Hands On Tokyo

Hands On Tokyo addresses the critical needs of the community by partnering with other organizations focusing on environmental, educational, and social issues in Tokyo. Through such partnerships, we provide numerous opportunities for any individual or corporation looking to engage in direct volunteer service and community participation. Our vision is to empower volunteers so that they can be confident that their contribution can change lives of others.
Nov 18, 2013

O-Link House, A Beacon of Hope for Ogatsu People

O-Link House surrounded by flowers
O-Link House surrounded by flowers

The Ogatsu landscape has further changed in recent months.  All building structures that remained in one form or another after the earthquake and tsunami have been torn down including the former town hall which served as a storage and work area over the past 2.5 years.  With the help of your generous donations, Hands on Tokyo (HOT) was able to build the first permanent structure in Ogatsu since March 11th – the new community center known as O-Link House.  HOT volunteers helped paint and did landscaping before O-Link House opened a few months ago. Surrounded by vast open spaces, this community center serves as a beacon of hope for the former residents of Ogatsu who still hope to return home someday.

In July we held a workshop at O-Link House for HOT volunteers to study the impact of our activities since the March 11th earthquake and tsunami and to consider how we can continue to support the Ogatsu area.  The next day we supported the “Sea Urchin Festival,” a very popular event in Ogatsu over many years.  This was the second such festival since March 11th and many former residents and visitors attended.  HOT volunteers helped O-Link House serve drinks, food and summer festival sweets.  It was very good seeing so many smiling faces in Ogatsu.

While delivering over 300 Halloween goodie bags to two elementary schools in the Ogatsu area, HOT volunteers recently paid a visit to O-Link House and were very happy to see how it is being used as a gallery for local artists, a place to train the next generation of inkstone carvers (an important traditional craft which was centered in Ogatsu prior to the tsunami) and a lovely café run by former Ogatsu residents serving delicious coffee, homemade cakes and chocolate and berry parfaits.  It is very important to have provided a means for former Ogatsu residents to earn a livelihood once again in Ogatsu.  Thank you for empowering them with such an opportunity through your generous donations.

With your continued support, on a going forward basis, we will continue to plan volunteer trips to Ogatsu to help maintain the community house, to clean local beaches so that people from the greater Sendai area will continue to visit the area and thereby support the local economy, to hold special events in Ogatsu to support and encourage those who are waiting to move back to Ogatsu and to support others in the Ogatsu area in their continued efforts to relaunch their former businesses or start new businesses.

Since our last report, HOT volunteers also continued to support a local farmer – Saito-san -- in Yamamoto-cho who needed assistance rebuilding one of his greenhouses and staking growing red and green pepper plants. He and his wife could not have done this without the support of volunteers given the nature of the tasks and the labor shortage in certain parts of Tohoku.

Going forward, we plan to organize more volunteer trips to further support Saito-san and others in Tohoku as they work hard to further rebuild their lives.

Thank you in advance for your continued support.

  Volulnteer serving drinks & sweets to locals
Volulnteer serving drinks & sweets to locals
Halloween goodie bags for school kids
Halloween goodie bags for school kids
Volunteers helping local farmers
Volunteers helping local farmers
Yummy looking menu of O-Link House Cafe
Yummy looking menu of O-Link House Cafe

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Aug 14, 2013

Tohoku Youth Basketball Program

Group Photo
Group Photo

Through the inaugural HandsOn Tokyo Summer Teen Program, one of the high school participants chose as his project to bring US-style basketball training to children in the Tohoku region.  With advise from former NBA stars, domestic professional and former professional basketball players, the volunteers put on a two-day program that sought to emphasize the enjoyment of basketball and to introduce a more American style of competitiveness.  

