in October);
(10) carrying out programs in Soma to address the mental health of the children;
(11) carried out charity concert in Tokyo to raise funds to buy musical instruments for schools, and held free concert in Sendai for disaster victims;
(12) carried out "onsen" project to bring hot baths to the evacuation centers in April (finished);
(13) provided bus service (finished).
* NICCO is continuing to work with Youth for 3.11 to solicit student volunteers for cleanup activities and meal provision in Tohoku. As of October 13, this program had sent more than 400 volunteers to work primarily in Iwate Prefecture. The next group is scheduled to depart at the end of this week.
At the end of the month, NICCO is also holding a lecture and photo exhibit in Kyoto that will focus on the psychosocial care that it has been providing in the aftermath of the disaster.
* JEN has been working in Kitakamimachi (Miyagi Pref.) to help restore the local economy and get businesses back on their feet. This was a region that did not receive aid until long after the disaster. JEN arrived there in July. One businessman had lost all his office building and trucks in the tsunami and was unsure where he should even start to rebuild his company. JEN began by sending volunteers to help him, and then loaned him a 4-ton truck. With that assistance, he was able to relaunch his business. One of the first things he did with the truck was to help rebuild a levee near the site of a shipbuilding company that was one of his best customers prior to the disaster, which was his way of contributing to society.
JEN also is continuing to help homeowners repair their houses. In the small community of Hamagurihama—which is comprised of fewer than 20 households—the damage from the earthquake and tsunami was compounded by last month's typhoon, which caused flash flooding in their neighborhood. The volunteers first had to shovel out the mud and then laid new floorboards for the residents.
*Many survivors of the Great East Japan Earthquake continue to live under uncertain conditions in shelters and temporary housing. During the summer AAR JAPAN worked to make their lives as comfortable as possible in the heat and humidity. Now they are focusing their efforts on preparations for the winter.
In September, AAR JAPAN provided heaters to survivors in temporary housing on the Oshika Peninsula, part of Ishinomaki City. Some survivors said that they had been worrying about how they would get through the coming winter given the short supply of heaters in the area. In order to ease their concerns, AAR JAPAN provided heaters to 80 families in shelters in Ayukawahama, an area where many elderly people live.
Residents of temporary housing chose a leader to coordinate with AAR JAPAN for the distribution of the heaters. Through the selection of a community leader, it is hoped that the residents will be encouraged to continue to work together to get through this difficult time. AAR JAPAN provided emergency supplies to a total of 965 people in 9 shelters from July 13 to September 7, and will continue its efforts to support survivors and enable them to live healthier and warmer lives during the coming winter.
* Peace Winds Japan (PWJ) has been providing safe places to play for children in Kesennuma and Rikuzentakada at evacuation centers, temporary housing, and afterschool daycare centers. It has conducted various sports and arts activities to alleviate psychosocial stress after the disaster, as well as to encourage self-expression. On September 26, since it has been over 6 months from the tsunami disaster, PWJ organized a workshop for the instructors in Kesennuma who deal with children directly.
Afterschool daycare centers in Japan are not funded by the Ministry of Education, so they are less likely to receive government funding and aid compared to other educational institutions in Japan. Moreover, those who attended the workshop were having difficulty finding ways to get the children to play fully because of the limited space they have now. They also have to deal with the increased number of children registered at the daycare centers due to their parents going back to work or getting new jobs. The workshop's objectives were to introduce ways to solve these problems. PWJ introduced the "Moving Forward" program at this workshop, which is designed not only to give children physical activity, but also supports their mental strength, encouraging them not to give up and enhancing teamwork. PWJ briefly explained the basic component of this concept, and then the participants actually played one of the games introduced by this program. The game was modified for the limited spacing outside. Following the workshops, one participant said, "After the earthquake, we (the instructors) tried not to bother as much when children misbehaved. Yet, we were discussing whether we should start disciplining children when it's necessary. After the workshop, we were encouraged because it seemed that we were right on track for dealing with children here." Many appreciated the opportunity to exchange information and opinions with PWJ staff and with instructors working at other afterschool daycare centers in Kesennuma.
