June 23, 2011

rpt1106_678_hugThe Association for Aid and Relief (AAR) Japan recently delivered clothing and other supplies to Madoka, a social welfare facility in Sendai (Miyagi Prefecture) that provides employment assistance to people with disabilities. AAR volunteers were accompanied by helpers from an American aid group who brought T-shirts, towels, and other items that bore messages like, “From Oregon with Love” and “Hugs from America.” As the volunteers unloaded the supplies, the people from the facility gathered in the parking lot and enjoyed chatting with the American volunteers. “What makes us happiest,” they said, “is that you came to see us!” When it was time to leave, there were hugs all around, culminating in a very American-style “group hug.”

rpt1106_678_miyakawaAAR also visited a woman in Kamaishi (Iwate Prefecture) to deliver food, a rice cooker, and other appliances. The woman’s husband requires dialysis but was unable to receive treatment immediately after the disaster, and so his condition worsened to the point where he is unable to work. Their home did not suffer any major damage, so they have not received supplies or other support and are not eligible for the contributions being made to earthquake and tsunami victims. As a result, they are facing serious financial difficulties, and the woman is essentially home-bound because of the need to care for her husband. Hearing about their situation, AAR has been assisting the couple, and last week marked the third visit to bring supplies and check on how they are doing. As the AAR staff was leaving, the woman said with tears in her eyes, “It’s so nice to smile for a change!” It reminded the staff how important human interaction is to people who have become isolated by this disaster.

The nine elementary schools in Rikuzentakata (Iwate Prefecture) all sustained serious damage on March 11, and those that were not destroyed have seen their buildings and gyms be put to use as evacuation centers or their grounds become the site of temporary housing. While classes have resumed, the lack of space and funding has meant that many extracurricular activities are still suspended. For example, one of the area’s best baseball teams managed to hold practices and win their district championship, but due to a lack of funds both at the school and among the families, they did not have the money to go to the prefectural tournament. Realizing the importance of baseball for the morale of the area, NICCO has stepped in to assist that team and three others to ensure that they can play in the tournaments. Funds will also go toward equipment and facility repair at the elementary and middle schools in Rikuzentakata.

NICCO is also continuing to implement its “Psycho-social Care Program,” which it has used in developing countries around the world to help prevent post-traumatic stress disorder among children who have suffered from disasters or violence. In addition, it is helping to clean up and refurnish the schools and the school grounds to ensure that the children have a stress-free learning environment.

252802_232356540111510_198939360119895_1071599_2656794_nAs part of its efforts to support the revival of the local fishing industry, Peace Winds Japan (PWJ) assisted a survey of the seabed off of Minamisanriku, which was conducted by a professor from Iwate University in cooperation with the Shizugawa Fisheries Association. PWJ provided them with the necessary compressed gas cylinders and compressors for the survey. The findings on the first day were a pleasant surprise: the seabed was very clean, as if there had never been a tsunami!

On June 11–13, Peace Winds Japan (PWJ) and an American NPO, Mercy Corps International, held lectures and workshops in Tokyo, Miyagi Prefecture, and Iwate Prefecture on “The Great Eastern Japan Earthquake: Providing Psycho-Social Support for Children.” These sessions featured the head of the US-based Dougy Center, which was founded 30 years ago to provide grief counseling to children who have lost loved ones.