Updates from Japan Relief Projects

 
$10+ million
Over 50,000
in 111
Mar 3, 2015

Tohoku Fellowship Program advances to the next stage

201 Fellows to 111 Projects - 62% still in Tohoku
201 Fellows to 111 Projects - 62% still in Tohoku

Almost 4 years have passed since the Great Japan East Earthquake on March 11, 2011. Thanks to tremendus support from around the world, ETIC could have recruited 201 Fellows and sent them to 111 recovery projects. As we described in the previous reports, Fellows have made significant contributions to the recovery of Tohoku, where the aging rate is very high and thus the lack of workforce has been one of the bottleneck issues.

About 62% of the ex-Fellows decied to stay in Tohoku to continuously work for recovery. Fourteen ex-Fellows launched their own company/nonprofit.

However, Tohoku is still on a long way to the recovery. A number of leaders need Fellows who work with them as a right-hand person. Therefore, ETIC decided to expand its target for the Fellowship Program from 200 Fellows in 3 years to 300 Fellows in 5 years.

In order to achieve the target, ETIC has renewed its recruiting website to attract motivated young people. We will actively pulicize information and stories on recovery projects with good leaders in Tohoku (we are very sorry that the documents will be written only in Japanese).

New recruiting website
New recruiting website
Mar 2, 2015

Supporting Sustainable Business Continuity Planning Training In Japanese NGOs: Part 2

Introduction to simulation exercise
Introduction to simulation exercise

International Medical Corps, in partnership with Tokio Marine & Nichido Risk Consulting Co., Ltd., successfully completed its Business Continuity Planning (BCP) training for a total of 9 Japanese NGOs. Training took place in the form of in-house lectures and tabletop exercises conducted at each NGO’s headquarters to build organizational capacity to respond to disasters quickly and efficiently. Feedback from all participating organizations has been overwhelmingly positive.

In this last report, we share the experience of long-running Japanese NGO Japan International Volunteer Center (JVC). Established in 1980, JVCis an international NGO implementing various projects in over 20 countries in areas such as agriculture, water provision, forest preservation/utilization, children's education, peace-building, and emergency relief. They implement activities meeting local needs and situations with an eye toward the future of people and the community. They work in over 20 countries including Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, South Africa, Iraq, Palestine, Afghanistan and Sudan. In Japan they are implementing awareness-raising activities toward a fair and just society through advocacy, development education and networking as well as supporting recovery efforts after the 2011 earthquake.

International Medical Corps provided JVC with a BCP in-house workshop on November 25th, followed by an emergency scenario simulation exercise on December 25th, 2014.

Takatoshi Hasebe, Administrative Director of JVC:

Since JVC has been working in conflict zones for many years, we’d put serious thought into how we at the Tokyo headquarters should respond if one of our staff members overseas were to get caught in a difficult situation. However, we’d never really thought about having a plan in place if we were ever to face an emergency here in Tokyo, affecting the entire organization. That changed after the March 11th, 2011. After the Great East Japan Earthquake, due to concerns about damage from aftershocks we limited the number of staff allowed to work at headquarters and ordered the remaining staff to work from home. We didn’t have a BCP or any emergency response plan but we managed to act flexibly and start our relief activities in the Tohoku area fairly quickly. But that experience was a wake-up call, forcing us to admit that we needed to prepare ourselves for similar emergencies in the future, including possibly an earthquake affecting our headquarters.  However, until now, we hadn’t managed to make any progress towards this end. So it was very timely and fortunate for us that International Medical Corps offered us their customized training in BCP.

On November 25th, International Medical Corps’ Country Representative and Tokio Marine’s risk management expert came to our office and gave 14 of our staff including our director-general and myself a thorough introduction into BCP including what it means and what we need to do to create our own BCP. As an NGO, the community looks to us for support, and so when disaster strikes we will have additional emergency response work on top of trying to salvage our regular work. We realized that it is really important for us to prioritize our tasks and scope of work; otherwise we will all be overwhelmed. The staff members who took part in the training commented that the lecture gave them a clearer picture of what needs to be done to prepare the office for both the immediate aftermath of a disaster (e.g., confirming the safety of staff, making sure there is enough food and water for everyone, etc.) as well as to make sure the organization can function and continue operations with limited resources.