* The Association of Medical Doctors of Asia (AMDA) has been continuing to provide assistance in various forms to medical facilities in the Tohoku region. In response to a request for assistance from the Inawashiro Hospital, located in the tsunami-stricken port town of Kesennuma (Miyagi Pref.), AMDA provided thermometers, portable EKGs, nebulizers, inhalers, and other equipment. After suffering severe damage in the tsunami, the hospital has resumed operations on a limited scale, but the burden on the nursing staff has been tremendous, and AMDA decided to dispatch a nurse to assist them. The nursing shortage is severe, however, and AMDA is continuing to try to recruit nurses.
Since July, AMDA has been sending nurses to another hospital in Miyagi Prefecture, the Shizugawa Public Hospital in Minamisanriku. Although the hospital has been steadily recovering in terms of the physical structure, equipment, and supplies, and is therefore able to offer more services to patients, they are still understaffed in terms of nurses in particular and so the existing staff is working excessive hours. In September, AMDA dispatched two nurses and one pharmacist to help out. Over the first six weeks after the disaster, AMDA sent close to 150 medical personnel, and in the recovery period (May to Sept.), they sent another 40.
Through mid-September, AMDA had sent 46 medical and nursing students to Shizugawa Public Hospital as well to spend their summer vacation helping out. They were able to provide some relief for the medical staff and learned a great deal at the same time.
AMDA also held its 8th public seminar in mid-September at the Okayama Prefectural University to reflect on the lessons learned from the disaster.
* NICCO is working with the nonprofit Soul of Tohoku to promote economic recovery by promoting the sale of local products online. The magazine Fujin Gaho [Women's Illustrated Gazette] and its website "Fujin Gaho no Kaimono" are featuring food products from the region, starting with Iwate Prefecture. The article is accompanied by an explanation of how the products are being screened for radiation from the nuclear plant disaster. Soul of Tohoku is a project sponsored by the Soul of Japan Foundation, bringing together chefs from around Japan to protect Tohoku's local cuisine and help its dietary environment and food industry recover.
* The volunteer work continues in Tohoku. NICCO has been soliciting student volunteers for more cleanup work in October. Their focus will be cleaning and clearing debris from homes and farms on the island of Oshima, which is part of Kesennuma in Miyagi Prefecture. The island was featured in an August article in Le Monde as having been largely overlooked by relief efforts to date, so this assistance is greatly needed even now.
JEN is also continuing to send volunteers to the region. A British volunteer shared an account of his 8-day stay at JEN's Watanoha House in Ishinomaki, where volunteers from all over Japan are staying. He and other JEN volunteers were helping to clear storm drains in the fishing village of Ayukawa, on the Oshika Peninsula.
* As of this week, Peace Winds Japan (PWJ) had distributed gift certificates for use in local stores to 6,169 people in 2,326 homes (temporary housing, government-loaned housing, etc.). These gift certificates serve the dual purpose of helping the victims of the disaster buy needed items and services, as well as spurring the local economy. Last month, PWJ conducted a survey to ensure that their effort was having the intended impact. Most of the responses were very positive—some noting that the gift certificates had been useful since they escaped with no belongings at all, others saying they helped because they have no income now, while others were pleased with the fact that they could be used at a variety of places. Some of the negative comments were that the shops where they could be used were too far from the temporary housing sites and that the lack of transportation makes it difficult to get there. PWJ continues to look for ways to improve its programs, including the gift certificate distribution program, to help the region recover.
* The Association for Aid and Relief (AAR) Japan has been working on projects in Miyagi and Iwate Prefectures to promote the mental and physical health of the survivors of the March 11 disaster. One such event held last month was a baseball clinic held at the Higashihama Elementary School grounds with the help of two coaches from the Rakuten Golden Eagles, the Sendai-based professional baseball team. Participants included the elementary school students and teachers, the residents at the evacuation center being housed at the school, as well as other local residents. AAR also hosted a barbecue at the event.
The following week, AAR hosted an aromatherapy event for mothers. They brought 8 trained therapists to offer massages and aromatherapy treatment to help relieve stress and treat stress-related physical ailments. The school principal also received treatment and remarked, "This is the first time since the disaster that I've been able to forget everything and relax!"
