Association for Aid and Relief, Japan (AAR Japan)

Association for Aid and Relief, Japan(AAR Japan) is a Non-Governmental Organization ( NGO ) aiming to provide emergency assistance, assistance to people with disabilities, and mine action, among other operations. It was established in 1979 as an organization with no political, ideological, or religious affiliation. AAR currently has offices in 10 countries.
Dec 20, 2014

Passing the 4th Winter in Temporary Housing - Voices of Fukushima Evacuees

The counselor carefully listens to the participant
The counselor carefully listens to the participant

AAR Japan has continuously carried out a project called “Building Healthy Communities” ever since the earthquake and tsunami on March 11th, 2011, to prevent isolation and stress accumulation, as well as ill health among evacuees in temporary housing complexes. “Rehabilitation and active listening” are the main activity components in the project, which we have conducted in meeting halls in temporary housing complexes in Miyagi, Iwate, and Fukushima Prefectures since July 2011. Every weekend, volunteer physiotherapists and occupational therapists visit different meeting halls, and offer massage and physical exercise sessions. Further, whilst the participants wait for their turn with the therapists, volunteer counselors from JAICO (Japan Industrial Counselors Association) listen to the participants over a cup of tea. They sometimes enjoy handcrafting pouches and small bags, as well. We aim to promote physical relaxation through massage, as well as relieve psychological burden through casual conversation with the counselors and handicraft. AAR’s Programme Coordinator, Shinichiro OHARA, who has been engaged in the program since the emergency phase reports his experiences in Fukushima.

A great number of people have not been able to return home, and are distressed under pro-longed stay in temporary housing in Fukushima Prefecture, as the radiation from the nuclear power plant has yet to cease. On the other hand, some of the disaster survivors from coastal areas, whose home were destroyed by tsunami, have seen some progress; they began to move into public restoration housing from temporary housing complexes. We hear lively and cheerful voices more frequently from these people who can move to permanent houses and set goals with longer term prospects.

Among these seemingly lively people, there are those who strive to overcome grief. A case in point is Kazuko KOBAYASHI, a survivor who lives in the coastal area in Fukushima. On March 11th, 2011, tsunami swallowed her son who was a fire fighter. The son went back to work after telling Kazuko who was tidying the earthquake-stricken house to “evacuate, tsunami is coming.” Kazuko swiftly evacuated to a high ground by car at her son’s instruction. Her son who was trying to stop cars heading toward the coast on duty was reflected in the rearview mirror. That was to be the last time Kazuko saw her son. “I am moving out of the temporary housing in the coming March”, Kazuko tells us cheerfully, but she has carried psychological burden for these three years and eight months. She added “on my son’s birthday, I planted a tree on the lot where our house used to be. The tree was to abandon sorrow and move forward. The only unfortunate thing is that I cannot live with my daughter-in-law and grandchildren, as they fear the sea so much that they cannot live near it.

There are many survivors like Kazuko who hold agony experienced since the earthquake and tsunami, but they are able to move to new permanent houses from temporary housing and make progress in their lives.

Although the situations surrounding the residents in temporary housing complex vary, they all have undergone hardships, such as collapse of house and loss of family members. Since they know that everyone has difficulties, it makes the residents reluctant to discuss their bitter experiences and worries among themselves. Some residents actually find it easier to talk with AAR Japan staff. We believe that our activities provide psychological care through conversation and interaction, in which the disaster survivors are able to share pain and worries with us.

It has been three years and nine months since the disaster struck Tohoku area, but approximately 84,000 people have no choice but to live in temporary housing even today. We will continue our activities alongside the survivors.

 

The interviewee in this report is mentioned by pseudo name.

The massage session by a therapist
The massage session by a therapist
Ohara handicrafts a pouch with participants
Ohara handicrafts a pouch with participants
Nov 21, 2014

Douglas -Everything has changed after getting back

Douglas, 18 years old and model student
Douglas, 18 years old and model student

Douglas was born on 2 February, 1995. His father passed away in 2001, followed by his mother in 2003. After the death of his parents, his grandmother took care of him. But due to financial challenges, Douglas’s grandmother did not have enough money to pay for his school. It was for this reason that Douglas came to our school support project in 2005.

After three years of being in the project, Douglas’s grandmother became very sick. Due to her illness, she decided to travel back to the village with Douglas where she eventually died.

In 2011, Douglas returned from the village back to Ngombe, where he had lived and received education, under the care of his uncle. When he returned, he reported at our office and requested to be given another schooling opportunity under the same school support project. He finally restarted school the following year in 2012.

