childcare-support-at-disaster-stricken-tohoku

 
$6,979
$23,021
Raised
Remaining
A fun place for children and mothers
A fun place for children and mothers

Kirarin Kids (KK), as usual, works very hard and innovatively.  KK has been doing very well in offering many programs and attracting local mothers and children, as I have reported previously, They continue to have seven major programs: (1) Kirarin Kids; (2) Kirarin Egg and Baby; (3) Kirarin Mama; (4) Kirarin Papa; (5) Kirarin Café; (6) Kirarin Miniature Farming; and (7) Kirarin Refresh. Besides, KK also provides highly valuable additional services, such as the Children’s Health Saloon in cooperation with the Hands, Play Cars brought by the UNICEF and the Toy Maker Association, cooking lectures, traditional food cooking, etc. Now, they decided to offer more programs on No Body’s Perfect, lectures on children’s nourishment, counselling on life with a small fee charged, a puppet show, a party with Santa Clause, Christmas gardening, etc. Especially notable is their increase of  (4) Kirarin Papa sessions, offering lessons how fathers can read books for children, father (grandfather)-children brown-noodle making, and showing a movie titled “Jin Jin.” One Sunday a month, they will have a key and big event for improving father-children relations. Now, their schedule tables are filled much more than before. Because of such activities, their clients are increasing. Especially, mothers and children who just moved to Rikuzen Takata are finding KK a valuable place for them to enter into the community. There were also some signs of newly coming foreign workers, but they found their-affiliated religious organizations more comfortable to belong.

With regard to a KK’s future location after the present temporary government-provided facility is dismantled, nothing has been yet settled. But a Tokyo-based NPO is offering opportunities to develop some kind of future tie-ups with organizations showing an interest in building a children’s facility in Rikuzen Takata, while the City Government also seems to be developing some programs to improve the image of the city by providing more children support. However, nothing is certain. Especially, nobody knows how the latter programs will be, until an election of a Mayor will be completed the next month.

KK’s active and innovative approach toward all types of problems and uncertainties seems to be generating some potential solutions, while nothing is certain at this moment. Since competition among childcare NPOs in Rikuzen Takata is becoming severe, there is also a possibility that nothing may work out at the end. 

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Noisy children at play
Noisy children at play

Worries and struggles for a childcare NPO, “Kirarin Kids (KK),” in Rikuzentakata City continue. But it seems that a time bomb started ticking, simply because they have only 2.5 more years to remain at the present location. They are under pressure to look for a new location despite their remarkable success these days.

They have been doing very well in offering many programs and attracting local mothers and children well, as I have reported previously, They now have seven major programs: (1) Kirarin Kids; (2) Kirarin Egg and Baby; (3) Kirarin Mama; (4) Kirarin Papa; (5) Kirarin Café; (6) Kirarin Miniature Farming; and (7) Kirarin Refresh. Besides, KK also provides highly valuable additional services, such as the Children’s Health Saloon in cooperation with the Hands, Play Cars brought by the UNICEF and the Toy Maker Association, a Children’s Summer Festival in cooperation with the Happy Mothers Committee of Sizuoka Prefecture, Mandara picture creation, health and cooking lectures, traditional food cooking, grief care counseling, a parents-children picnic, personal computer classes, etc. Programs became much more diverse, and outside organizations now offer more help than before. An especially significant achievement for the KK is to organize meetings with the Mayer of the City. Now, they had the second meeting to discuss diverse issues needed to empower mothers in the City. The Mayor is very eager to hear their voices, and the KK is now becoming one of the key organizations for women’s empowerment. KK is also functioning to bring childrearing lessons, called “Nobody Is Perfect,” which was originated in Canada and is brought to the KK in cooperation with the Niiza Childcare Network. Mothers have been quite happy with these programs, and reputations spread now even to mothers who came from outside of the city. The KK is now becoming a mediator of linking new comers to the city and local communities. It is very much a new function that the KK is adding. They are making significant contributions to ease the worries of new comers linking them to local communities. In this sense, small toddlers are becoming key actors to link everybody together in the community.

KK has been working very hard, and is obtaining recognitions for their contributions to childcare and the community. But since they have to move out of the present place, they started worrying about diverse issues. Are they going to establish their own facility by purchasing a piece of land and building a building? Naturally, they do not have enough money at all. Before such a bold attempt, it is quite important to know whether child population will start increasing in the near future. So far, it is reported that 10 percent of the population has moved out. Another possibility is to move into a large shopping complex, where children gather. This situation allows them to attract their clients. But then, they may lose their basic philosophy of nurturing good mother-children relations and creating a base for contributing to community developments, which KK has been achieving fairly well so far in the present independent location. Another possibility with the lowest cost is to move into a community center by borrowing a public space. But this option makes it rather difficult to organize programs continuously as they do now. Another option is to collaborate with other key organizations, trying to contribute to community developments. If this is the option which KK wants, it has to start discussing diverse issues with them now. What are they going to do with a piece of land and a building? Are they willing to jointly organize a project? How can they secure necessary funds to satisfy their needs? Will this option work for them financially? When can they start discussing with whom, if this is the option? So far, nobody has made any significant initiative. Preparing for a new stage of post-disaster ordinary operation, they are facing diverse restrictions and limitations in their options. They now start worrying and struggling without much action, while a time bomb started ticking.   

Mothers are busy playing with children.
Mothers are busy playing with children.

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Noisy Playroom
Noisy Playroom

Kirarin Kids’ (KK) playroom was unusually noisy with more children and parents than before (see an attached picture), because of the beginning of summer break. Since I was a little bit too busy, I was late to come to visit KK for about one week. This unavoidable difficulty turned out to be good. I usually come on Friday at the beginning of July, when KK usually does not carry any special event. This time, though without any special event, was different from other times, having many clients.

