Sankaku Planning Iwate—Mederu Car (“Delivery Care”) Project
Location: Morioka, Iwate Prefecture
Grant: ¥8,350,000 (3-year grant)
(BTMU Americas Community Recovery Award)
In order to help strengthen community ties and serve vulnerable populations, particularly senior citizens and disabled disaster survivors, Sankaku Planning launched a Mederu Car (“Delivery Care”) Project. The project 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 project, residents can place their orders and pay a nominal fee of ¥100 (less than $1.50) for 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. Given that government officials have been anticipating a rise in suicides in the region—”deaths in isolation,” i.e., cases in which elderly people and others with little social interaction fall ill and die without being discovered—this feature of the project is extremely important. Because the women making the deliveries are also victims of the disaster, they are keenly attuned to the concerns of the people they are serving.
At a time when unemployment rates in the Tohoku region remain at double the pre-earthquake rates, and with unemployment benefits scheduled to end in 2012, the project also offers a crucial opportunity for women to support themselves and their families and to begin rebuilding their lives.
In the project’s first seven months, staff made around 1,000 deliveries and close to 900 visits to check on their clients’ wellbeing. With this grant, provided as part of the BTMU Americas Community Recovery Award, Sankaku Planning was able to respond to requests to expand their network by more than 200 kilometers to include four more locations in Iwate Prefecture. This involved both the hiring of more staff and the expansion of the secretariat in order to ensure that the on-site staff can concentrate on their interaction with their clients.
Sankaku Planning is an NPO established eight years ago under the auspices of Women’s Space Morioka to encourage the joint participation of men and women in planning initiatives in the city, and to support economic self-sufficiency and entrepreneurship among women. This project is one of a number of initiatives the organization has launched in the wake of the 3/11 disaster to apply its expertise in order to assist women and others in the region.