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.
Mar 20, 2015

Disaster Risk Reduction Event in Fukushima

Dr. Kyung-Wha Kang of UNHCR
Dr. Kyung-Wha Kang of UNHCR

On 15th and 16 March, AAR Japan hosted the Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) Event in Soma City, Fukushima Prefecture, as a parallel event to the Third UN World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction in Sendai, Miyagi Prefecture. This two-day event included a music concert and a symposium on DDR, in which a total of 1,100 people participated.

At the concert, a great number of disaster survivors enjoyed folk songs by Japanese folk singers and the performance of a professional impressionist, mimicking sounds of animals.

The symposium held on the next day was informative and thought-provoking. Dr. Kyung-Wha Kang, Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator with the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), attended the symposium as a guest speaker. Referring to the Great East Japan Earthquake on 11 March 2011 and its aftermath, she highlighted that “the unique experience of Fukushima offers many lessons for humanitarian crises, not only to improve Japan’s own Disaster Risk Reduction efforts, but also to build a more resilient world.”

After the inspiring speech from Dr. Kang, the Soma City Mayor, representatives from local organizations, and physicians working in Soma Region passed on experiences and lessons learned through emergency operations and rehabilitation efforts after the 3.11 Tohoku catastrophe. Panelists also discussed DRR measures to prepare for, mitigate, and better respond to future disasters.

Ms. Hideko Igarashi, official storyteller of Soma City Disaster Storyteller Group, was one of the panelists in the symposium and told about her experiences from the disaster. On March 11th, she was working in her guest house near Soma beach when the massive tsunami swept her away. “The tsunami rushed toward us quickly and quietly. The waves dashed against buildings and houses, and increased in its strength. Before I knew it, I was swallowed by the waves,” she recalled. “I could no longer hold onto the hands of my husband and uncle, who were running away with me. I felt fear of death for the very first time in my life”.

Unfortunately, Hideko lost her husband and uncle to the tsunami. It was a year later that she decided to become a story-teller, but in the beginning she had no idea what message to convey to the audience. She sometimes sobbed for the entire session, recalling the day. Today, Hideko has made it her mission to speak about her experiences, while appreciating life and the fact that she survived. She also feels that her husband and uncle are giving her a supportive push.

Speaking about the importance being aware of disasters, she stressed that “evacuation is the first and foremost priority when a disaster strikes. We are forgetful beings. We must remember the Great East Japan Earthquake and its lessons, and maintain crisis awareness at all times.”

Mayor Hidekiyo Tachiya of Soma City
Mayor Hidekiyo Tachiya of Soma City
Ms. Hideko Igarashi, Soma Disaster Storyteller Grp
Ms. Hideko Igarashi, Soma Disaster Storyteller Grp
Performer Nekohachi Edoya, singer Naoyuki Harada
Performer Nekohachi Edoya, singer Naoyuki Harada
The two-day event attracted more than 1100 people!
The two-day event attracted more than 1100 people!
Mar 3, 2015

Transformation Planned for the Project

Samuel and Douglas receiving school supplies
Samuel and Douglas receiving school supplies

In Zambia, there are estimated 600,000 children who lost their parents to HIV/AIDS. Most of these orphans stay with their grandparents, relatives, or their family’s close friends. As many of these adopting families are not wealthy, they are unable to send those HIV/AIDS orphans to school.

AAR Japan, having its office in Lusaka City, has been implementing several projects since 2004 to tackle the spread of HIV/AIDS in the country. One of the projects is to support HIV/AIDS orphans in their schooling by paying their school fees as well as providing notebooks, uniforms, and other necessary goods. AAR began implementing the schooling support project for more than 100 HIV/AIDS orphans living in N’gombe Compound, a northern suburb of Lusaka City in 2004.

Benson, one of these children who lost his mother to AIDS, was 8 years old when AAR started supporting him. The small boy is now a 17-year-old high school student. Benson has good attendance record in school and maintains great academic performance, always ranking within the 10th place in his class. He is always appreciative of people who support his schooling.

Despite the difficult family situations, the children strive to do well in school, and Benson is one of them. Many of the children say that they wish to have a successful career in the future not only to help their own families but also to give support to any of those who are in dire needs of assistance

Although the guardians of these children were grateful for the schooling support, some of them were not very comfortable with the idea of continuously relying on others. In response to their sentiments, AAR launched income generating activities (IGA) of chicken farming and maize milling to raise children’s schooling expenses and help the guardians improve their earnings.

Esther has been taking a part in the chicken farming of IGA. Her grandson, Eric, is under the support AAR’s schooling project. Steri has been engaging in maize milling since the IGA project began. She lives with one of her grandsons, Moses, who lost his parents to AIDS when he was 5 years old. Thanks to the continuous efforts by the guardians like Esther and Steri, the project generated a net income of about USD 1,125 in 2014, after deducting all expenditures including salaries from the revenue.

As time passed, the situations surrounding the projects have changed. The current number of orphans supported under our schooling project has decreased to 30 as of February 2015 from over 100 at the beginning of the project in 2004, as many of the orphans finished school. As for the IGA project, the guardians have developed necessary skills to generate profits. As such, AAR is considering handing it over to a local committee to enhance autonomy and respect guardians’ own endeavors. Along with the hand-over, we plan to put more emphasis on support for individual children through making changes to the structure of the whole program. From the monitoring and interactions with the orphans, we found that children in the schooling project are in dire need of comprehensive psychosocial care as they have entered puberty. In addition, efforts to enhance guardians’ understanding of the importance of education are necessary. As such we are considering a psychosocial care project, and would like to deactivate the project on GlobalGiving while we go through this transitional phase.

