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.
Feb 28, 2013

Summary of Project in Fukushima for Past 6 Months

Boo!!! Santa is in town!
Boo!!! Santa is in town!

Overview of the Damage that Still Remains

It has been nearly two years since the Great East Japan Earthquake of March 11th, 2011. In spite of the steady recovery process, many people are still suffering from the aftereffects of the disaster. Many people are still displaced because of the radiation spill at the Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant in Fukushima Prefecture. For example, evacuees are forced to stay in temporary housing complexes because their homes and workplaces were completely washed away by the tsunami.

According to the Ministry of Reconstruction in Japan, as of December 12th 2012, there are still 98,235 people living in the temporary housing complexes and other types of publicly subsidized residences in Fukushima Prefecture alone. In the Tohoku region as a whole (Fukushima, Miyagi, and Iwate Prefectures), there are 251,869 people who share the same fate.

Number of evacuees living in temporary housing complexes and other subsidized housing

  • Fukushima = 98,235
  • Miyagi = 112,008
  • Iwate = 41,626
  • TOTAL = 251,869

Number of evacuees who evacutaded out of their home prefectures and still cannot go back

  • Fukushima = 57,954
  • Miyagi = 8,079
  • Iwate = 1,674
  • TOTAL = 67,707

 

For those who used to live within 20km of the Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant in Fukushima Prefecture, there is still no prospect of being able to go back to their homes in the near future. For those whose houses are outside of that restricted area, the problem of the radiation contamination still looms. There is an ongoing effort to cleanse and decontaminate the residential areas, but the effect is very limited and temporary. Since the forests and the soil of mountains regions have accumulated radioactive particles over time, every rainfall carries the threat of radioactive contamination via water streams, resulting in increases of radiation levels in residential areas downstream.

 

Our Building Healthy Communities Project

We started the Building Healthy Communities Project to mitigate the physical and psychological pain felt by the victims of the March 11th disaster. We hoped to help people living in temporary housing complexes recover from their many losses – their loved ones, homes, workplaces, and precious personal possessions.

Through the Building Healthy Communities Project, we hoped to foster strong, personal interaction among the victims so that they may get over their plight not alone, but as a community. People would get to know each other and start to build new supportive relationships, and as that happens on a larger and larger scale, it would re-vitalize a sense of community and the hope of regaining some normalcy.

The Building Healthy Communities Project mainly consists of 2 activities:

  1. Community gathering events held at community centers in temporary housing complexes.
  2. Overnight field trips for elementary school students to play outside without worrying about radiation.

Between July 1st, 2012 and December 31st, 2013 we have held 9 events all together. As intended, each event was enjoyed by many elderly people and small children. Below is a record of the number of events and the number of participants we had for each activity.

  • Community gathering events: 6 events, 460 participants
  • Overnight field trips for kids: 3 events, 96 participants

We appreciate all the kind messages and generous donations that enable us to organize these events to help alleviate the pain, sadness and stress of those affected. We will continue our support for those still suffering, and every donation will help us reach as many people in need as possible. Finally, please take a look at the photos below to see how our activities are translating into smiles.

Lots of colorful hearts for me and my family
Lots of colorful hearts for me and my family
Building a new Eiffel tower out of colored cups
Building a new Eiffel tower out of colored cups
Making original Christmas decorations
Making original Christmas decorations
"Who wants to knead flour to make noodles?" "Me!!"
"Who wants to knead flour to make noodles?" "Me!!"
Family that came to an overnight field trip
Family that came to an overnight field trip
All together now!
All together now!
Jan 29, 2013

Finding a Solution to the Crucial Problem of Condensation in Temporary Housing of Elderly People

Now she can live in her temporary housing at ease
Now she can live in her temporary housing at ease

Condensation Becomes a Crucial Problem

In Kesennuma, Miyagi, where the lowest temperature drops as low as -10 degrees Cesium during the winter, condensation has become a very critical issue in emergency temporary

ousing in the Watado district.
Mr. Toshio HATAKEYAMA, President of a Residents’ Association remarked that "some work was done to install double sash and heat insulation materials, but that did not solve the condensation problem. With all the windows open and the exhaust fans in the kitchen and in the bath area turned on, it would be too cold to sleep.” He explained that “with the windows closed, condensation would occur and water droplets start falling on my futon while I’m asleep. The exhaust fan in the attic is too small and useless when it's freezing cold." Water droplets create mold which trigger critical health issues like pneumonia, which can be a life-threatening disease especially to the elderly. The government has provided no further assistance. Mr. HATAKEYAMA sought help from the Volunteer Station in Kesennuma and came up with the idea to take simple measures using do-it-yourself materials that can be purchased at a home improvement center. AAR Japan, who heard about the situation, decided to provide assistance to cover these expenses and help the residents with construction work.

