Shanti Volunteer Association—”Gather ’round, Beach Kids!” Initiative
Location: Kesennuma, Miyagi Prefecture
Grant: ¥4,000,000 (approx. US$46,500)
In addition to destroying buildings and infrastructure, the 3/11 disaster caused a great amount of emotional damage to survivors by shattering their sense of security. In the ensuing years, the provision of mental health care has been considered a high priority in the relief and recovery efforts. In particular, as disasters are especially traumatic for children, programs offering psychological support to affected youth are extremely important.
The Japan NGO Earthquake Relief and Recovery Fund has made a grant of ¥4 million to Shanti Volunteer Association for its Atsumare, Hamawarasu!(“Gather ‘round, Beach Kids!”) program, which promotes emotional healing by giving children the opportunity to experience and learn about the sea through various nature-related activities. Following the disaster, many children gained a deep fear of the sea and were, consequently, afraid to play on the beach. Through activities such as raft building and classes on tying fishing knots, the children learn to respect the sea, not fear it to such a debilitating degree that they refuse to interact with it. Also, the program has the added benefit of contributing to community building as many of the activities call for members of local community, such as fishermen, farmers, and others, to participate as facilitators and teachers. In this way, the program becomes a means for multigenerational exchange. In the future, its activities are expected to expand beyond the beach to encourage further community engagement.
Support from JCIE helped Shanti Volunteer Association build up the institutional base of a new nonprofit group, Hamawarasu, which is being spun off to operate the new “Gather ’round, Beach Kids!” initiative. Acting as an incubator for the new organization, Shanti Volunteer Association provides training on all aspects of program administration and implementation so that the new organization can continue relief efforts seamlessly even after Shanti Volunteer Association formally ends its activities in the region.