Our regional partner is the Ofunato Junior Sports League, which is run by the city's social welfare department, but is largely organized and managed by the children's parents.  Following the effects of the Great East Japan Earthquake and resulting tsunami, one of the consequences was the impact on local children and their physical education.  With their parents struggling in many cases to get back on their feet, the Junior Sports League activities, understandably, became a very low priority.  Thankfully, as the region has begun to make progress toward recovery, many of the sports activities have re-started; however, many teams are now consolidations of smaller groups reflecting the affects of the disaster on the population.  Moreover, in response to the urgent need for housing, Ofunato built over 1,800 temporary houses to accommodate the disenfranchised, many of which were schoolyards (and one complex resided at the Massaki Elementary School (these buildings can be seen on the map below of the school as the row houses.)  The situation is further exacerbated by the fact that the City has coopted other public spaces, such as parks and play areas, for temporary housing.  As such, outdoor sports is increasingly challenge and the local Sports Leagues wants to get the kids to play basketball.  

Over the course of two days, Hands On Tokyo supported six volunteers to run the first Tohoku Youth Basketball Program, putting the kids through drills, playing skills games for prizes, and after a mini-draft, dividing the 24 elementary school children into four teams for a round-robbin tournament.  We also provided t-shirts to all the participants so no one went home empty handed!  

Following the program, the parents of the students treated the volunteers to a terrific barbecue at the local fire department.  The homemade grill made from used propane tanks (ironically constructed by the firemen!) served the 50+ parents, athletes and volunteers.  We were able to get feedback from the locals who praised the young volunteers for inspiring them to incorporate more fun into their training, increase competition and most importantly, increased the level of interest amongst the school children in basketball.  

We hope to have this event as an annual event, including more area sports teams in the program.

Watching how the pros gets it done!
Watching how the pros gets it done!
Drills
Drills
Dribbling skills game
Dribbling skills game
A future star?
A future star?
Please come again
Please come again
May 28, 2013

O-Link House Opening Ceremony

O-Link House is Open!
O-Link House is Open!

On April 14, 2013 under a bright blue sky, we cut the ribbon to officially christen and open the O-Link House in Ogatsu.  Thanks to the generosity of so many donors, including our special GlobalGiving donations and the matching programme, Hands On Tokyo was able to support the full construction cost, landscaping and furnishing of the O-Link House, the only newly constructed building in the district.  We would like to relay the tremendous gratitude of the people of this tiny district of Ishinomaki, Miyagi prefecture that was so heavily impacted by the earthquake and resulting events of March 11, 2011 (the Events).  

Background of Ogatsu Community Center Project:

Prior to the Events, Ogatsu had a population of 4,300 of which over 400 residents lost their lives or are still missing, and, due to the significant damage suffered by the district, only 900 survivors live there today.  A significant cause of this negative demographic impact is the loss of much of the critical municipal infrastructure necessary for daily life, such as the grocery stores, restaurants, petrol stands, and civil support (police, fire, postal, medical, etc).  Further, with ca. 90% of the homes in Ogatsu, damaged or destroyed, much of the little town is now designated a no-build zone, with limited space for temporary housing, which resulted in nearly three-quarters of the population evacuating out of Ogatsu, where they remain to this day.  A plan is proposed to move the town to higher ground, but it remains unclear whether residents will come back to an area that was already suffering from an aging and declining population even before the earthquake.

As such, many survivors continue to live with uncertainty about their future. One of the biggest concerns is the tendency of the uprooted elderly, especially those living alone, to become isolated living in unfamiliar surroundings.  The vision for the community center is to become a resource for the broader city of Ishinomaki and attract all ages beyond Ogatsu residents.  

Through a generous donation of building materials from Intercontinental Trading Corp., Hands On Tokyo found a means to try to support the people of Ishinomaki.  With further support from US-Japan Council and Major League Baseball Players Association, and countless locals, Hands On Tokyo (HOT) undertook to manage this important construction project.  HOT organized and managed over [400] volunteers to support the construction of the facility lead managed by a professional contractor sourced by HOT in the town of Ogatsu. 

O-Link House will house a café and library, a space for the preservation of industry and traditional culture (e.g., fishing and inkstone handcrafts), and a study and recreation space for all ages of people who live around Ogatsu as well as visitors from outside Ishinomaki-City.  HOT is also committed to the long-term support of survivors and will continue to develop and implement volunteer-driven programs that utilize this precious resource in Ogatsu. 

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