However, while under the care of his uncle, Douglas became rebellious and disobedient towards his uncle. He lost interest in schooland he got a job as a gardener and begun to earn some money. In addition, Douglas did not like the idea of sharing a class with girls and boys younger than himself. His uncle was supportive of Douglas’s schooling but because of his attitude, he got frustrated and decided to send him back to the village. However, AAR Japan did not give up on Douglas; we continued to encourage him until his interest in school increased. Because of the dispute between Douglas and his uncle, AAR Japan offered Douglas the opportunity to attend a boarding school by covering all school fees, including his tuition payments and costs for uniforms and stationeries, so that he can concentrate on his studies without any distractions.

After entering the boarding school, Douglas’s change was impressive. In school today, he participates in gardening, cleaning of surroundings and performs other duties assigned to him at the boarding school. Being in the eighth grade, Douglas studies for two hours during the day and two hours during the night. His favorite subject is Science. In his spare time, he plays draughts and volleyball. Early this year, the school director and teachers discovered that he is a very brilliant, determined and enthusiastic young man. His ambitious attitude is evident in the excellent grades he acquires in school. This prompted the school authorities to make a rare exception and to pay examination fees for him to attempt the final ninth grade examination; a higher grade than the one he is in. 

Douglas now appreciates the schooling opportunity given to him. He is confident that he will pass his examinations. Douglas hopes to be an electrical engineer when he completes high school. He also hopes to take his siblings from the village and give them an opportunity to go to school. In the future, he even intends to start an orphanage to take care of orphaned and vulnerable children like himself. He hopes to proceed to university so that he can realize his dreams.

Through the AAR School Project in Zambia, AAR Japan is determined to continue our assistance to HIV/AIDS orphans in Zambia and to support them in making their dreams come true.

Douglas and his mate Samuel ready for school
Douglas and his mate Samuel ready for school
Nov 13, 2014

Violin Concerts at Temporary Housing Complexes

The local musicians played the ocarina (4 Oct
The local musicians played the ocarina (4 Oct '04)

AAR Japan organises a variety of events for temporary housing residents, who have been living in a dire situation ever since the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami, for the purpose of giving joy and encouragement to, and revitalising communities.

As one of such efforts, we organized violin and ocarina concerts at a temporary housing complex and community hall in Minamisoma City, Fukushima Prefecture and Watari Town, Miyagi Prefecture on 4th and 5th of October, 2014. The temporary housing complex in Minamisoma City accommodates evacuees from Odaka-Ku near Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. Their home was not only destroyed by the earthquake and tsunami, but also contaminated by radiation from the power plant, which prohibits the evacuees from returning to their homes. Watari Town is located in the coastal area in the south of Miyagi Prefecture and had a vibrant town life with a prospering fishing industry and a popular beautiful beach before the disaster.

On this occasion, we invited Ms Mitoko Sato, a Japanese violinist active in France who has been playing the violin in the disaster-stricken areas, to play in the temporary housing communities. ”I live off music”, she says and explains that “the only way that I can help the disaster survivors is through music”. At the concerts, she collaborated with a group of local ocarina musicians from Soma City, Fukushima Prefecture, upon her request.

The concert started off with ocarina performance. The local musicians played Japanese popular songs, folk songs, and local traditional songs. The warm timbre of ocarina brought smiles to the residents of temporary housing complexes. Violin performance of classic music, which followed the ocarina performance, fascinated the audience, as well. The highlight of the concert was the joint performance of ocarina and violin. They played chorus music, which everyone knows from his/her school days, as well as Japanese National Television’s rooters’ song, “Hana wa Saku (Flowers bloom)”  “Hana ha Saku” was performed alongside sign language. The harmony of the violin and ocarina was truly beautiful. The audience brought back smiles to home after the concerts.

Three years and eight months after the disaster, some progress toward rehabilitation can be recognised in terms of construction of private housing and public permanent housing for the evacuees. However, approximately 188,000 people still live in temporary housing complexes in three prefectures affected by the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami. In order to support these evacuees and survivors, AAR Japan is determined to continue our assistance activities in disaster-stricken areas.

"Hana wa Saku" was performed along sign language
"Hana wa Saku" was performed along sign language
The violinist Ms Mitoko Sato
The violinist Ms Mitoko Sato
Joint performance of violin and ocarina
Joint performance of violin and ocarina

donate now:

An anonymous donor is matching all new monthly recurring donations. Terms and conditions apply.
Make a monthly recurring donation on your credit card. You can cancel at any time.
Make a donation in honor or memory of:
What kind of card would you like to send?
How much would you like to donate?
  • $15
    give
  • $25
    give
  • $50
    give
  • $500
    give
  • $15
    each month
    give
  • $25
    each month
    give
  • $50
    each month
    give
  • $500
    each month
    give
  • $
    give
gift Make this donation a gift, in honor of, or in memory of someone?