* The Association for Aid and Relief (AAR) Japan reports that they are providing supplies (e.g., cookware, dishes, cleaning/laundry supplies, cupboards, tables, etc.) to approximately 17,500 households living in temporary housing in 13 towns and villages—about half of the affected households in Fukushima Prefecture. As of the end of August, they had reached the following:
One recipient of AAR's support was Kimiko Sugimoto, whose lived in Tomioka prior to the disaster. She first moved into a shelter at a gymnasium near her home, but following the accident at the nuclear plant they were bused to a shelter in Koriyama. She and her husband are now living in a temporary home in the Ippongi section of Yabuki, in central Fukushima Prefecture. They were allowed to go back to their home to retrieve belongings, but the radiation readings inside and outside of her home were high and so they only stayed for about 40 minutes and could not bring everything they needed. When asked if they needed anything, she replied that for about 15 days after they evacuated, they were not able to get much to eat, so her appetite had disappeared. "More than that," she continued,"when I want to talk to someone, there is nobody here; when I'm feeling down, none of my friends from Tomioka are here to talk to. . . . I guess we'll never be able to go back to Tomioka, will we." Since the temporary housing brings together people from throughout the prefecture, the people are losing their ties to their old neighbors, and are feeling isolated.
Another of the AAR relief recipients is 74-year-old Yoichi Suzuki, whose home in the Isobe section of Soma—less than 1,000 feet from the ocean—was swept away by the tsunami. Fortunately, Mr. Suzuki was in Tokyo at the time of the disaster, and his family was spared as well. Since March, he has been living in shelters and now in temporary housing. He told the AAR staff, "When we arrived at our temporary home, we didn't have anything to wear or eat, so the items we received from you helped us so much. No matter how many times I say it, I can't thank you enough." Mr. Suzuki is now serving as a leader at the housing unit, trying to restore the local connections through dinner parties, organized workouts, and other events in order to relieve the type of stress that Mrs. Sugimoto described.
An AAR staff meets with Yoichi Suzuki, an evacuee from Isobe who is working to maintain local ties. AAR has been working with members of the Tomioka Shopping Center Cooperative who evacuated to sites around the country due to the nuclear plant crisis, but have returned to help distribute relief supplies—a major undertaking since there are so many homes in need of assistance in Tomioka. It had also been difficult to find storage space for supplies, but the cooperative members were able to locate two warehouses for AAR to use. In Yabuki, AAR has been working with the town hall and chamber of commerce to distribute supplies. Local officials and chamber representatives realized that the needs of each household would differ, so they created a list of available supplies, visited each home, and let them choose what items they needed.
* This Sunday, September 11, marked two important dates: the 10-year anniversary of the 2001 terror attacks in the United States and the 6-month mark after the deadly earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan on March 11.
As we reflect on these two solemn anniversaries, I would like to take this opportunity to thank each of you for your continued support of the Japan NGO Earthquake Relief & Recovery Fund. Over the past six months, roughly $900,000 has been committed, an amount that is far beyond our expectations. Of this, $304,000 has already been distributed to six organizations carrying out emergency relief, and we have earmarked the additional funds to support the long-term recovery of communities throughout the region. Donations continue to be vital, and any additional funds we raise will continue to support these long-term efforts.
Six months after the disaster, it is clear that it will take many years for the hardest-hit communities to rebuild and their needs will remain immense. After consultations with a wide range of local citizens, officials, and experts in the disaster zone, we have decided to focus our future funding on three areas that are crucial to the long-term recovery: 1) economic revitalization, 2) rebuilding community ties, and 3) supporting senior citizens. We are targeting organizations that are not likely to receive sufficient funding from other sources, with the hope of playing a catalytic role, and will be announcing the initial recipients in the coming months.
The JCIE team has been making regular visits to the Tohoku region, and several of us just returned from a trip this weekend to talk with organizations that are undertaking innovative initiatives. In these trips, we have been struck not just by the extent of the devastation, but also by the extraordinary efforts of ordinary citizens to rebuild their ravaged towns. In some places, clean-up efforts have been so successful that the physical damage appears to be much less than even one or two months ago. However, the less visible but more difficult work of revitalizing the economy, reconstituting community ties, and coping with personal loss still lies ahead.
Each person we have met in these visits is uniformly and profoundly grateful for the support and caring they have received from people around the world. Collectively, we are making a real difference in the renewal and rebuilding of these communities, and we thank you for being a part of this important effort.