Exactly one month after the BCP lecture, International Medical Corps and Tokio Marine came back to our office to provide us with a hands-on simulation exercise to help us experience how we would react if a large-scale disaster were to strike Tokyo. 16 staff members participated. The simulation was split into two parts: (1) immediate response; and (2) business continuity.

During the first part, under the leadership of the director-general we were able to fairly quickly come up with key tasks such as checking on the safety of the building, confirming the safety of the staff who were outside the office, and finding a safe route out of the office. However, we all got a little lost in the beginning, all of the staff were trying to keep notes of the news updates that kept coming in every minute. Later on the trainer pointed out how it is important to prioritize what kinds of information we need to collect and who would do the collecting and reporting back to the group. We also needed to go beyond assigning people to key tasks and clarify exactly what each staff member was supposed to do in their new roles. We also realized that, to be able to respond efficiently, much in advance of the disaster we needed to have emergency contact numbers for each staff, adequate emergency supplies including a radio for getting emergency information, and a list of things to be carried out of the office in case of an evacuation.

During the second part of the exercise, we discussed all that needed to be done by the organization within a week of the disaster, issues like emergency staffing needs and workload, wire transfers to the field to continue overseas operations, press releases and homepage updates, etc. We would also need to decide whether or not we would do an emergency response in the immediate community while also coping with our own difficulties, and if so, to what scale and what would be the necessary resources. Here too we realized how forethought would save us precious time during an emergency. Inevitably things will not go exactly according to plan and we will probably face problems we hadn’t anticipated, but if we continue to anticipate possible scenarios and have a plan for dealing with them, we will have a much better chance at protecting ourselves and the organization’s operations.

There is still so much we need to discuss, but this training has helped us get started with the process. We now know what questions to ask ourselves and what steps we need to take to ensure we have in place an ever-evolving contingency plan. Next March we are planning a follow-up meeting with all the staff members who participated in the training to share feedback and to plan how we will develop our own BCP during the next fiscal year. We are very grateful to International Medical Corps for generously sharing with us this expertise and promise not to let what we have learned go to waste.

Simulation exercise: priority mapping
Simulation exercise: priority mapping
Simulation exercise: feedback
Simulation exercise: feedback
Group discussion
Group discussion
Feb 20, 2015

6th "Handicrafts Market, Hands-on Exhibition!"

Volunteers Weeding
Volunteers Weeding

On December 13 2014, the sixth "Handicrafts Market, Hands-on Exhibit in Ishinomaki: Making Handcrafting into Jobs", an event aimed at giving a leg up to women who do handicraft in Ishinomaki, was hosted by JEN at the central office of Japan Agricultural Cooperatives in Ishinomaki, Nakazato Agricultural Cooperative Hall.

JEN’s handicraft support project for 2014 aims at promoting the empowerment of women through handiwork and putting in place a mechanism needed to ensure women’s self-sustaining and lasting business by developing a network of contacts.

It all started with craft workshops held at temporary housing and public meeting places in disaster affected areas. Some female workshop participants wanted to find a market for their products, making their hobbies into jobs.

On November 15-16, they held a craft fair at Sun Park in Aeon Mall Ishinomaki. The “handicraft market committee” composed of female handcrafters arranged the fair in a new and different way that allowed “everyone to sell everyone else’s product, enhancing cooperation among the handcrafters. During the fair the handcrafters worked together on site management, product inspection, accounting operation and so on. Having diverse customers and selling others’ products seemed to have given them opportunities to learn a great deal.

From this year, the female handcrafters are going to come to host the event by themselves. We hope them to fully demonstrate what they have gained through their experiences so far.

 

Improving Children’s Park to Restore Their Associations

In the city of Ishinomaki, children have been having difficulty finding outdoor spaces to play because many of the city’s parks were left unrestored after being ravaged by the tsunami and other places like baseball parks and sports ground were used to set up temporary housing for disaster victims.

When JEN distributed questionnaires to children in elementary and middle schools and interviewed their parents this year, many of those questioned voiced the opinion that “the tsunami had taken decent places for children to play.” In response, JEN is now restoring two parks in the Kamikama district of Ishinomaki after carrying out a research at about seventy smaller parks on what kinds of needs for parks communities have, how many children will play in them, and whether there are any play spaces nearby. JEN is also helping the members of the neighborhood association bring the activities of the children’s association back into the district.

