In November 2011, eight months after the Great East Japan Earthquake, Naoko Tanesaka joined Rikuzentakata Shopping Street Project as a Fellow to revitalize local shopping street completely destroyed by the tsunami. Rikuzentakata is a seaside town of 24,000 people that lost 48 percent of its homes. More than 1,500 people died.
Local shop owners who lost their premises wanted to restart their business, as a step toward economic and community revitalization. However, when Naoko started to work for the project, utilities such as electricity and water supply had not yet recovered. The local government administrative functions didn’t work effectively and they could not receive subsidies.
Before joining the project, Naoko worked for many store development and renovation projects. Fully utilizing her expertise, she made a large contribution to the restart of the shopping street in February 2012, while building trusting relationships with shop owners and residents. She also supported sales promotion campaigns to attract people both inside and outside of the town.
More than one year has passed since the earthquake. Now, local people can purchase foods and necessities. However, there are a few entertainment opportunities and some people, especially those who are living in temporary housing, have been feeling very depressed. So, Naoko promoted various events where local people can gather and interact with others to revitalize the local community.
Naoko said, “I believe that the most important thing for local people is that they can stand on their own feet again toward sustainable recovery. I will continue to support local shop owners who want to continue their business in this town.”
We have posted new video that shows what we do and why we do it with some new photos and videos featuring Fellows.
You can see the video at the cover page of this project, or the below URL.http://youtu.be/Q643Ls1Ti40
Towards the sustainable recovery led by local people, we will continue to send Fellows to support local leaders' projects. Thank you for your continuous support.
Over the past two and a half weeks, I’ve been traveling through Japan and the Tohoku region visiting the areas affected by last year’s earthquake and tsunami and seeing the progress that has been made by organizations supported by GlobalGiving donors. Every day I have asked people one question: What is most needed for the recovery of the Tohoku region; and every day I hear the same thing: jobs. In a region largely known for fishing and agricultural industry, the tsunami destroyed the livelihoods of thousands and thousands of families. People are eager to get back on their feet, but need help restarting businesses that were washed away in the tsunami.
After hearing so much about the importance of economic recovery in the Tohoku region, it was wonderful to visit ETIC staff and see the great work that this organization is doing to create employment in the region. ETIC matches talented young professionals with social enterprises in the Tohoku region. These young professionals leave their jobs to work full time for up to a year helping to launch small businesses or other social projects in the tsunami-affected area. This model both brings new, innovative ideas to the affected area, and also helps foster a sense of community involvement and public service among fellows that last throughout their lives.
On April 4, I visited two ETIC small business projects, along with GlobalGiving co-founders Mari Kuraishi and Dennis Whittle. First, we visited a group of mothers in a small fishing community on the Oshika Peninsula in Ishinomaki, who were making high-quality necklaces and earrings out of antlers. The group sells the necklaces for Y2,000 (about $24) online and in local shops. The ETIC fellow running the project meticulously measured the jewelry and tested the quality before accepting each one. But what was most amazing was not that the group was making a high-quality project, but that they had more demand than they could fill! So often we have visited projects where people are creating items that no one was buying. This was a great case of a small business that was working, thanks to the hard work of both the mothers and the ETIC fellow.
We also visited a new restaurant in Ishinomaki’s city center. Just days from their grand opening, the staff was bustling trying to get things ready – painting walls, finalizing menus, and rearranging furniture. Their goal was not just to create a restaurant, but to create a center where the community could come together to share a meal and conversation to start rebuilding their lives. The bright walls were inviting, and the location – near other shops and across from the train station – was perfect.
We had a chance to talk to some of the staff. We heard stories about how they survived the tsunami and why they wanted to join in this new enterprise. One of the new cooks told us about how he escaped last year’s tsunami by climbing on the roof of his business and swimming to safety. Another told us of her desire to give back to the community. While we talked, the staff brought us food from the new menu. The goal of the restaurant was good food and conversation, and that’s exactly what we experienced.
In just one day we saw the very real impact that ETIC is having in the lives of people – from Fellows to tsunami survivors – throughout Tohoku.