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.
Aug 21, 2012

Ways to Finance Children's Education

The writer with children, Lusaka - September 2011
The writer with children, Lusaka - September 2011

Life Expectancy of 46 Years - 690,000 Orphans Estimated to Have Lost Their Parents

Republic of Zambia is located in southern Africa with a population of 13,300,000 people and an area that is twice as big as that of Japan. The number of HIV-positive people is approximately 980,000 (2009 UNAIDS statistics) and the national life expectancy is 46 years old (2010 United Nations Population Fund statistics).

Approximately 13.5% of adults (15 to 49 years old) are estimated to be HIV-positive and the population of such people in their prime has remarkably decreased. There are about 690,000 so-called "AIDS orphans", children who have lost one or both of their parents due to HIV/AIDS and are either under the care of their grandparents, uncles, and aunts, or live with their brothers and sisters. The situation is so serious that there are homes where children have assumed the roles of the household heads.

The Zambian government formulated the “2006-2010 National Health Strategic Planning" in 2005 and measures to combat HIV/AIDS have been strengthened through activities such as providing free supplies of antiretroviral drugs
(ARV) that delay the onset of AIDS. As a result, the number of deaths caused by AIDS-related diseases has decreased in recent years; however, in spite of the large population of potentially HIV-positive people, very few are still unaware that they are HIV-positive and activities to promote HIV/AIDS awareness on a grass-roots level are needed, such as recommending individuals to take a HIV antibody test and so forth.


Guardians and Local Residents Themselves Must Find Ways to Finance Children's Education

In the effort to support the AIDS orphans in Zambia, AAR JAPAN has been supporting their guardians in carrying out income-generating activities for creating funds like the children’s school tuition. The idea originated in 2004 in the Ng’ombe area of the capital city of Lusaka, where many people with low socioeconomic status live. While carrying out activities to support the provision of school supplies, tuition funds, food items, as well as psychiatric assistance, the guardians realized that education is very important but costly. Although they are grateful for AAR JAPAN’s support, they were not comfortable of the idea of relying on AAR JAPAN forever. In response to their sentiments, AAR JAPAN launched income-generating activities including milling and poultry farming in order to help improve the guardians’ earnings. The main target was for the guardians to find ways on their own to financially support their children attend school. Therefore, we arranged for the representatives of the guardians and those who lived in the suburbs of Ng’ombe to engage themselves in the management of the project.

In regards to the milling activity, the people earn profit from grinding and selling the maze (corn) that is supplied by their neighbors. Although sales were slow at the beginning, the introduction of a peeling machine in 2009 increased sales. The peeled maze skin was also sellable, which contributed to the increase in income. However, during the rainy season (December to April when maze becomes rare and its prices soar), sales drop to half of that of the dry season (August to October when maze can be obtained relatively cheaply). To deal with such unstable sales conditions, we carried out assessment activities to explore the consumption trends of maze, and we also negotiated with the suburban farmers for the direct supply of maze. As a result, maze has been directly bought in at a low price from the farmers since 2010, and sales have gradually increased. Douglas, a 16 year-old boy, who often helps with the milling, was able to buy a new science textbook with the money he made from milling.

As for the poultry farming project, we raise chicks that are a couple of days old for six weeks and sell them after they have grown. At the beginning, we were troubled by the high number of deaths of the chicks, but the quality of management has been improved by the project managers, and now the survival rate as well as the sizes of the chicks has stabilized. Moreover, market research was carried out and advertisement strategies were devised last year. We have been trying to sell the chickens at the big market which opens on Thursday and Sunday every week, and seeking new large-scale customers through companies and restaurants. As it has been rather difficult to find such customers, it will be necessary to work with patience in the long term. On the other hand, we have also been outreaching to individual customers steadily. We appeal to our buyers that the chickens are chemical free, delicious, and the sales profit leads to supporting the children’s schooling.

At the moment, we are supporting the schooling of 54 children through this project. Although we have not been able to cover the tuition of all 54 children with the profits obtained, we aim to gradually increase the profit every year through the income-generating strategies mentioned above.

Local Zambian Staff Members Who Are in Charge of the Projects

The ones to actually visit the project sites and make arrangements with the supporters and local organizations are the local staff members of AAR JAPAN Zambia office, who I work together with everyday. They immediately got used to my Japanese-accented English and have acted as my interpreters. When a group of inspectors came, I was once told, "You have such a reliable group of local staff."

There are 73 different tribes coexisting in Zambia and the local staff members of the office are from these various tribes. After the nation’s independence was achieved 47 years ago, interethnic collaboration policy was placed under the slogan of "One Zambia, One Nation", and since then, there has been no distinctive racial confrontation. However, regardless of their tribal identities, our staff members often makes small quarrels. Whenever I come across such a scene, I would just smile at them because the points of their arguments are usually rather silly. They themselves are very serious though.