The neighborhood associations have held meetings many times among them about park restoration, providing a variety of ideas.

During the summer vacation in August, a total of seventy parents and their children in the district did exercise at the park every morning, just as they used to before the disaster, although the park was yet to be restored [The Japanese students have a custom to gather in a park early in the morning on their summer vacation to do exercise, but the district had been forced to give up keeping the custom due to the disaster.].

The neighborhood association and children’s association are now regaining their energy little by little by working together on restoring their park.

The construction work of the two parks was completed on December 7.

JEN will continue helping communities create a town comfortable for children.

 

Revitalization of Seaside Communities

On Saturday November the 1st and the 2nd, the second “Hamakon 2014 in the Oshika Peninsula”, a matchmaking event, took place in the Oshika peninsula in the city of Isbinomaki of Miyagi prefecture.

In line with locals’ request and with their cooperation, Hamakon was designed to address the challenges facing Oshika peninsula such as the outflow of population, the declining birth rate and aging population, and the difficulty of finding successors in the fishing industry. The event provides a chance for unmarried men and women to meet their partners.

This year’s event drew nine men from the Oshika peninsula and nine women from across the country. The male participants, who received prior instruction, made a united effort to make the event interesting. Thanks to the cooperation of local residents, the event created an opportunity for the female participants to see many interesting places in the Oshika peninsula and learn about how wonderful the nature of the Oshika peninsula is.

On the first day, the participants had one-on-one encounters, introduced themselves and played games in Meguro, a guest house featuring fine Japanese kappo cuisine in Obuchihama in the Oshika peninsula. The female participants seemed to like locally-hauled fish and seafood for dinner. After the dinner, the participants got along great and were excited to be chatting, smiling faces being seen everywhere.

On the second day, first, the female participants visited Yagawahama to talk with wives of fishermen. They talked about what it’s like to be married to fishermen over barbecued locally-hauled ascidians and scallops. Their next visit was at the “San Juan Park.” Under calm weather, the event went on as scheduled. Participants then had more get-to-know time, during which they played games, had good conversations and had lunch. Finally came the time for the participants to declare their interest for one another. Five couples were formed. Congratulation!

JEN continues to foster social revitalization of seaside communities by conducting activities such as this one. JEN’s goal is to bring more smiles to the people in these communities.

Redio Gymnastics Exercises
Redio Gymnastics Exercises
Couple Ringing the Bell of Happiness
Couple Ringing the Bell of Happiness

Links:

Feb 10, 2015

Promoting Communication through Handicraft

Making mini Christmas trees out of pine cones
Making mini Christmas trees out of pine cones

It has been almost four years since the 3.11 disaster struck Tohoku Region in Japan. In the disaster stricken areas, some rehabilitation and reconstruction progress can be seen. For instance, new public restoration apartments have been constructed. Some people have already moved out of temporary housing complexes on their own. On the other hand, there are those who drew a losing ticket for public housing allocation and are waiting for construction of other public restoration apartments, as well as those who are hesitative about moving to public housing due to concerns about monthly rent payment (temporary housing residents do not need to pay rent).

Many of the residents at temporary housing complexes are elderly, and it is difficult for them to reconstruct house on their own, and to leave their hometown and join a new community. As such they tend to live alone in a temporary housing complex. Further, alcohol dependence is prevalent among those with a dismal outlook after losing a job to the earthquake or nuclear power plant accident, or those who cannot free themselves from much sorrow over the loss of family members and friends.

In response, AAR Japan has conducted a variety of events under “Building Health Communities Project” to prevent deterioration of physical and psychological well-being and to promote communication within temporary housing complexes in Iwate, Miyagi, and Fukushima Prefectures. In Tohoku Region, many people are reticent and reserved, and tend not to open up to outsiders. Knowing these characteristics of Tohoku people, AAR has regularly visited same temporary housing complexes to gain their trust with time and care.

This is a report from one of those temporary housing complexes in Watari Town, Miyagi Prefecture. 306 lives were lost to the 3.11 earthquake and tsunami, and 3,733 houses were destroyed or damaged in the town. AAR has been assisting Watari Town since the occurrence of the disaster, and has visited the featured temporary housing 13 times (as of the end of January, 2014).

