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.
Jun 25, 2014

Providing Play Equipment to Evacuee Children

Enjoying conversation while playing
Enjoying conversation while playing

Three years have passed since the 3.11 the Great East Japan Earthquake.  However, in Fukushima, significant number of people are still obliged to live in temporary housing complexes due to the damage caused by the earthquake, tsunami, and the nuclear disaster.  Some people have lost hopes on going back to their hometowns altogether and have decided to settle down in the northern part of the prefecture, where radiation level is relatively low.  New apartments have been built in the northern cities and towns to host these evacuees, but several disaster victims still remain in temporary housing complexes for various reasons.

To support the residents in temporary housing complexes, especially the children, AAR Japan provides play equipment to help them improve their physical and psychological health. Recently, we have placed new play equipment at the temporary housing complexes in Koriyama City and Miharu Town, where former residents of Tomioka Town now reside.  Tomioka Town is within a 20 km radius of the Fukushima First Nuclear Power Plant whose nuclear reactors melted down and released substantial amount of radioactive materials.  Due to the high radiation level, the former residents of Tomioka Town are still unable to go back to their hometown. 

 On April 25th, we brought swings and spring riders to the temporary housing complex in Koriyama City.  During the day, children in nursery school visit the play area with their teachers; in the evenings, children living in the temporary housing complex play there with their friends.  All the equipment is designed for children to play together, which facilitates not only children but also the parents to communicate with each other through play. 

 The teachers at the nurseryschool thanked us deeply and said, “All the play equipment is so colorful that just looking at them cheers us up.  The swings can be used by children of all ages for various types of play.  I am sure children will enjoy playing with this equipment for a very long time.  Thank you for providing us with such great play equipment.”

(All pictures were taken at the Housing Complex in Koriyama City.  May 20th, 2014.)

Children enjoyed the
Children enjoyed the 'Cradle Swing' with AAR staff
Make a rush for the play equipment after school
Make a rush for the play equipment after school
May 29, 2014

Children Fighting HIV / AIDS

confirming the support with a child and her family
confirming the support with a child and her family

In Zambia, estimated 800,000 children are said to have lost their parents due to HIV/AIDS.  Most of these children stay with their grandparents, their relatives, or their family’s close friends.  Many of these host families are not wealthy, unable to send those HIV/AIDS orphans to school.  Among those children, some are going through even harder times, suffering from the disease themselves.

AAR Japan started educational support to Awal, one of the HIV/AIDS orphans, in 2008.  The little boy with innocent smiles grew up to become a 17-year-old man in 10th grade.  He lost his mother at age six, his father at age seven and now lives with his aunt.  His aunt and her family of seven are never rich, living on only 300 kwacha, which is equivalent to approximately 50 US dollars, a month.  Awal’s aunt is struggling with health problems these days.

To make matters worse, Awal has recently come down with the AIDS symptoms.  He became HIV positive through maternal-fetal transmission; and knowing of his HIV positive status, Awal has been taking antiretroviral drugs since he was little. Antiretroviral drugs suppress the HIV virus and stop the progression of HIV disease; however, he quit taking the drugs recently.  This caused skin rash on his face. 

Awal’s friend who had also been taking antiretroviral drugs passed away; which led him to believe that he had no hope for his future and that he would die young anyway.  His host family did not encourage him to continue the treatment, either. 

We were very worried that Awal had stopped taking medication.  Angela Mutale, a staff member of AAR Japan Zambia Office, attempted to see him in person and talk him into resume his treatment, but she was not welcomed at first.  Awal did not want to see Angela, and his aunt was not very supportive on this matter.  After many visits and conversations, however, Awal and his aunt accepted Angela’s sincerity.  Awal finally visited the clinic with Angela, took blood examination, resumed his treatment, and recovered his hope for his future.

