The city of Rikuzentakata was one of the areas hardest hit by the tsunami, which killed nearly 1 in 10 residents of this coastal town—the highest proportion of any city. Another 13,000 residents were displaced from their homes and forced to move to temporary facilities. With residents scattered about in temporary housing units and information about what was happening in town no longer flowing the way it once did, people began to feel detached from their community. In addition, as time passed, the slow progress of the recovery effort was leaving many residents frustrated and impatient.
In order to help address these issues, the Japan NGO Earthquake Relief and Recovery Fund made a two-year grant of ¥6 million to AidTAKATA to support its Radio FM Rikuzentakata program. The grant was made possible thanks to the BTMU Americas Community Recovery Award, MetLife Foundation, and other funders.
AidTAKATA began work in April 2011, launching a variety of fundraising initiatives for reconstruction, coordinating foreign aid, holding events for local residents, and organizing various meetings and forums, all with the objective of supporting the people of Rikuzentakata in their long-term efforts to recover and rebuild.
In December 2011, AidTAKATA launched 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. It is hoped that the information will give the residents, as well as the many volunteers and aid workers currently in the area, a sense that progress is indeed being made and therefore ease some of the mental stress that they are experiencing. The program also seeks to maintain and strengthen a sense of community among the listeners, many of whom are in temporary housing and a disproportionate number of whom are senior citizens.
Radio FM Rikuzentakata broadcasts a wide range of original programming from Monday through Saturday, including area news and community affairs, local folklore shared by community elders, interviews with residents, concerts and school events, and Chinese- and English-language programs. It also broadcasts city council meetings live so that homebound residents—predominantly senior citizens—can keep track of the debate over reconstruction plans, and it broadcasts a monthly Q&A session with the mayor. The station has 23,000 listeners in Rikuzentakata, and several thousand others around the country that tune in to its Internet simulcast.