On December 14th, 2014, AAR staff and a counselor visited the temporary housing complex. It was a cold day with snow piled on the ground. Despite the weather, a total of 16 residents gathered in the meeting hall to participate in a recreational activity to make mini Christmas trees using a pine cone. As a prior notice was disseminated among the residents, many looked forward to the event. The participants concentrated on the task of delicately putting beads on a pine cone. Towards the end of the activity, the participants started to discuss a variety of topics including daily lives at the temporary housing (life rhythm, handicrafts that they made), the prospect of their new house (anxiety and relief about moving into a new house), and their health (tips for cold prevention and care for maintain their physique).

At the beginning of the activity, however, it seemed that a sense of unity was lacking in the temporary housing complex. It was probably because the residents came from several different communities in Watari Town, and they separated themselves into small community groups. Nonetheless, once mini Christmas trees were made, the walls between the groups broke down. They enjoyed interacting with each other. After the activity that required much concentration, we ended the day with calisthenics.

When everyone was almost finished with the mini Christmas tree making, a lady in her 80s approached an AAR staff member, and started to talk about her experience of the day the disaster struck. “Immediately after the earthquake, I asked the company president if I could go home”, she recalled. “That was the right judgment call. My colleagues who stayed at work passed away…  I survived, but I only had clothes I was wearing, and everything else was washed away. Not even a picture is left. It’s sad.” She continued, “I can’t fit in this temporary housing complex where most people are from different communities. All the houses are so close to each other, and I feel like my neighbors are peeping in my house. This had never happened to where I used to live. I’m fed up with living in this cramped cave.”

Although almost four years has passed, and many people lived in the same complex, there are still those who isolate themselves from their neighbors. Those people do not have anyone or any opportunities to talk about their feelings and bitter experience of the disaster. Some pour out their feelings when AAR visits the temporary housing complexes. It is not easy to assuage someone’s grief over loss of not only friends and family, but also livelihood and hometown. What we can do is to be with the survivors’ hearts and offer those who isolate themselves opportunities to interact with others. Four years since the disaster, such psychosocial care is still needed. AAR will continue to provide the survivors with psychosocial care through Building Healthy Communities Project. 

The completed mini Christmas tree
The completed mini Christmas tree
Calisthenics after the handicraft activity.
Calisthenics after the handicraft activity.
This male participant lost his wife to tsunami
This male participant lost his wife to tsunami
Jan 20, 2015

Big Advancement, but with New Uncertainties

Elevated land where arcade will move temporarily
Elevated land where arcade will move temporarily

A big advancement in reconstructing the Isatomae Fukko Shopping Arcade (IFSA) will take place this coming April. The land lifting of three meters for a temporary location of the arcade has been completed, and IFSA is informed that a move will take place in April this year. Presently, processed is a legal procedure of leasing the land from the Organization for Small & Medium Enterprises and Regional Innovation Japan (SME Japan) to the Minami-sanriku-cho Government. When all legal documentation is completed, the SME Japan will build a new temporary shop arcade, and start dismantling the present one to be reused as a part of the full arcade, scheduled to be completed in December 2017. Still three more years are in need before the complete reconstruction. This arrangement, however, makes it possible for shops to continue operating their businesses without closing shops. News that they will be moving very soon to a new temporary location and that they do not have to close their shops are big relief for them. It is a big celebration to reach a little bit closer to the end of the reconstruction tunnel.

This means that the IFSA will not use the temporary shop tent which the DSIA helped to establish in 2011. Now, the tent is officially donated to the IFSA by a local NGO which operated the tent, and then the IFSA donated it to the owner of the land which was leased to the IFSA for free. This very much ended the involvement of the DSIA over the issue of the tent. However, it does not mean that DSIA’s support roles to the IFSA will end. A new stage even for the DSIA’s support started.

