September 9, 2011

JEN is providing support to build a sense of community among people living in temporary shelters.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.