In any case, the fact is that our project would not be possible without them. In spite of their family issues and financial problems, they are always doing their best. As crucial members of our team, I would like for them to take on the responsibilities in making significant changes in Zambia.

Reported by: Mika YAMAI, AAR JAPAN Lusaka office, Zambia
She served at the Lusaka, Zambia office from November 2009 until November 2011.

He bought a book with the earnings. September 2011
He bought a book with the earnings. September 2011
Preparing chickens for sale. September 2011
Preparing chickens for sale. September 2011
Aug 7, 2012

Delivering Flowers and Music to Persons with Disabilities and Their Families

Hanayu Flower Shop (May 13th, 2012 - Miyagi Pref.)
Hanayu Flower Shop (May 13th, 2012 - Miyagi Pref.)

The Colors and Aromas of a Rainbow of Flowers, to welcome Mother’s Day

As part of the ongoing recovery activities in the earthquake-hit Tohoku region, Association for Aid and Relief, Japan (AAR Japan) is carrying out a campaign called ‘Delivering Flowers and Magokoro (literally meaning “true heart”) to the Disaster-Affected Areas’. Supporters from all over Japan have welcomed the idea to deliver flowers to the desolate disaster areas from which the tsunami has taken everything. On May 13th, 2012, we visited the social welfare facility ‘Oguni no Sato’ in Ishinomaki City, Miyagi Prefecture.  ‘Oguni no Sato’ is a temporary housing complex for persons with disabilities (PWDs) and their families who have been hit by the disaster. We delivered flower seedlings along with messages of support from all over Japan to the 50 families living there.

The flower pots delivered were gerbera and miniature roses. The supplier of the plants was ‘Flower Shop Hanayu’, a florist shop at a temporary shopping village in Onagawa Town. A medley of flowers greeted us upon arrival, together with the fresh scent of the miniature roses. Mr. Yukio SUZUKI and his wife Michiko put their hearts into wrapping each flowerpot.

Before the earthquake, Flower Shop Hanayu was located on the coast, but it was wiped out by the tsunami. The family ran for their lives towards higher ground, and later on found shelter at an evacuation center. In July 2011, they reopened their shop in a temporary shopping village supported by AAR Japan. “The store’s sales are half of what they were before the earthquake, but I’m just thankful I was able to reopen the store…. I feel close to tears” says Mr. SUZUKI whilst reading each campaign message of support collected from all over Japan.


A Mini-Concert By Kobe Musician

As soon as we arrived at ‘Oguni no Sato’, the residents of the facility guided us to the hall being used as the community meeting room. Many persons with intellectual, mental and/or physical disabilities, together with their families, live in this temporary housing complex. For the day of our visit, we had arranged a mini-concert to be held at the meeting room, with the flowers to be presented after the concert.

For the concert, singer-songwriter Junji SUGITA from Kobe City, Hyogo Prefecture, kindly came to perform. Mr. SUGITA had previously volunteered his services, holding concerts in disaster-hit areas in 1995, after the Great Hanshin Earthquake. Other than composing his own songs, Mr. SUGITA has also written a song for AAR Japan’s picture book ‘Not Mines, But Flowers’, which calls for the abolition of land mines. The song is titled ‘Even Without Wings’ (‘Tsubasa Ga Nakutemo’), and the proceeds from the CD are being generously donated to AAR Japan.

The song ‘Even Without Wings’, which talks about wanting to deliver flowers to people in a distant land, seemed perfect for our campaign of delivering flowers to those suffering in the Tohoku region. Thus, thanks to the efforts of Ms. Mari WASHIDA (a director of AAR Japan), we were able to invite Mr. SUGITA and have him sing for us as we delivered flowers to the disaster area.


“Even without Wings, I have come to meet you”

At the community meeting room of ‘Oguni no Sato’, Mr. SUGITA sang and played the guitar, starting with Louis ARMSTRONG’s ‘What a Wonderful World’, followed by timeless Japanese classics such as ‘The Misty Moon of Spring’ (‘Oborozukiyo’) and ‘My Country Home’ (‘Furusato’), along with his original songs. Lastly, the musical score for ‘Even Without Wings’ was passed around the audience, and everyone enjoyed singing the song together.