So far, so good. But this advancement came with new headaches and uncertainties. All discussions that the IFSA made for establishing their own Arcade Corporation, independent from Shizukawa, was turned down by the Central Government. They made a rule that only one development corporation will be established in each township or city. This decision made some of IFSA’s past discussions meaningless, though some plans are still effective to be implemented. The corporation will be established in June this year. But new information generated an enormous headache for some present shop owners at the IFSA. They were informed to pay 1,500 yen per one square meter for their shops. But they are now informed to make an initial investment by 500,000 yen for shops using below 50 square meters and 10,000 yen for every additional one square meter. Most likely, an additional capital investment will be required sometime at the end of this year. For some shop owners, this amount itself may be too high, needless to say about an additional payment at the end of this year. To make the situation worse, they are also informed to pay for a guarantee fee for construction, which is worth about a 10 month-rental-fee based on a shop size. Some of shop owners started thinking about withdrawing from the shop construction plan.

Additional concern came from their research on diverse success cases of town rebuilding, all over Japan. What they found was that there has never been any shop area where people do not live. The disaster-stricken Tohoku area is the first to be experimented in that way, since a residential area has to be built on the mountain side. This means that residents in Isatomae may not come to shop for their daily needs at the IFSA, since diverse shops are already operating in several locations, much closer to their residential area. The key success factor identified in the cases is restaurants and food they sell inside a new arcade. Thus, food-related business may prosper, but shops dealing with daily living goods may not have any good prospect, despite heavy investment they have to make. Some owners even studied what are employment opportunities if they move to Sendai, the closest big city. They are finding that anybody above age 50 may find a job only in a construction-related business, which is physically severe with very low payment, making not possible to keep a family living in Sendai. Some shop owners are seeing quite a gloomy prospect in the future.

One solution now they are approaching is to talk to diverse organizations, including the Minami-sanriku-cho government, to invest a small amount, so that the IFSA can ease the amount of needed investment to be made by shop owners.  They are hoping to succeed in achieving the solution. Another solution is to continuously attract tourists, so that shops can rely less on residents whose population is declining. This means that they need to continue developing events and are even thinking about developing a system of selling local products through a direct order system.

DSIA happened to be contacted by a labor union of one company which is interested in developing programs to support the disaster-stricken Tohoku area. The IFSA is really pleased to hear this news, and provided diverse ideas to inform to the labor union, hoping the union will choose one of the proposals they made during the DSIA’s present visit. As the stage of reconstruction advances, the DSIA is also shifting to new ways of supporting Tohoku redevelopment.

The shop tent finally donated to the land owner
The shop tent finally donated to the land owner

Links:

Jan 13, 2015

Monthly Report vol.40

Thank you for your continuous support for Civic Force.

More than 320,000 people dead, about 620,000 people injured and about 220 trillion yen of economic loss—. According to an announcement by the government, these are some of the estimated damages that will result from the anticipated Nankai Trough Earthquake. The government set a goal to reduce this figure by 80 percent by taking measures in the next 10 years.

Attaining this goal means that concrete measures must be taken in each area because the government and local municipalities are limited in terms of what they can do. Civic Force is now focusing all its efforts on disaster preparedness by utilizing the experiences and lessons learned in its activities following the 2011 disasters.

The 40th monthly report focuses on a disaster drill conducted in Aichi Prefecture on June 15, and a joint drill conducted on June 20 and 21 in Okayama Prefecture, which was organized by the Self-Defense Forces.

Links:


Attachments:
Dec 23, 2014

Updates on Support high school students in Tohoku

Dear GlobalGiving Supporters,

AMDA has been supporting high school students in Tohoku Region of Japan that had received a massive destruction from the earthquake and tsunami of March 11th, 2011. We would like to thank all the donors and supporters from around the world who have shown their compassion and given support by sending donation through GlobalGiving.

Charity Concerts

In the past, AMDA have organized Kizuna Concerts connecting Otsuchi High School Brass Band in Iwate Prefecture, with Shujitsu High School in Okayama Prefecture (home to AMDA).

Recently, we have received a letter that was composed by Otsuchi High School Brass Band members, and would like to share their heartfelt appreciation with our donors. (please see the attached PDF file to read the letter.)

International Scholarship Program

Thanks to the warm support from our donors, we are able to continue to support high school students in Tohoku Region. In Japanese fiscal year 2014, 28 students of 4 high schools are receiving a scholarship through AMDA International Scholarship Program.