All United to Manually Install Heat Insulation

After prolonged freezing weather, the construction began on December 5 with the help of the residents in the temporary houses, staff from the Volunteer Station in Kesennuma, staff from NPO APCAS, and volunteers from Rakuno Gakuen University. Using double-sided scotch tape and sealant, heat insulation materials were installed without any gaps on ceilings and walls of living areas, bedrooms, kitchens, and closets. After measuring the dimensions and checking the positions of light bulbs and fire alarms in each room, the heat insulation materials were cut into appropriate sizes and shapes. If the heat insulation materials fit well in the designated place, they were attached with double-sided tape to form a tight seal.
Temporary housing for two occupants is composed of just one or two 4-mat rooms with little to no storage space. In these small rooms with barely enough space for a futon and storage closet, such work can take a considerable amount of time and effort. Some of the work had to be done outside in the chilly weather due to the lack of workspace. All volunteers worked together for an entire week to insulate a total of 10 households and 20 rooms for temporary houses in Watado along with some temporary houses in Goemongahara where the residents had claimed to suffer from the same problem.

"We No Longer Have to Worry About Condensation!"

"The temperature here tends to be 2 to 3 degrees Cesium lower comparing to the adjacent national road and it snows a lot here as well.” Mr. Etsurou FUJIKAWA, a resident of temporary housing in Goemongahara shared his experience. “This year, the weather has been colder than the previous one and it started snowing earlier too. The condensation problem was so severe that the futon bedding in our closets were always wet every morning. During the winter season, I had to wipe the condensation off the wall every morning. But, mold would appear on the ceiling since I can't reach high enough to wipe it. Sometimes, I would stand on the chair and try to wipe it, but it's a hard work considering my age." With an expression of relief on his face he said, "but we no longer have to worry about it. Thank you for your help." 

Ms. Nobuko MURAKAMI who resides in the same temporary housing commented "the government offered to add a reheating function to our baths but we declined because the condensation problem was more critical to us. It’s not worth it to spend taxes on what we can get along without. We're doing alright with our baths for now… We appreciate for all the work you've done today. Please help yourselves to some lunch.” She offered some rice with scallops and bamboo shoot she prepared the night before along with some salad, minced soup with saury, and Ganzuki (a well-known snack in Miyagi and Iwate).

Our prayers are with the quake victims who addressed their problems proactively during the toughest of times. We hope that the measures taken against the condensation will help them maintain their health through the winter.

This program is implemented with generous donations received through GlobalGiving and other donors. We appreciate all the support we have received and we will keep continue helping elderly people and persons with disabilities who are still suffering from the aftereffect of March 11th in Tohoku, Japan.

A resident, Mr. HATAKEYAMA working on ceiling
A resident, Mr. HATAKEYAMA working on ceiling
Cutting the heat insulation material for ceiling
Cutting the heat insulation material for ceiling
A volunteer who is working to help his aunt
A volunteer who is working to help his aunt
Working outside in freezing weather
Working outside in freezing weather
Tightly sealed to prevent condensation and mold
Tightly sealed to prevent condensation and mold
Residents prepared delicious lunch for the workers
Residents prepared delicious lunch for the workers
Jan 11, 2013

Portable Planetarium Shows in Soma City, Fukushima

Children eagerly look up at the planetarium.
Children eagerly look up at the planetarium.

Delivery of Portable Planetarium Shows

Children of Soma City, Fukushima Prefecture, had been playing in their neighborhood parks and playgrounds before the Great East Japan Earthquake occurred in March 2011. However, they are now having a hard time being able to play outdoors as they want to, since many of those parks and playgrounds were swept away by the tsunami and some areas of the city still have high radiation levels.

