Japan: Sending Chocolates and Messages to Those Affected by the Disaster
One year has passed since the massive earthquake and tsunami hit Japan on March 11th, 2011. The emergency phase of relief activities has passed, and with restoration progressing at a varying pace in different regions, aid and relief required for recovery are increasingly diversifying. Accordingly, AAR JAPAN has been engaged in an array of relief activities in the effort to address and accommodate the changing needs of those affected by the series of catastrophic events.To Those Living in Temporary Houses in Fukushima PrefectureAAR JAPAN, in collaboration with Rokkatei Confectionery Co. Ltd., a renowned sweets maker, has recently been conducting a “Magokoro Campaign (literally meaning true heart campaign),” in which chocolate boxes are delivered to those affected by the disaster. Messages of encouragement are sent along with the chocolate. Up until now, we have delivered a total of 896 boxes to persons living in Iitate Town and Soma City in Fukushima Prefecture. Driven to Tears by the Messages
On January 18th, 2012, at the City Welfare Center (Hamanasu-kan) in Soma City, Fukushima Prefecture, we delivered chocolate boxes with messages to approximately 230 families living in temporary houses. One mother found herself in tears from receiving a message that read “You are not alone, because there is always someone thinking of you.” Reading the message over and over, she told us that it has given her courage. Some of the mothers were jovially comparing messages, asking “What kind of message did you get? Want to see ours?” There is also another episode where we delivered chocolate to an elderly woman in her seventies who had lost her family in the tsunami. We remember she was driven to tears on the spot at her front door when she received the gift, saying “Someone I’ve never met before is trying to help me.” People who are living in temporary housing facilities have either lost their houses in the tsunami or were forced to evacuate their homes because they were too close to the nuclear power plants. So many of them have lost so much, and the Magokoro Campaign reminded us again how much it means to the affected persons to receive heart-warming messages. We feel the power of words every time we make a delivery!
Delighted Children Say ”These Chocolates are Great!”
The chocolate comes in 6 flavors: raspberry, maple, black tea, mango, passion fruit, and green tea. They are popular among the children precisely because of this variety in flavors. The children looked very happy with sweets in their hands, and told us “These chocolates are great!”
AAR JAPAN is committed to long-term recovery assistance for the affected population of the disaster areas. This year, we are planning to widen the focus of the "Building Healthy Communities" project to include the Fukushima region. Due to the nuclear power plant accident in March 2011, the needs of the population in Fukushima Prefecture are different as compared to other regions that have been hit by the Great East Japan Earthquake, and recovery is progressing at a slower pace.
To improve the psychological and physical conditions of persons living in Fukushima Prefecture, AAR JAPAN is planning to provide its mobile services in the region, including physical therapy, occupational therapy, mental health counseling, and community building activities. Please stay with us and keep on supporting our efforts going forward!
Overview of our Ongoing Activities
AAR JAPAN has been providing rehabilitation and health-related services, mobile clinics, sanitation services, psychological care, and community interaction and exchange events for roughly 3,000 people, focusing on persons with disabilities, the elderly, displaced people, and people staying in temporary housing in the disaster-affected areas of Miyagi and Iwate prefectures. Through these comprehensive efforts, AAR JAPAN continues to support people in the disaster zone as they work to maintain both their physical and mental health.
AAR JAPAN has been sending occupational therapists and physiotherapists to evacuation centers, senior care facilities, facilities for persons with disabilities, temporary housing, and individual homes in Miyagi and Iwate prefectures, offering rehabilitation visits and massages to 612 people from July 9th to November 26th.
To mitigate stress both from the earthquake and from long-term evacuee life, AAR JAPAN has been sending counselors to evacuation centers, temporary housing units, and individual homes to provide psychological care. We provided counseling for 265 people between August 6th and December 3rd.