Students aim to be a medical professional such as a doctor, a nurse, or a physical therapist in the future. Each student receives 15,000yen (about 126 USD) per month until she/he graduates high school.

Please click on the attached file to get the full report in PDF. 

Thank you so much for your warm support to our project.

Your continuous support will be highly appreciated.

 


Attachments:
Dec 15, 2014

December Global Giving Report

Helping out at the New Rice Center in Yamamoto-cho
Helping out at the New Rice Center in Yamamoto-cho

Thank you very much for your continued generous support.

 

In October HOT volunteers participated in a Day of Service in Tokyo by exhibiting photographs of HOT volunteer projects in Tohoku and the many wonderful people in Tohoku HOT volunteers have been able to support with your generous donations.  Through this exhibition, we were able to share the stories of the people of Tohoku and the positive impact volunteers can have on those still trying to rebuild their lives after the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami.  It also encouraged new volunteers to join our Tohoku projects.

 

There continue to be labor shortages in certain parts of Tohoku that are making it very hard for local farmers to rebuild their lives, run their farms and grow their businesses as the limited number of available workers are deployed on large scale infrastructure and other construction projects. They and their families simply cannot do all the hard labor-intensive work themselves.  They need the continued support of volunteers. With your generous contributions, HOT volunteers have been able to continue to support a local farmer, Saito-san, and the New Rice Center in Yamamoto-cho.  The New Rice Center gives rice farmers in the Yamamoto-cho area a place to store equipment and supplies and to work, get together and share information. It also contains new rice thrashing equipment that local farmers can use when harvesting rice and packaging the harvested rice for the market.

 

In October, 15 HOT volunteers, including teenagers who live in a children’s home in the Tokyo area, helped Saito-san clear fields after harvesting vegetables.  They also enjoyed providing Saito-san and his wife with a chance to relax for a little bit by preparing a BBQ using his locally-grown vegetables. In November, 15 HOT volunteers, including teenagers from the children’s home, helped the New Rice Center by attacking a mountain of rice chaff, the protective casings separated from rice grains during the thrashing process.  The rice chaff has to be manually bagged so that it can be taken away and used as fertilizer.  It is hard to imagine how long it would take local farmers to bag and remove all of the rice chaff without the support of volunteers.   

 

Going forward, we will continue to organize more volunteer trips to further support the New Rice Center and Saito-san, his wife and others in Tohoku as they work hard to further rebuild their lives.  We also are coordinating a job shadowing program with Saito-san and other local Tohoku farmers for youths who must leave the children’s home when they turn 18.  This will connect local Tohoku farmers who are looking for young people to work with in rebuilding the local agricultural economy and youths who lack family and other support and who are looking for jobs.

 

In November, 15 HOT volunteers helped with the hotate matsuri (scallop festival) in Ogatsu by running the scallop booth which gave festival attendees the chance to enjoy grilled fresh oysters.  Prior to the earthquake and tsunami, the hotate matsuri was a very popular annual event.  While so much of Ogatsu has yet to be reconstructed and while so many former residents are still waiting to return to their beloved hometown, it was so encouraging to see so many smiling faces in Ogatsu for the day to enjoy local fresh scallops.  Thank you for making this possible.

 

Going forward and so long as people are still living in temporary housing, we also will continue to hold cafes and events at temporary housing sites in Tohoku.  And we will travel to Ogatsu to help maintain the community house (which was built with the help of your generous donations), to clean local beaches so that people from the greater Sendai area will continue to visit the area and thereby support the local economy and to participate in special events like the hotate matsuri to encourage those who are still waiting to resume their lives in Ogatsu and the surrounding communities.

 

None of this would be possible without your generous support. Thank you in advance for your continued support and for touching the hearts and souls of so many people in Tohoku.  

Helping at the Scallop Festival in Ogatsu
Helping at the Scallop Festival in Ogatsu
Helping at the Scallop Festival in Ogatsu
Helping at the Scallop Festival in Ogatsu
With Saito-san at New Rice Center in Yamamoto-cho
With Saito-san at New Rice Center in Yamamoto-cho
With Saito-san at New Rice Center in Yamamoto-cho
With Saito-san at New Rice Center in Yamamoto-cho
Bagging rice husk at the New Rice Center
Bagging rice husk at the New Rice Center

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