It was the first time these residents enjoyed a live musical performance in their temporary accommodation. When Mr. SUGITA started to sing, they quickly picked up the rhythm with their bodies and merrily hummed along from start to finish. There is a simple melody to ‘Even Without Wings’, and so the lyrics “Even without wings, I have come to meet you, to bring you a flower” were joyously sung by everyone – to the point where Mr. SUGITA had to play an encore, after the audience expressed their excitement by saying ‘that was great’ and ‘we want to hear more!’ at the end of the song. Mr. SUGITA also seemed to enjoy himself, saying “Despite not having my audio equipment, you have listened intently to just my voice and guitar – I can feel your emotions. When I saw your smiling faces singing along to the songs you first heard here today, I realized how glad I am to have come here”.


Conveying Open-Hearted Support through Flowers, Messages and Music

After the mini-concert, we delivered the flowers, along with messages of support received from all over the country. One of the residents, Ms. Rumiko ABE, received a yellow gerbera along with the message ‘Stay smiling, be well’, sent from a woman in Shiga Prefecture in the western part of Japan. In reply, Ms. ABE said “Thank you for sending this message all the way from Shiga. I will carry on with a smile”. Ms. ABE had to move several times between different evacuation centers with her daughter, who is bedridden with severe disabilities. At one point, they lived in a car for one month. In July 2011, she finally managed to move into the “Oguni no Sato” temporary housing complex.

Ms. Toyoko TSUKADA was carried away by the tsunami, but managed to save herself by climbing onto the roof of a house. She now lives together with her son, who has a disability. “When I was hit by the tsunami, I thought it was over, but then my son’s image flashed into my mind, and I realized, I had to stay alive. I have survived, so I should cherish this life.” She received a message from a man in Aichi Prefecture saying “Don’t let yourself down, keep your head high. There is no need for anything more than this”. To which she replied, “You have given me courage. Thank you very much!”

Ms. Yuko ABE receives a pot of mini roses with a message from a woman in Gumma Prefecture saying “I hope the flowers will give you energy and cheer you up”. To which she replied “I love flowers, so I’m really happy. My daughter and I will make them grow. One can separate the roots of roses, so I want to try and multiply them”. At the time of the tsunami, Ms. ABE ran desperately to escape; had she waited only a few minutes longer, it would have been too late. For several days she was unable to contact her daughter Misaki, a child with severe intellectual disabilities. 

At the meeting room, some of the residents spent time talking and listening to each other’s dreadful experiences in the aftermath of the earthquake, offering encouragement to one another. Maybe it is because they all have children with disabilities, that they can share each other’s hardships. Through the flowers, the messages and the music, AAR Japan conveyed the open-hearted support from people all across Japan to the residents of “Oguni no Sato”.

                                                     ** ** **

YOUR CONTINUOUS SUPPORT HELPS RECOVERY

                     MAKE A RECURRING DONATION NOW !

Messages of encouragement (May 2012, Miyagi Pref.)
Messages of encouragement (May 2012, Miyagi Pref.)
Mini-concert for tsunami survivors (Miyagi Pref.)
Mini-concert for tsunami survivors (Miyagi Pref.)
Ms. Rumiko ABE (right) with Mr. Junji SUGITA
Ms. Rumiko ABE (right) with Mr. Junji SUGITA
Ms. Toyoko TSUKADA (right) with AAR Japan Staff
Ms. Toyoko TSUKADA (right) with AAR Japan Staff
Ms. Yuko ABE (left) with her daughter Misaki
Ms. Yuko ABE (left) with her daughter Misaki
Jul 31, 2012

Ongoing Recovery Activities: There's still So Much to Do!

Field Trip for Children from Fukushima (July 2012)
Field Trip for Children from Fukushima (July 2012)

Dear Supporter,

You may have noticed that we have recently updated the title and description of the project you have been supporting. As you can imagine, the needs of the disaster survivors keep on changing, and so do our activities. This is why we have decided to do a little overhaul. In the project you are supporting, we are now giving priority to the repair of senior care homes and facilities for persons with disabilities (PWDs), as well as to the re-integration of PWDs who have lost their workplaces due to the disaster.

On the other hand, our support efforts for the tens of thousands of evacuees who now live in temporary housing facilities are ongoing. And we have just started several new programs in Fukushima Prefecture, too.

If you are interested, please have a look at our two other recovery projects for the earthquake and tsunami disaster survivors in Japan.

Two More AAR Japan Projects on GlobalGiving

"Building Healthy Communities for Recovery"
http://www.globalgiving.org/projects/building-healthy-communities-1/

"Support Evacuees of Fukushima"
http://www.globalgiving.org/projects/support-evacuees-of-fukushima/


Help Survivors to Make a New Start

There is still a lot of work to do in the disaster-hit areas of Japan! If you would like to help us provide long-term assistance to the earthquake and tsunami survivors, please consider making a monthly donation to one of the above projects. Every donation (be it one-time or recurring) is truly appreciated.

Thank you for your support!

Sincerely,
Your AAR Japan Project Team

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