Community Interaction and Exchange Events
AAR JAPAN has been actively promoting community interaction and exchange events to help encourage the development of social ties in evacuation centers and temporary housing. In this effort, we have been organizing soup kitchens, delivering relief supplies, and providing rehabilitation services such as massages and aroma therapy. To date, we have organized or participated in events in the following locations:
- Festival at Wako Kindergarten in Shichi-ga-hama Town, Miyagi Prefecture (July 23rd)
- Bon Festival in Onagawa Town, Miyagi Prefecture (August 15th)
- Higashi-hama Elementary School on the Oshika Peninsula, Miyagi Prefecture (August 18th)
- Touni Town, Kamaishi City, Iwate Prefecture (August 20th).
- Otomo Town, Rikuzen-takata City, Iwate Prefecture (August 20th)
-Offering aromatherapy at Higashi-hama Elementary School in Miyagi Prefecture (August 23rd)
- Workshop for persons with disabilities in Yamada Town, Chimohei County, Iwate Prefecture (August 26th)
- Temporary housing complex in Kasshi Town, Kamaishi City, Iwate Prefecture (August 27th)
- Temporary housing complex in Shichi-ga-hama Town, Miyagi Prefecture (August 28th)
- Temporary housing complex in Kamaishi City, Iwate Prefecture (September 11th)
- Gym of Nakano Junior High School in Sendai City, Miyagi Prefecture (September 17th)
- Day room in a temporary housing complex in Kashinai, Miyako City, Iwate Prefecture (September 24th)
- Temporary housing complex in Kuribayashi Town, Kamaishi City, Iwate Prefecture (September 25th)
- Gym of Nakano Junior High School in Sendai City, Miyagi Prefecture (September 25th)
- In front of a shop in Sakuragi Town, Otsuchi Town, Kamihei County, Iwate Prefecture (September 28th)
- Temporary housing complex in Kesen Town, Rikuzen-takata City, Iwate Prefecture (October 2nd)
- Festival at Kurosaki Shrine in Hirota Town, Rikuzen-takata City, Iwate Prefecture (October 9th)
- “Everyone’s Festival Bureiko” in Ishinomaki City, Miyagi Prefecture (October 10th)
- Dosen Subsidized Apartments in Kasshi Town, Kamaishi City, Iwate Prefecture (October 16th)
- Higashi-hama Elementary School in Iwate Prefecture (October 11th)
- Otsuchi Dai-kyu Temporary Housing Complex in Otsuchi Town, Kamihei County, Iwate Prefecture (October 23rd)
- Taki-no-Sato in Takekoma, Rikuzen-takata City, Iwate Prefecture (October 25th)- Nakano Sakae Community Center, Sendai City, Miyagi Prefecture (November 27th)
Bringing People in the Disaster-Affected Areas a Warm and Happy New Year
Temperatures in the disaster-affected areas continue to drop. In addition to distributing winter necessities to people living in temporary housing complexes and other displaced people, AAR JAPAN is now also preparing equipment for snow removal. In the face of news of elderly survivors dying alone in temporary housing, we are continuing to support the Building Healthy Communities Project, offering community interaction and exchange events for disaster survivors, many of whom all too easily end up spending their entire day isolated behind closed doors.
If you are interested to learn more about AAR JAPAN's relief and recovery activities after the Great East Japan Earthquake, visit our blog site: http://aarjapan.blogspot.com/search/label/Japan
Lack of Activities at Evacuation Centers has been a Serious Problem
Prolonged evacuee life has given the elderly little opportunity to exercise, which can have a harmful effect on their health. AAR JAPAN has begun sending a team of experts in occupational therapy and physiotherapy to visit evacuation centers on the Oshika Peninsula, part of Ishinomaki City, Miyagi Prefecture, to provide rehabilitation and advice on how to make the living environment better suited to long-term physical fitness. On July 9th, a team of six, including nurses, occupational therapists and social workers, visited two evacuation centers and four homes on the Oshika Peninsula.
Exercises and Living Environments Suited to Each Person
A woman in her 80s has been staying at an evacuation center with her husband. She suffers from osteoarthritis, and as her knees hurt bitterly when she moves, she hasn’t been able to move around. Mr. Kiyoshi ISHII, an occupational therapist, gave her a careful massage to mitigate the pain in her knees. The woman slept on a bed at home, but uses a futon at the evacuation center, which causes further strain on her knees when getting up. We advised her to use a shower chair found in the evacuation center as an assistive device to allow her to stand up and sit down more easily.