Japan Center for International Exchange (JCIE)******
* In Ishinomaki (Miyagi Prefecture), there are still many train and bus routes not running, with no target date in sight for them to be restored. During the first term of the school year (which starts in April in Japan), there were a number of students who had to be driven to school each day by their parents. Also, many students moved out of the evacuation centers over the summer vacation and into temporary housing that is far from their schools, so there were major concerns when school restarted in September about who those students would get to their middle schools and high schools in town. In response, the Association for Aid and Relief (AAR) donated a total of 200 bicycles to five schools in Ishinomaki. A presentation ceremony was held on August 19, and principals, teachers, and students from the five schools attended. Also in attendance was Bruce Bailey, president of Rolex Japan, which was among the supporters of this effort.
AAR has also arranged concerts by XUXU, an all-female a cappella quartet, to lift the spirits of people in Ofunato (Iwate Prefecture), which is another of the hardest-hit areas. The group was chosen as Ofunato's Hometown Ambassadors, in part thanks to their original song, "OHLA! Sanma!" (a song about the mackerel pike, for which Ofunato is famous). The ladies of XUXU visited seven locations, tailoring their performances to the audience at each site. One such event was "Never Give Up, Ofunato," a recovery festival in August that was attended by many fishermen, where XUXU performed on a stage that had been set up aboard a ship.
* JEN's efforts to assist in the Tohoku region have drawn more than 2,700 volunteers to date. In the month of September, JEN volunteers will clean up community spaces and factories, help people restart their businesses, and support fishery reconstruction. In Ishinomaki, JEN reports that construction is almost complete on 7,500 temporary housing units, and JEN has been providing supplies to all of these homes. But its work doesn't end there. They intend to provide long-term support for the residents of these new homes, and have started conducting needs surveys to see how they can alleviate concerns and stresses and help them live comfortably while the community rebuilds.
Following the Kobe earthquake of 1995, a number of problems arose. For example, compared to the communal space at evacuation centers, the solitary living in temporary shelters made it harder for the disaster victims to get detailed information on recovery efforts and available services. Many elderly residents living alone passed away prematurely, and there was a sharp rise in alcoholism and suicide, particularly among men between the ages of 50 and 60. JEN will be looking at ways to prevent similar trends from emerging in the Tohoku region.
Other issues that have emerged at the new housing communities include difficulties getting to work or school because the housing site is far from a person's original residence; difficulty going shopping or to doctor's appointments because the housing is far from town and the person does not have a car; fears about letting children play outside by themselves since there are many strangers living in close proximity; insecurity caused by a lack of rules within the temporary housing communities; and so on. In response, JEN is launching a "Community Building Project" to provide a space for the residents of these new communities to gather and talk about these issues, and it will continue to monitor the situation closely.
* Peace Winds Japan (PWJ) has been supporting the recovery of the fishing industry in Miyagi Prefecture. It has established a field office at Heisei no mori in Minamisanriku, developing a relationship with the fishermen and conducting an assessment for the fishing industry there. First, PWJ provided clothes (rubber boots, waterproof coveralls, etc.) that the fishermen used for getting rid of debris near and in the ocean. It also provided oxygen tanks and a compressor when professors from Tohoku University conducted research to see the effect of the tsunami on the natural habitats in the water. In addition, as part of its support for Fisheries Cooperative Associations, PWJ provided tools to the local Ono Shipbuilding Co. to fix ships for both Fishing Associations. PWJ is also providing deeper support for both the Utatsu and Shizugawa Fisheries CooperativesFor example. PWJ has started to provide materials to restart seaweed farming at Utatsu. Full-scale cultivation began in August. PWJ has provided the materials needed for seaweed cultivation such as ropes, water signals, fishing buoys, etc. It also set up a temporary office for Shizugawa Fisheries Cooperative Association since they needed to build a new office inland. The office was under construction and was scheduled to be completed at the end of August.
In Iwate Prefecture, PWJ is also helping the Ofunato Marine Products Business Cooperative relaunch its "Mackerel Direct Mail" as a way to help the local economy rebuild. Freshly caught mackerel that come into the Ofunato fish market are packed in ice and shipped throughout Japan. Mackerel is one of the Ofunato fisheries' main businesses, representing 45 percent of its catch. But the cooperative's offices and workspace were destroyed in the tsunami. In July, PWJ helped the Ofunato fish market reopen and then it began to look at how to help reopen the cooperative so that it could handle the processing and distribution necessary to get to the fish to customers. As a result, PWJ provided a workspace in which the cooperative can prepare and pack the fish, along with the necessary equipment. On Sept. 5, a ceremony was held to officially launch the reopened mackerel mail order service, which was attended by the deputy mayor of Ofunato and the leaders of the Ofunato Chamber of Commerce. Although they are behind the normal pace, they have already received orders for 10,200 cases of mackerel and are hoping to reach the 20,000 mark for the year. The president of the cooperative noted, "I had given up on relaunching the delivery service this year, and without PWJ's help, we couldn't have done it. At the opening ceremony, I was so happy it brought tears to my eyes. This year, the mackerel are bigger than average, so I want to be answer all the requests from people who are hoping to enjoy our Ofunato mackerel."
