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.
Oct 16, 2012

Nature experiencing workshop for children in Fukushima

Lecture on how to make soba noodle
Lecture on how to make soba noodle

In Fukushima after the Great East Japan Earthquake and the subsequent nuclear power plant catastrophe, many families, especially those with children, are having a tough time both mentally and physically because of the risk of being exposed to radioactive particles. Parents can not let children play outside and this leads to immense stress both for parents and their children, while also increasing the risk of obesity among children from lack of exercise.

 

In response, on July 22nd and 23rd, 2012, as a part of the “Building Healthy Communities Project,” AAR Japan held a two-day workshop activity in Fukushima Prefecture in the town of Nishi-Aizu. This event aimed to alleviate the stress among disaster-affected families by allowing them to spend time in nature with no worries so that they can have a memorable experience. Before the workshops we measured the level of radioactivity in Nishi-Aizu Town and the result was 0.08 micro-sieverts per hour, which is nearly equal to the measurement at Tokyo. Thus family members from disaster-affected areas were invited to spend 2 days to enjoy many exciting and unforgettable experiences such as starting fire using only ropes and wood, making soba (traditional Japanese noodle), and creating handcraft items from bamboo tree.

 

Various enjoyable workshops and entertainment

Bamboo tree handcraft and fire-making

We invited Mr. Hideki SEKINE as the instructor for creating handcraft goods from bamboo trees and making fire with ropes and wood. Mr. SEKINE teaches at Tama Art University, Wakou University, and Kuwahara Design Research Institution and is also the holder of the title of “world’s fire-making champion”. Using bamboo, Mr. SEKINE taught children how to craft items such as percussion instruments, flutes, drinking cups, and water guns. Also children tried to make fire with just a rope and wood. It took the children many tries but in the end, when the fire was finally lit, everyone raised their voices in excitement and appeared proud of themselves.

 

Soba making workshop

Soba is a type of traditional Japanese noodles made from buckwheat flour. We invited soba master Mr. Tadashi HASEGAWA, who led the children throughout the noodle-making process which included kneading the dough, stretching it, and cutting it to make fresh soba noodles. Some children had difficulties cutting the noodles into the same width but they eventually got a hang of it and enjoyed the process. When we cooked the soba noodles, everyone was happy with the end product of their hard work.

 

Fun, fun, fun

Of course, in between the workshops, children had free time to enjoy the beautiful nature where they spent time catching insects, ran freely in the woods playing tag, and also enjoyed climbing into a tree house. At night, children and their parents enjoyed a BBQ and beautiful fireworks, which wrapped up this unforgettable night.

 

Participant’s remarks

Mrs. Hiromi IWASAKI (66) who participated with 2 of her grandchildren said with smile “Usually I can’t let my grandchildren go outside but during this event I can let them play outside without any worry and hesitation so I really enjoyed and appreciated this occasion.”

 

Mrs. Hiromi KOBAYASHI (37) who participated with her husband and 3 children proclaimed “It feels after such a long time that I can let my children play outside. All the events were great.”

 

Gratitude and resolution

AAR Japan will keep organizing many events to alleviate the stress and pain for people who have been suffering from the Great East Japan Earthquake. We hope to achieve this with help from all over the world as we have done so far. We would like to emphasize that we really appreciate all the help and kindness of our donors. We will keep collecting donation and every bit of your kindness helps us greatly. Please help spread this information and it will be our pleasure to be able to inform you how our activities are progressing in near future.

Cutting soba noodle
Cutting soba noodle
Handcrafting from bamboo tree
Handcrafting from bamboo tree
Bamboo cup
Bamboo cup
Making fire using rope and wood
Making fire using rope and wood
Playing outside, found mantis
Playing outside, found mantis
Going into tree house
Going into tree house
BBQ dinner, time to enjoy good food with everyone
BBQ dinner, time to enjoy good food with everyone
Aug 23, 2012

Supporting Landmine Victims in Attaining Financial Stability

May 14th, 2012 - Mr. MOSES (right) with AAR staff
May 14th, 2012 - Mr. MOSES (right) with AAR staff

Support for Landmine Victims in a Harsh Environment

A 20-year civil war has left the northwestern region of Uganda scattered with landmines and UXOs (Unexploded Ordnance). Most of these landmines and UXOs still remain in the ground, with injuries mounting every year. Victims often lose their jobs due to their disabilities, or sell their homes and businesses in order to raise money for treatment. According to research by the Ugandan Government in 2009, only 8% of these victims have a means of making an income.

In cooperation with ULSA (Uganda Landmine Survivors Association), AAR Japan has been supporting Ugandan victims of landmines and UXOs since 2009. At present, we are providing start-up assistance to 30 beneficiaries in Uganda’s northern Lira District, helping them start small-scale, self-owned business such as retail shops, salons, and second-hand clothing shops in order to attain financial stability.

 

Hope for a Better Future

In 2003, Ms. Silvia ACIO, now 40 years old, was on her way to her second-hand clothing shop when the truck in which she was traveling struck a landmine and she lost her left eye. She was hospitalized for 6 months, and she had no choice but to sell her shop.

AAR Japan provided the necessary materials for her to open a retail shop, in addition to 2 months’ rent for her facilities. Just 2 weeks after opening, she says that her business is already profitable. She told us, “I’m raising two kids by myself because I was divorced after the accident. I want to make better profits so my kids can go to school, and I would also like to have my own house.”

Another beneficiary, Mr. Komakech MOSES, 26 years old, was provided with 2 months’ rent and the equipment to open a salon. Mr. MOSES, both of whose legs were amputated due to a landmine accident in 2002, hired a hairdresser and opened his salon one month ago. Now 7 to 8 customers come to his salon each day. He told us, “Thanks to the help of AAR Japan, I’m now able to have hope for a better future. I hope more and more people will be able to have hope by being given a chance to work.”

In addition to small-scale, self-owned business support, AAR Japan will also cover the cost for treatment, hospitalization and transport for 15 victims who need prosthetic limbs, rehabilitation, or surgery to remove fragments from their bodies.

Even now that the civil war has calmed, many people continue to suffer the effects of landmines and UXOs. AAR Japan will continue its support so that these victims can have hope for a better future. 

May 14th, 2012 - the salon which Mr. MOSES opened
May 14th, 2012 - the salon which Mr. MOSES opened
May 15th, 2012- One of victims with ULSA staff
May 15th, 2012- One of victims with ULSA staff
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

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