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.
May 16, 2012

Reading Picture Books to Kindergarteners in Fukushima

All ears (Koriyama City, Fukushima - 23 Feb 2012)
All ears (Koriyama City, Fukushima - 23 Feb 2012)

"Due to radiation concerns, the children have only been allowed to play outside 5 times since the day of the disaster.”

On February 23rd, 2012, Association for Aid and Relief, Japan (AAR JAPAN) visited Tachibana Kindergarten in Koriyama City, Fukushima Prefecture. In addition to reading the picture book “Not Mines, but Flowers”, AAR JAPAN delivered 90 hand-made tote bags that were collected from supporters all over Japan, as well as delivering 90 boxes of chocolate with messages collected through AAR JAPAN’s Heart-Warming Chocolate Delivery Campaign.

There were once 100 children at Tachibana Kindergarten, but after the March 11th earthquake, 30 children evacuated outside of Fukushima Prefecture. At the same time, 15 new children entered the school from Kawauchi Village, Tomioka Town, Namie Town, and Minami-Soma City, all of which are located within the 20-km evacuation zone around Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power station.

Koriyama City is located far from the nuclear plant, but some areas of the city continue to record high levels of radiation. Ms. Yuko TANIZU, director of the kindergarten, told us of the three dosimeters that have been set up in the kindergarten. “We allow the children to play outside only when the dosimeters record less than 0.5 micro Sieverts per hour. Unfortunately, the children have only been able to play outside five times since the earthquake. We tried to decontaminate the yard, replaced the sand in the sandbox, and cut down our hiba trees (a kind of cypress), which are believed to absorb radiation. We are trying our best to create a safe environment for the children.” Ms. TANIZU asked for our support in holding a social event where the children could enjoy playing indoors in order to relieve the stress of being contained inside for so long. 

“Their eyes were shining. It was different from usual.”

When we arrived at the kindergarten, all the children sat in the hall in anticipation. Published by AAR JAPAN, the picture book “Not Mines, but Flowers” features Sunny-chan, AAR JAPAN’s rabbit mascot, in a story about the victims of landmines in recovering war-torn nations. The content would have seemed difficult for kindergarteners, but they all listened intently. While listening they made enthusiastic comments such as, “I went to foreign countries, too,” or “I’ve heard of Sunny-chan!

When the book was done, the children were very excited to have Sunny-chan appear right in front of them! They lined up to receive chocolate from Sunny-chan, saying “Thank you” and shaking hands, exchanging high fives, and hugging her. The children also received hand-made tote bags with Sunny-chan key chains, which they took back home with care. “They look really happy,” Ms. TANIZU told us. “Their eyes are shining. It’s different from usual. We also really appreciate the messages that accompanied the chocolate and bags.”

Radiation, Unemployment, Health: Worries Continue

When the children’s parents came to pick them up after the event, we spoke to two mothers living in subsidized apartments in Koriyama City. They had both relocated from towns within the evacuation zone, having drifted for months from one temporary shelter to another. The first, from Namie Town, had two boys aged 6 and 4. There seems to be no end to her worries. “We used to live in a big family of 10, three generations of us together,” she said. “But now we all live separately. My husband quit his job at the Fukushima nuclear power station, but he couldn’t find any other job. We’re worried about our parents’ health, but we’re seldom able to see them. We want them to see our boys.”

The other mother had two girls, one 5 and the other 18 months. Her husband is currently working at the Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Station, handling the aftermath of the accident at the 3rd reactor. “I can only see my husband once every two weeks. My children cry more often since we evacuated. My grandparents survived the tsunami, but they died at the nursing home where they were evacuated. We moved to a subsidized apartment, and sometimes I don’t talk to anyone at all because we don’t know the neighbors. We don’t get information from anyone. I want to find someone to take care of my second girl so I can go work, but there is nowhere to go. I want the children to play outside, but they can’t because of the radiation. Since the disaster, my first child hasn’t been able to practice riding the bicycle, so I worry that she’ll never learn how.” She had so many worries and concerns. However, when she received the hand-made tote bag and chocolate, she smiled and looked happy. “I really appreciate everyone’s warm support. It’s really nice of them to send us these bags and hand-written messages.”

More than one year has passed since the earthquake. AAR JAPAN will continue providing support to the disaster-affected people of Fukushima Prefecture, as well as linking our supporters to people in the disaster zone.

See the following link for more on Sunny-chan and the picture book
“Not Mines, but Flowers”, published by AAR JAPAN:
http://www.aarjapan.gr.jp/english/sunny/index.html

Join the circle of support for earthquake survivors: Give Now

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Nice to meet you! (at Tachibana Kindergarten)
Nice to meet you! (at Tachibana Kindergarten)
Chocolates from Sunny-chan (Tachibana Kindergrtn.)
Chocolates from Sunny-chan (Tachibana Kindergrtn.)
Monitoring radiation exposure (Tachibana Kinderg.)
Monitoring radiation exposure (Tachibana Kinderg.)
May 14, 2012

Rebuilding Workplaces for Persons with Disabilities

New bakery building (Iwate Pref., 20 Jan 2012)
New bakery building (Iwate Pref., 20 Jan 2012)


Social Welfare Facility’s Bread Factory Expanded

In the wake of the Great East Japan Earthquake, AAR JAPAN has been providing equipment and supporting the repair and maintenance of approximately 50 social welfare facilities in the disaster-affected areas. One of the facilities we support is Huck’s House, a vocational center for persons with disabilities in Tanohata Village, Iwate Prefecture.