* In the central section of the Oshika Peninsula are 5 coastal fishing villages, Takenohama, Makinohama, Kitsunezakihama, Sudachi, and Fukkiura. These villages are tucked along the coastline, well off of the main highway that runs along the peninsula, and the roads connecting them to the highway were torn up by the earthquake. For that reason, the only way to safely approach the villages initially was by sea. Prior to the earthquake, the villages were home to 100 households where 400 people lived, but that number has dropped to 80 households with just 260 people. JEN first became aware of these villages in mid-April, when it was surveying the aid situation on the badly damaged peninsula. It learned that these villagers made their living as farmers and did not grow many crops because the large deer population inhabiting the peninsula would eat them. As a result, JEN began distributing fruits and vegetables as emergency aid to the area to ensure that the residents have a balanced diet. As of the end of August, they had made four deliveries, covering all of the household in the villages. The fruits and vegetables were purchased from a grocer in Ishinomaki whose business also sustained damage in the disaster, so the project is helping the local economic recovery as well.
Over the past four months, the number of households in the villages has decreased, and people are concerned that without access to the main road, they will be forced to make the difficult choice to leave their villages and move inland. As long as they remain, however, JEN will be there to help.
Since August 21, JEN has also been holding gatherings at the assembly hall in the temporary housing complex on the Oshika Peninsula. The gatherings are intended as a way to create a sense of community among the new residents of the housing units. It also gives the JEN staff an opportunity to hear from the residents what they need. In Ishinomaki, JEN stopped serving meals as of July 22, having provided nearly 25,000 meals with the help of 164 volunteers. The space that they were using for meals is now being used as the Nakayashi Community Space, where various activities are being held. Some of the college students who have been volunteering since April have set up a tea room in the community space as a way to bring the community together. It has become a center for volunteers to listen to the local residents, distribute relief supplies, and offer other assistance—the volunteers are even helping the local kids with their studies!
* In August, the Association of Medical Doctors of Asia (AMDA) carried out a sports exchange in Okayama Prefecture. The program brought 46 junior high school soccer players aged 12–15 and 6 teachers representing 3 different schools in Iwate and Miyagi Prefectures. In addition, 123 students from 4 junior high school soccer teams in Okayama Prefecture participated. The program was intended to deepen the friendship and understanding between the students from the affected areas of Tohoku and their counterparts in Okayama Prefecture as a way to build solidarity and show the children that they are not alone in their efforts to rebuild. The program started with a moment of silent prayer for the victims of the earthquake and tsunami and for a brighter future for the young survivors. The children then participated in a soccer tournament in Soja City. Students stayed with local families, sharing their thoughts and experiences with their hosts. They then traveled to Okayama City to participate in a mixed team tournament that had students playing with teammates from other schools. The students also traveled to Hiroshima and to the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake Memorial in Kobe. One participant noted, "I was encouraged by the historic scenes of Hiroshima and Kobe. The survivors made every effort to rebuild their regions after the devastation. I realized that I want to be a person who can rebuild Tohoku."
* The Association for Aid and Relief (AAR) Japan reported that it remains uncertain when the elementary and junior high schools within 30 km of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant will be able to resume operations. Students who used to attend schools in Minami-Soma's Haramachi and Odaka Wards are being bused to three elementary schools and one junior high school in Kashima Ward. Despite its limited budget, Kashima Ward has been providing lunches to all of the additional students, although it could only spend as little as ¥200 per lunch in July. It had used up its rice supply by the end of June, and the nuclear power plant accident has made it difficult to get reasonably priced local vegetables. The result was that it was difficult to provide nutritionally balanced lunches.