Since the opening of its office in Soma City in April 2012, AAR Japan has assisted children of the city in many ways, including the installation of playground equipment at temporary housing complexes. As AAR Japan staff frequently visited the temporary housing complexes and subsidized housings in the city, they have become friends with children living there and often heard them voice their desire to see a planetarium show. In response, AAR Japan decided to hold “Mobile Planetarium Shows,” hoping that the projection of a starlit night sky would not only offer an educational experience to learn about the universe and constellations, but would also uplift the children so that they can pursue their dreams.

 

 Tonight, What Stars Are in the Sky Over Soma City?

Soma City has no permanent planetarium facility. Therefore, in order for the children of the city to see a planetarium show, they have to travel to the cities of Sendai or Koriyama, taking 1 to 1.5 hours by car. The mother of a second-grade boy said, “Since my son began to show interest in stars, we’ve visited planetariums in Koriyama and Sendai several times. But after the disaster, we now have fewer opportunities to see planetarium shows because we have to pass through areas with high radiation in order to go to Koriyama.

The venue for the mobile planetarium shows was Soma Municipal Nakamura First Elementary School. Inflating a sky-blue dome, we set up in the school gym a hemispherical planetarium that holds about 40 spectators per show. During the two days of September 29th and 30th, we ran 10 planetarium shows and had as many as 489 visitors consisting of students of elementary school in Soma City and their parents.

 The presenter who gives live narrations is Mr. Miyuki TOHYAMA from “Yokohama Mobile Planetarium,” one of the organizations that made the shows possible. As soon as young spectators are seated inside the dome, light music starts playing and it begins to get dark. They became excited as stars come out in twos and threes on the ceiling that was merely dark. While having their eyes glued to twinkling stars, the children find themselves in total darkness but under a myriad of stars they have never seen before. “Oh, that’s the Milky Way!” they say, pointing to stars joyfully.

Projected on the screen was “The Starry Sky Tonight over Soma City.” Mr. TOHYAMA tells the children how to identify stars and constellations such as the North Star and the Great Summer Triangle. “The star, which is known in Japan as Orihime, is Vega in the constellation Lyra, which forms one corner of the Great Summer Triangle.” “Sitting low in the northern sky over Soma City tonight is the constellation Cassiopeia.” Under the fascinating starlit sky, every 20-minute show just flies by.

 

“This is my first time to see a planetarium show.” “I felt the stars so close to me.”

“This was a very timely event for us, because my son has just begun to show an interest in stars and we bought a constellation guidebook very recently. He was looking forward to this event so much that he filled in the application form by himself without bringing it home and completed the registration at school,” the mother of 8 year-old Kosuke joyfully told us. Kosuke’s father also said, “We’re very glad to be here today as there aren’t many events like this one where children can learn. It would be great if we have more events of this kind.”

 Over 80% of the visitors were children, and for most of them it was the first time seeing a planetarium show. During the intermission, they enjoyed bouncy ball scooping, bingo, and trampolining prepared in the gym.

It was unfortunately cloudy that day, but in clear nights, the sky over Soma City will also be jeweled with glittering stars. In winter, bright stars including the constellation Orion start to twinkle in the night sky. Chances are, the Geminids will also be making their appearance. We hope they will continue to enjoy observing the stars, applying what they have learned from the show. AAR Japan will continue its activities in Fukushima Prefecture.

Soma Planetarium Project was made possible by the support and cooperation of PEACE PROJECT, GlobalGiving, Yokohama Mobile Planetarium, Soma Municipal Nakamura First Elementary School in Fukushima Prefecture, and Nalelu.Co.,Ltd.

The visitors wait in line to see the planetarium.
The visitors wait in line to see the planetarium.
Mr.TOHYAMA explains to the audience what they see.
Mr.TOHYAMA explains to the audience what they see.
"The stars looked clear and it was so beautiful."
"The stars looked clear and it was so beautiful."
boys said "It was like seeing the real universe."
boys said "It was like seeing the real universe."
4th grade boys help to build the planetarium dome.
4th grade boys help to build the planetarium dome.
During intermission, children enjoyed many games.
During intermission, children enjoyed many games.
With the spectators of the last planetarium show.
With the spectators of the last planetarium show.

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