Before the earthquake, the facility’s users made calamari in a seafood processing plant, bread in a bread factory, and Japanese pickles in an agricultural processing plant, all of which were run by Huck’s House. The seafood processing plant brought in a significant income, but the seaside plant was totally destroyed by the March 11th tsunami. To compensate, the facility decided to expand the bread factory and agricultural processing plant, which fortunately escaped damage from the tsunami. The new buildings of the bread factory and agricultural processing plant were completed at the end of December 2011.

Baking Class at the New Factory

The users of Huck’s House were very happy with the new bread factory. While full production will commence once all of the new equipment is installed in May 2012, partial production has already begun using the existing baking equipment.

On January 31st, 10 elementary and 5 junior high school students from the neighboring special needs school attended baking classes led by the baking supervisors at Huck’s House. This was the students’ first time to bake bread. All of them were excited to put on white caps, aprons and face masks, and they listened carefully to the instructions of Mr. Hideki TAKESHITA, the factory manager. “Bread dough breathes,” he told them—and for a moment everyone was afraid to touch the dough with their hands. When facility manager Atsuko TAKESHITA told them that they could make their favorite shapes with the dough, the students smiled and quickly started to make their own original designs.

When the students were done, the tray was lined with shapes of bread that were unique in the world. One boy made his bread in the image of his favorite teacher’s face, planning to give it to him when it was done. Another boy made a rainbow of 7 different types of jam along a 30-cm length of bread, hoping to surprise his friends. One girl simply crammed the dough with as much jam as she could.

The 3 bakers at Huck’s House supported the elementary school students. Like dependable elder brothers, they carried heavy trays, spread the students’ requested jams, and helped students who couldn’t close their dough around their jam. The dough was placed in the oven, and the bread was ready a short time later. The students were happy first with the pleasant smells, and then to see their own unique designs.

A Place for Interaction in the Community

Mr. Kiichi SOJIGAMI used to work at the seafood processing plant. “I was worried because I didn’t know when we could start working again,” he told us. “And we couldn’t see our colleagues because we needed to stay at home for a while after the earthquake.” Now he has started working at the newly-expanded bread factory. He told us enthusiastically, “I am learning now, but I want to be better. I’ll practice every day.”

Huck’s House has been selected to make bread for school lunch in the village, which is anticipated to offer a stable revenue stream. The neighbors both in the nearby temporary housing complex and in the local community are looking forward to having bread from Huck’s House, and the venue is expected to be a place for interaction in the community.

This project has been made possible thanks to many individual donations and through a grant from Japan Platform.

              HELP EARTHQUAKE SURVIVORS STAND UP ON THEIR FEET - GIVE NOW
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Baker Kiichi SHOJIGAMI (Huck
Baker Kiichi SHOJIGAMI (Huck's House, Iwate Pref.)
Student at Huck
Student at Huck's House (Iwate Pref., 31 Jan 2012)
Smile for you (Huck
Smile for you (Huck's House, 31 Jan 2012)
Apr 8, 2012

GlobalGiving visits AAR in Japan

Residents practice their stretching with AAR
Residents practice their stretching with AAR

For the past year I’ve been communicating with the great staff at the Association of Aid and Relief (AAR) in Japan, but last Sunday I was able to meet them in person and see firsthand the fabulous work that AAR is doing in the earthquake and tsunami affected areas in Tohoku that you have helped to support.

Our day started early as we made our way up to Sendai – about two hours north of Tokyo on the bullet train – where we were met by the AAR team.  They took us to visit three of the projects GlobalGiving donors are helping to support in the area around Ishinomaki.

On our first stop I met Sao Abe.  Mr. Abe was an Oyster fisherman on an island in Miyagi Prefecture before the earthquake and tsunami destroyed his home and livelihood on March 11 last year.  With his home gone, he was moved into a temporary shelter closer inland with his elderly mother.  Mr. Abe is a jokester with a natural smile and was part of a group that Mari, GlobalGiving’s President, and I met with during a site visit   He lives in a temporary shelter reserved for elderly or handicapped people with 35 other families.  The community center where we met is a small room that serves as a meeting place where the residents can talk, drink tea, read books, and start to reform the communities they lost in the disaster.  AAR provides services to help the people living in the temporary shelters to cope with the disaster and start to build a new community.   We joined the group in stretching exercises led by a physical therapist AAR brings in to help support the residents in the shelter.  They spoke highly of AAR’s involvement in the temporary shelter and with the people who live there.  During our visit, GlobalGiving's president, Mari Kuraishi, delivered cards with messages from GlobalGiving donors.

Next we visited a “container mall” that was built by AAR.  Before the tsunami hit Tohoku, many residents had small businesses that they had built their entire lives.  When their businesses, and the buildings they were housed in, were lost in the disaster, many families felt hopeless.  AAR supported the construction of a temporary mini-mall built from containers that currently house eight small businesses.  The best part for us was not just seeing the construction of the building and the operation of the shops, but also to see the cooperation among the various non-profit groups as well.  AAR built the main structure, but two other organizations had worked with them to improve the construction and support the businesses.

Finally, we visited a newly built fish market that was helping fishing families and small business owners rebuild their livelihoods.  In this case AAR hadn’t built the structure, but had supplied the refrigerator that was necessary in order to run a fish shop.  Without the refrigerator, the owners wouldn’t have been able to sell the fish before they go bad. Nicolette, our AAR host, explained to us that some of what AAR does is to provide the small – but necessary - things that people need to start to rebuild their lives.   Because of this, even small donations go a long way toward positive change for people in the Tohoku region.  Thanks for supporting these efforts!

Mari gives cards to Mr. Abe and other residents
Mari gives cards to Mr. Abe and other residents
The "container mall" built by AAR.
The "container mall" built by AAR.
The surrounding area was destroyed by the tsunami.
The surrounding area was destroyed by the tsunami.
Working in the temporary fish market.
Working in the temporary fish market.
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