Hearing of the situation from the Minami-Soma Board of Education, AAR delivered 2 tons of rice and 16,802 cans of vegetable juice (enough for 2 servings per week) to schools in Kashima Ward. The initial round of supplies was completed on July 22, and AAR is planning to rent a truck to provide additional food from August 25 to September 24 for the start of the second semester. Other donors around the country are also chipping in, helping to provide a healthier menu for these young earthquake survivors.
* JCIE's managing director, Hideko Katsumata, travelled to Tohoku last week to meet with potential recipients of the long-term recovery portion of JCIE's Japan NGO Earthquake Relief and Recovery Fund. Ms. Katsumata visited Kamaishi and Miyako—two port towns where many of the vivid videos the world saw on March 11 of the tsunami's destructive force were shot. These towns suffered greatly.
These are two towns with very high senior populations—31.2% and 26.5% of their populations respectively were at least 65 years old at the time the tsunami hit. In Miyako, the tsunami climbed 40 meters up a hill washing away a daycare center for seniors.
Ms. Katsumata arrived on August 11, the five-month anniversary of the disaster. She met with organizers of a kitchen car project and community bus project in Kamaishi, a day-care center for senior citizens deep in the Miyako mountains, and an educational project. Her visit also coincided with Obon, the week when the souls of one's ancestors are welcomed home with candles or lanterns, offerings are made at house altars and graves, Obon dances are performed, and then the ancestors are guided back to their own world with lanterns that are floated down a river. In Kamaishi, she noted that most of the main shopping arcade had been cleared of rubble, but the area is mostly in the process of being torn down or rebuilt. Only two shops are open for business at this point. The hotel in which she stayed was under repair as well, and there was no air conditioning despite record heat. And the night she was there she felt two earthquakes—including a strong one at 3:30 a.m. It was an exhausting and yet fruitful trip, and we hope to be reporting on some of these projects in the future. Although the people in these towns have started to pick themselves up and find ways to recover from the tragedy, they definitely need outside support to rebuild their communities.
* As part of its efforts to support the children in Tohoku, Peace Winds Japan (PWJ) have been conducting a "school for play." The program targets elementary and middle school children and tries to get them out of the shelters, temporary housing, or daycare so that they have a place where they can run around freely in the fresh air and release some of their stress. From July 28 through August 10, the program was held in two locations in Kesennuma, engaging the children in sports, games, and art projects.
PWJ has also been continuing to help communities hold their traditional summer festivals, as a way both to bring the community together and to help spur economic recovery. In early August, they helped Rikuzentakata hold its Moving Tanabata Festival and Fighting Tanabata Festival. The tsunami had claimed the life of one of the organizing committee members, and much of the equipment and tools needed for the festival had been lost, so PWJ staff worked with the committee to provide the electrical decorations for the festival floats, tents and tables, and the traditional jackets for the drummers. PWJ helped make Rikuzentaka's annual Tanabata festival a huge success, as crowds came out to see the beautiful illuminated star-themed floats.
* The head of the Tohoku Office of the Association for Aid and Relief (AAR) Japan had participated in many "cluster meetings" while providing aid abroad. These meetings are intended to promote collaboration among international agencies, national governments, local governments, and international and domestic NGOs, in order to promote holistic approaches to relief and recovery efforts. She proposed such a meeting to the Iwate Prefecture, and the plans came together on July 27. Around 40 participants convened for the first Collaboration Meeting for Volunteers for the Great East Japan Earthquake, where the various organizations reported on their activities, the challenges they were facing, and their proposals. A representative from the Kamaishi Disatster Countermeasures Office remarked that this was the first opportunity for him to get a clear picture of what organization was doing what activities where. AAR is also working to initiate a collaboration meeting in Iwate Prefecture focused specifically on helping people with disabilities.
* JEN reports that as of the end of July, it had provided supplies to 4,500 temporary housing units in Ishinomaki out of the planned 7,900 units that are being built. In order to help encourage local employment, JEN hired Ishinomaki residents to assist in the distribution efforts. One of these people, Mr. Ogata, noted, "This lets me be involved in work that helps rebuild the area where I live. I feel so happy! I'll be even happier if this pleases the people moving into the temporary homes." JEN's efforts to distribute goods in Ishinomaki will continue until the last temporary housing units are completed.