Among the 43 children whom AAR supports today, there are HIV/AIDS orphans who contracted AIDS though maternal-fetal transmission like Awal.  There are also HIV/AIDS orphans who are not contracted with AIDS but are forced to live on their own or at an orphanage.  Even the HIV/AIDS orphans who have relatives to live with are obliged to work in order to support their host families.  The government of Zambia recognize the necessity of establishing a support system for these HIV/AIDS orphans, but it is not realized yet. Without appropriate support from the government, many of HIV/AIDS orphans struggle not only physically but psychologically as well.

Some of them have issues such as young pregnancy and underage drinking.  In order to tackle solve these problems, we could not wait for the government of Zambia.  We have to keep encouraging each family to create their own support system at home.  AAR Japan started a new program in 2013 with the help of psycho-social counselor, so as to help the HIV/AIDS orphans and their families solve their everyday problems. 

Awal’s medical condition has been stable since he had resumed the treatment, but we cannot be off-guard yet.  AAR Japan, with the help of local volunteer staff, regularly checks up on Awal to make sure that he is taking the treatment and that his condition is stable.  It is our sincere hope that Awal will continue his treatment and graduate his school, so that he could enjoy what awaits him in the future. 

 

Note:  In view of privacy protection, assumed names are used in the article, to protect the identity of the beneficiaries.

May 20, 2014

Preparing Red and White Rice Cakes for Students!

With the graduating students of Toni District
With the graduating students of Toni District

   On March 12th, 2014, AAR Japan and the ladies who live in Kojirahama Temporary Housing Complex in Kamaishi City, Iwate Prefecture, prepared red and white rice cakes for the students and teachers of Toni Junior High School. Kamaishi City suffered from catastrophic impact caused by the 3.11 earthquake. The ladies living in the Complex located within 5 minute walk from the school adore these junior high school students as if they were their own grandchildren, and have been wishing to do something for them. Likewise, Toni Junior High School appreciates the relationship with the residents of Kojirahama Temporary Housing Complex and often invites the residents to their school events. 

   To celebrate the graduation of the class 2014, the ladies suggested preparing something heartwarming as a graduation present, so AAR Japan decided on red and white rice cakes, as the combination of red and white is a symbol of auspicious or happy occasion in Japanese culture. As it takes a lot of time and effort to prepare rice cakes with traditional equipment, AAR Japan provided two new rice cake machines to the local community center in Toni district.

   With their practiced hands, the ladies finished preparing rice cakes so much faster than we initially expected. Soft and aromatic with the scent of glutinous rice, their rice cakes came out even better than the ones sold at stores. AAR Japan staff was moved when hearing the participant say “Knowing that this is for the students definitely gives us motivation!”

   In Japan, celebration has been traditionally accompanied by rice cakes. People used to prepare rice cakes with traditional equipment but are more apt to buy them at a store. Having two new rice cake machines, ladies of Kojirahama Temporary Housing Complex are now able to prepare rice cakes whenever they want to. In fact, the ladies were already discussing preparing rice cakes for the celebration ceremony of raising the framework of a public housing complex. 

   We do not know yet when the residents of Kojirahama Temporary Housing Complex will be able to move into new permanent houses. Some of the construction sites are finally fixed, but even on those places general contractors are not yet arranged to start the construction.  The prospect of moving out from the Temporary Housing Complex is still not clear.

   The longer the life continues in Temporary Housing Complex, the more important such social events become for the residents; as it is easy to isolate themselves in the Temporary Housing Complex.    Though the preparing of red and white rice cakes, the ladies of Kojirahama Temporary Housing Complex were able to socialize with each other as well as to build strong relationship with Toni Junior High School.  We sincerely hope that the young and the old of Toni Town continue to unite and move forward together. 

   This activity was made possible by your generous donations. We have purchased two new rice cake machines and some glutinous rice for this activity.

"Gotta shape the rice cakes while they are hot!"
"Gotta shape the rice cakes while they are hot!"
"These rice cakes are soft and delicious!"
"These rice cakes are soft and delicious!"

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