Japanese-style squat toilets are also difficult for the elderly to use. At this evacuation center, only the men’s lavatory has a western-style toilet, so the woman has had no choice but to use the men’s lavatory. We recommended that the evacuation center bring in western-style sitting toilets that can be placed over the Japanese-style toilets.
At another evacuation center, a woman with intellectual disabilities in her 70s walks with the heels of her shoes folded over because they have become too small for her swollen feet. Although she can walk, with her bent back and weakened muscles she is at risk of falling at every step. We taught her a rehabilitation exercise using a walking frame found in the evacuation center, and recommended shoes and a walking frame suitable to her. We advised her to walk with them in the evacuation center regularly.
The elderly need daily exercise to prevent their bodies from weakening as a result of prolonged evacuee life. It is essential not only to offer temporary solutions such as massages and strength training, but also to teach routines they can undertake in their daily lives, and to offer suggestions for improving their regular living environments.
AAR JAPAN will continue our support for survivors as their environments change, whether in their homes, in evacuation centers, or in temporary housing.
AAR JAPAN has been providing rehabilitation and health-related services, mobile clinics, sanitation services, psychological care, and community interaction and exchange events for about 3,000 people, focusing on persons with disabilities, the elderly, survivors living at home, and people staying in temporary housing in the affected areas of Miyagi and Iwate prefectures. Through these comprehensive efforts, AAR JAPAN continues to support people in the disaster-affected area as they work to maintain both their physical and mental health.
- Rehabilitation Services
AAR JAPAN has been providing rehabilitation services by sending occupational therapists and physiotherapists to evacuation centers, senior care facilities, facilities for persons with disabilities, and temporary housing and individual homes in Miyagi and Iwate prefectures, offering rehabilitation visits and massages to 83 people from July 9th to July 28th.
- Mobile Clinics and Health-related Services
AAR JAPAN has visited Makinohama, Takenohama, Kitsunezaki-hama, Sudachi, Fukkiura, Kozumihama, and Kobuchihama on the Oshika Peninsula, where approximately 640 survivors are taking shelter in their homes. Led by Dr. Toshiaki YASUDA, a local medical practitioner, AAR’s medical team has established a mobile clinic and implemented health-related services such as checking up on sufferers of chronic illnesses, preventing the spread of infectious diseases, and implementing psychological support. We examined a total of 815 people between April 9th and July 31st.
- Sanitation Services
AAR JAPAN has implemented sanitation services for approximately 1,000 people in evacuation centers in Ishinomaki City and Minami-Sanriku Town in Miyagi Prefecture. As futons, blankets, and mattresses became dirty as a result of long-term use in evacuation centers, we dried them in the sun, and collected old and dirty futons while offering new summer-season bedding. We also engaged in general cleaning in evacuation centers, where the summer rise in temperature and humidity has led to the deterioration of sanitary conditions, including a huge increase in flies and mosquitoes. We also distributed futon driers, vacuum cleaners, dehumidifiers, cleaning equipment, insect repellent and insecticides (fly tape, mite killer, etc.) with instruction on their use.
To reduce the risk of food poisoning, we delivered refrigerators to evacuation centers that lacked them. We implemented these activities in 23 evacuation centers from June 14th to July 28th.
- Psychological Care
In order to mitigate stress from the earthquake and long-term evacuee life, AAR JAPAN has been sending counselors to evacuation centers, temporary housing units, and individual homes to provide psychological care.
- Community Interaction and Exchange Events
On July 23rd, AAR JAPAN participated in a festival at Wako Kindergarten in Shichiga-hama Town, Miyagi Prefecture.
The above are excerpts from our English blog which highlight some of AARJ's work in Tohoku in the past few months. To find a complete list of articles, visit our English blog at http://aarjapan.blogspot.com.
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