* The Association for Aid and Relief (AAR) has been helping repair and rebuild more than 50 facilities for the elderly and people with disabilities that were damaged in the March 11 disaster. The application and approval process for getting government funding for repairs takes a great deal of time, and many facilities are not eligible for funding to start with, so the support from AAR has been greatly appreciated. One example is Rupaato, an outpatient rehabilitation facility for people with intellectual and physical disabilities located near the Sendai Airport. When the disaster struck, thankfully all patients and staff were able to escape safely, but the tsunami caused severe damage to the facility, as well as to its equipment and vehicles, and the area was deemed unfit for new construction. Fortunately, they were able to secure a new building, and AAR has supported them in renovating it for their patients. While many of the patients showed signs of stress following the earthquake, this new facility has helped to bring smiles back to their faces.
AAR also helped in the reconstruction of the Runbini Museum, a special museum that features a "borderless art collection" of works created by artists with disabilities. The earthquake had left the building with cracks and other structural damage, but with AAR's help, construction was completed in mid-July and the museum has reopened for visitors and artists.
* Summertime in Japan is a time for local festivals, many of which have traditions that date back centuries.There were doubts as to whether some of these festivals would be held in light of the tragic events. One of the region's most colorful events, for example, the Soma Wild Horse Chase Festival (Nomaoi), which dates back to 10th century samurai military training, had to be scaled back in light of the proximity of the towns of Soma and Minami-soma to the Fukushima nuclear plant, but the organizers felt it was important to hold the festival as a way of encouraging the community. For similar reasons, Peace Winds Japan (PWJ) decided to provide a free bus service to help local residents get to a festival being held at Fukko-shi in Minamisanriku. Despite a light rain, many festival-goers turned out to enjoy the traditional deer dance and other festival events and foods. They could also get information on rebuilding efforts and reunite with friends and neighbors on this festive occasion. These festivals can also attract people to the area, giving a boost to local businesses that are attempting to regain their footing after the disaster.
* Peace Winds Japan (PWJ) is planning to hold a photo exhibition featuring university students' works in late September to October in Sendai. The exhibit, titled "Moving Forward" is intended to promote positive images and sustained interest in Japan's recovery efforts. Students from Tohoku Fukushi University's photo club have joined PWJ's volunteer programs to take photos of the effort.
* AMDA sent two doctors to visit Otsuchi to provide traditional medical treatments. One of them, Dr. Takahashi, had come from the United States to help out after the disaster struck, so this was his second time volunteering. They saw many repeat patients, but met many new patients as well. AMDA staff also delivered books and stationery supplies that had been donated by Shogakukan Square to local kindergartens and children at evacuation centers. One school that they visited was the Midori Kindergarten. Their school is still in the process of being rebuilt, so classes are being held in rooms at a high school. Another school, Osanago Kindergarten had part of the first floor and the grounds destroyed by the tsunami but has managed to reopen. AMDA brought coloring books and picture books for the children there.
* On July 15, a ceremony was held to hand over the final donations from Peace Winds Japan (PWJ) for the reopening of the Ofunato fish market. PWJ has been working in partnership with an American aid organization, Mercy Corps, on this initiative to provide equipment such as forklifts, scales, tanks, and generators to the market to get this key industry in the region back on its feet. A Mercy Corps staff also posted a report on her visit to the market that day, where she saw first-hand the joy of the local fishermen and residents to have fresh seafood in their market once again.
* JEN is continuing to recruit and dispatch volunteers to the Tohoku region throughout the summer months to help with the ongoing efforts to clear mud and debris from homes and fields, deliver relief supplies to homes and temporary housing, and assist in meeting other needs as they arise. They report that to date more than 1,700 volunteers have participated in JEN's volunteer work.
* The Association for Aid and Relief (AAR) Japan reported on their participation in a children's festival held at a preschool in Shichigahama, Miyagi Prefecture. The first floor of the school had been destroyed in the tsunami and had to be rebuilt, so the children could not go back to school until mid-May. Even now, the school is surrounded by reminders of the disaster—the remains of houses that were swept away by the tsunami and fields littered with rubble can still be seen from the school grounds—and school officials noted that the children are still dealing with the fear they experienced on March 11. To help bring some joy and laughter to the children, the school's PTA had prepared activities and traditional Japanese festival treats like yakisoba (fried noodles) and kakigori (a Japanese version of a snow-cone), and AAR brought sets of toys that were handed out to the children in hand-made bags donated by people throughout Japan.