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 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

Jul 18, 2012

Cherry Blossoms, Songs and "Koinobori" in Fukushima Prefecture

Koinobori time (Soma, Fukushima - 29 Apr 2012)
Koinobori time (Soma, Fukushima - 29 Apr 2012)

In the disaster affected areas, there are many people who are struggling physically or are feeling much stress from having to live in temporary housing for so long. When AAR JAPAN’s staff visited temporary housing complexes in Sukagawa City in the Fukushima Prefecture, the president of the residents’ association came to us and asked, “Do you think we can organize something that will be enjoyable for everyone, something that will just lift everyone’s spirits?” After some planning, we decided to hold Japanese traditional and seasonal festivals such as “Hanami" (cherry blossom viewing) and “Koinobori" (carp streamers).


Singing on the Bus while Viewing Cherry Blossoms

On April 15th and 22nd, we organized an event that we called “Singing Bus Tour.” The plan was to go around the city of Sukagawa with its residents on a bus rented out from the social welfare committee. The bus went around to all the cherry blossom viewing sites in Sukugawa, while the passengers continued to sing in a chorus. Many people living in temporary housing participated in the tour: 35 people on the 15th, and 30 on the 22nd. An electric keyboard was set up inside the bus, and pianist Tomoko YAMAZAKI was there to play popular songs and nursery rhymes for us to sing along to.

Because the cherry blossoms blossomed late this year, we unfortunately could not visit many sites. However, the participants enjoyed going to famous sites such as Iwase Farm, and eating lunch boxes out in the Fukushima Airport Park. Both the participants and the members of the social welfare committee were very happy at the end of the day, and asked us, “Please make this an annual event!”


 170 Carps Swimming in the Sky

In April 29th, as a part of its “Building Healthy Communities Project,” AAR JAPAN held an event at the Elderly Support Center of Yunuki Town in Soma City, Fukushima Prefecture. We have been implementing this same project in Iwate and Miyagi Prefectures since July, 2011. Specifically, we have been holding regional community events such as massage sessions, health exercise sessions, and counseling with the goal that those affected by the disaster can regain their health, both physically and psychologically, as soon as possible. This was the first time an event was held in the Fukushima Prefecture. Since Children’s Day (May 5th) was very near, we decided to hold an event where the participants can make their own carps to fly as carp streamers on this national holiday. 

The carp streamers, or “Koinobori” in Japanese, are made by drawing an image of a fish, with its characteristically prominent scales, on a piece of white cloth. The participants also wrote messages on the carp to make them very original works of art. Many participants came; from elementary school students, to users of welfare facilities serving persons with disabilities, to Afghan staff members from AAR JAPAN’s Afghanistan office. At the end of the day we had 170 carps swimming in the spring sky.

The children actually came at 10 in the morning to start drawing pictures of carps on white cloth. They all seemed absorbed in the task, and some didn’t seem to want to let go of their magic markers even after having finished one carp. There were children that drew up to five “Koinobori.” The colorfully drawn “Koinobori” were attached to a rope by the children themselves, although with some help from AAR Japan’s staff members.

An elderly woman that came with her grandchild shared with us, “We couldn’t put up “Koinobori” last year because of the disaster, but I’m so glad we were able to this year. Our children are very happy.”

 

Pleasure from Singing Together

AAR Japan also distributed handmade tote bags collected from all over the country to the people living in Yunuki Temporary Housing Complex. The recipients were moved by the messages inside the tote bags, saying “How thoughtful to include a personal message inside each bag. We are very thankful for these messages from the heart.” There is a large public bath at the community center of the temporary housing complex, so some people said, “These bags are just the right size for me to take to the bath!” All the bags are made with much care, and the pockets are attached in very useful places, so the bags should be very sturdy and practical.

In the evening, we held a small concert with performances by opera singers Yumiko SAKANO and Takao ASAHARA, and pianist Tomoko YAMAZAKI who performed earlier with the bus tour. After the concert we also had an interactive session where the audience was invited to participate in the singing. The 60 or so people in the audience seemed a little nervous at first, but soon they were up and singing along to Japanese traditional children’s songs such as “Chatsumi” (meaning picking tea leaves) and “Furusato” (meaning hometown), lead by the two professional singers. After the concert, the participants joyfully shared with us “We usually don’t get to sing so loudly, so it was a really fun experience.”

Since many people asked us to hold both events again, we believe we were able to bring some happiness back into their lives. As requested, AAR JAPAN will continue these activities in the Fukushima Prefecture.

Lets sing! (Sukagawa, Fukushima - 22 Apr 2012)
Lets sing! (Sukagawa, Fukushima - 22 Apr 2012)
Cherry blossom (Sukagawa, Fukushima - 22 Apr 2012)
Cherry blossom (Sukagawa, Fukushima - 22 Apr 2012)
Up in the sky (Soma City, Fukushima - 29 Apr 2012)
Up in the sky (Soma City, Fukushima - 29 Apr 2012)
Getting ready! (Soma, Fukushima - 29 Apr 2012)
Getting ready! (Soma, Fukushima - 29 Apr 2012)
So colorful! (Soma, Fukushima - 29 Apr 2012)
So colorful! (Soma, Fukushima - 29 Apr 2012)
Handmade tote bags (Soma, Fukushima - 29 Apr 2012)
Handmade tote bags (Soma, Fukushima - 29 Apr 2012)
Singing along (Soma City, Fukushima - 29 Apr 2012)
Singing along (Soma City, Fukushima - 29 Apr 2012)
Relaxing massages (Soma, Fukushima - 29 Apr 2012)
Relaxing massages (Soma, Fukushima - 29 Apr 2012)
Carp decorations (Soma, Fukushima - 29 Apr 2012)
Carp decorations (Soma, Fukushima - 29 Apr 2012)

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