We greatly appreciate all your support. AAR will continue supporting HIV/AIDS orphans in their schooling for a bright future.

N
N'gombe Compound, Lusaka
Benson (second from left in front) at 8 years old
Benson (second from left in front) at 8 years old
Benson (left, 17 years old) and his family
Benson (left, 17 years old) and his family
Eric and Esther
Eric and Esther
Steri and her hammer mill
Steri and her hammer mill
Feb 10, 2015

Promoting Communication through Handicraft

Making mini Christmas trees out of pine cones
Making mini Christmas trees out of pine cones

It has been almost four years since the 3.11 disaster struck Tohoku Region in Japan. In the disaster stricken areas, some rehabilitation and reconstruction progress can be seen. For instance, new public restoration apartments have been constructed. Some people have already moved out of temporary housing complexes on their own. On the other hand, there are those who drew a losing ticket for public housing allocation and are waiting for construction of other public restoration apartments, as well as those who are hesitative about moving to public housing due to concerns about monthly rent payment (temporary housing residents do not need to pay rent).

Many of the residents at temporary housing complexes are elderly, and it is difficult for them to reconstruct house on their own, and to leave their hometown and join a new community. As such they tend to live alone in a temporary housing complex. Further, alcohol dependence is prevalent among those with a dismal outlook after losing a job to the earthquake or nuclear power plant accident, or those who cannot free themselves from much sorrow over the loss of family members and friends.

In response, AAR Japan has conducted a variety of events under “Building Health Communities Project” to prevent deterioration of physical and psychological well-being and to promote communication within temporary housing complexes in Iwate, Miyagi, and Fukushima Prefectures. In Tohoku Region, many people are reticent and reserved, and tend not to open up to outsiders. Knowing these characteristics of Tohoku people, AAR has regularly visited same temporary housing complexes to gain their trust with time and care.

This is a report from one of those temporary housing complexes in Watari Town, Miyagi Prefecture. 306 lives were lost to the 3.11 earthquake and tsunami, and 3,733 houses were destroyed or damaged in the town. AAR has been assisting Watari Town since the occurrence of the disaster, and has visited the featured temporary housing 13 times (as of the end of January, 2014).

On December 14th, 2014, AAR staff and a counselor visited the temporary housing complex. It was a cold day with snow piled on the ground. Despite the weather, a total of 16 residents gathered in the meeting hall to participate in a recreational activity to make mini Christmas trees using a pine cone. As a prior notice was disseminated among the residents, many looked forward to the event. The participants concentrated on the task of delicately putting beads on a pine cone. Towards the end of the activity, the participants started to discuss a variety of topics including daily lives at the temporary housing (life rhythm, handicrafts that they made), the prospect of their new house (anxiety and relief about moving into a new house), and their health (tips for cold prevention and care for maintain their physique).

At the beginning of the activity, however, it seemed that a sense of unity was lacking in the temporary housing complex. It was probably because the residents came from several different communities in Watari Town, and they separated themselves into small community groups. Nonetheless, once mini Christmas trees were made, the walls between the groups broke down. They enjoyed interacting with each other. After the activity that required much concentration, we ended the day with calisthenics.

When everyone was almost finished with the mini Christmas tree making, a lady in her 80s approached an AAR staff member, and started to talk about her experience of the day the disaster struck. “Immediately after the earthquake, I asked the company president if I could go home”, she recalled. “That was the right judgment call. My colleagues who stayed at work passed away…  I survived, but I only had clothes I was wearing, and everything else was washed away. Not even a picture is left. It’s sad.” She continued, “I can’t fit in this temporary housing complex where most people are from different communities. All the houses are so close to each other, and I feel like my neighbors are peeping in my house. This had never happened to where I used to live. I’m fed up with living in this cramped cave.”

Although almost four years has passed, and many people lived in the same complex, there are still those who isolate themselves from their neighbors. Those people do not have anyone or any opportunities to talk about their feelings and bitter experience of the disaster. Some pour out their feelings when AAR visits the temporary housing complexes. It is not easy to assuage someone’s grief over loss of not only friends and family, but also livelihood and hometown. What we can do is to be with the survivors’ hearts and offer those who isolate themselves opportunities to interact with others. Four years since the disaster, such psychosocial care is still needed. AAR will continue to provide the survivors with psychosocial care through Building Healthy Communities Project. 

The completed mini Christmas tree
The completed mini Christmas tree
Calisthenics after the handicraft activity.
Calisthenics after the handicraft activity.
This male participant lost his wife to tsunami
This male participant lost his wife to tsunami

donate now:

An anonymous donor will match all new monthly recurring donations, but only if 75% of donors upgrade to a recurring donation today.
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?
  • $10
    give
  • $15
    give
  • $25
    give
  • $50
    give
  • $100
    give
  • $10
    each month
    give
  • $15
    each month
    give
  • $25
    each month
    give
  • $50
    each month
    give
  • $100
    each month
    give
  • $
    give
gift Make this donation a gift, in honor of, or in memory of someone?