I came to recognize in their pamphlet that KK started organizing their activity structure. They now focus on eight major programs: (1) Kirarin Kids; (2) Kirarin Egg and Baby; (3) Kirarin Mama; (4) Kirarin Papa; (5) Kirarin Café; (6) Kirarin Miniature Farming; (7) Kirarin Refresh; and (8) other events. I shall explain briefly below:

(1)   This is the key program to provide diverse activities to children, such as playroom activities, birthday parties, diverse seasonal children’s activities, etc.

(2)   This is a session for mothers and babies, in which mothers learn how to conduct baby massages and even share experiences and worries related to babies among them. It is a highly important program, especially for new mothers. They also offer diverse measuring devices to keep the record of children’s growth.

(3)   They have yoga sessions and seminars for mothers. The latter is to discuss about how to care children among mothers. Often, volunteer experts come to visit KK to offer counselling.

(4)   This started as a special session to provide opportunities for families that lost mothers in the disaster. But now it is opened to all fathers to have opportunities to play with their children. This is not yet popular, but several fathers come to make use of this nice opportunity to play with their children whom they hardly have time to be with.

(5)   This is a session to prepare lunch or make cookies and cakes and enjoy eating together. They make sure to include the cooking of traditional local food. This program is becoming quite popular, since mothers find this a good opportunity to meet other mothers, while children actually engage in making food with mothers.

(6)   Now, KK rents a small plot of farm land nearby. Children lean the value of farming by not only making vegetables, but also experiencing the joy of cropping. They also use crops at the Kirarin Café.

(7)   This is a program to offer diverse activities to refresh mothers, such as making candles, learning about aroma and color therapies, etc.

(8)   In other activities, they have doctors come for providing health advises on childcare, collect Bell marks together to donate money to schools, have a City’s mobile children’s library coming to KK, a mobile toy library to come to KK, rent baby goods, bring specialists to provide special consulting related to children, offer lessons on baby food, and promote inter-generational and local mingling.

This is the first time I see their activities presented in this organized manner. This suggests that they need to clarify their positions due to severe competition among childcare organizations in Rikuzen Takata.  The number is increasing, especially day care centers for working mothers. By law, one child minder is necessary for every four children. Because of increased demand for daycare centers, now there is a serious shortage of child minders in Rikuzen Takata. In contrast to growing sector of daycare, KK differentiates to focus on improving child-mother relations and building warm family relations, inheriting a good part of traditional-community-based living and practices. This is the key attraction of KK, highly valuable to rebuild disaster-stricken communities and preserve local identities. But the reality seems to be going in favor of daycare centers and working mothers. KK’s fight is not only to obtain a pair of mothers and children, which is becoming increasingly difficult to find, but also to preserve some good aspect of local culture and tradition, which is also becoming less attractive to young mothers. KK is not losing a game, but is facing competition from increasing competition and changes in the society. But KK started having grandmothers and grandfathers, bring their grandchildren to KK, finding their services highly valuable. Grandparents remain highly important childcare providers in a rural community, while mothers are away working, but they tend to be highly hesitant to mingle with young mothers. Now, this trend is changing. Even grandparents started using KK for keeping their grandchildren happy. A few fathers are finding the KK Papa highly useful to play with their children. So, despite competition, KK is finding new types of clients.

As a way of attracting their clients and bringing people to interact more, KK usually plans one annual big event. The last year, they rented a bus and went to the New Zealand Village. Because KK is from a disaster-stricken area, it was given a free access to the Village, and even the cost of the bus was donated by a Tokyo-based NPO. Now, three years after the disaster, donation is really drying up, and having such an annual event is becoming increasingly difficult because of cost. Even though KK started charging a small amount of money in diverse events, this bus trip is too costly. For this Fall, they are planning to go to “Anpan Man Land (an amusement park based on a Japanese famous cartoon),” they are not certain yet whether they can reduce the cost of the operation by donations and offer the event.

Your future contribution is highly appreciated for several reasons: (1) to keep an organization trying to nurture warm child-mother relations in the midst of opposite trend of daycare center popularity taking place in Rikuzen Takata; and (2) to keep big events to promote such relations when donations are becoming less and less. Thank you very much for your kind and continuous support.   

Sand Conveyor for Lifting up Land Rikuzen Takata
Sand Conveyor for Lifting up Land Rikuzen Takata

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Friday Morning Clients 1
Friday Morning Clients 1

Kirarin Kids (KK) in Rikuzen Takata is operating fairly well with stable customers with a subsidy coming from the City Government, though they now have a few competitors dealing with pre-school children, such as Ayukko and Mama Salon. Mothers seem to make use of multiple facilities to satisfy different types of services offered by each group.

As written previously, KK tries to achieve their goals of providing a place for parent-children interaction and promoting healthy development of children in a community. These goals are achieved through their regular programs: (1) sessions for enhancing children-mother relations, such as Nobody-Perfect lessons, eurhythmic lessons with music, symbolic therapy, counselling by a professional, etc.; (2) excursions; (3) sports activities such as Kirarin yoga, baby massages, Kirarin refreshing exercises, etc.; (4) aroma activities; (5) mobile toy library; (6) cooking sessions (traditional and healthy food, cookies, etc.); (7) birthday parties; (8) toy making; (9) collecting bell marks; etc.

KK also offers diverse events. The most significant event recently planned is a meeting with the Mayor of Rikuzen Takata City, Mr. Toba, at the KK on May 23 (Fri.), when he will meet parents and other people to hear their opinions and exchange views. Also, as mentioned in the previous report, they continue offering a program called “On Sundays,” for father-children relations, with a content support provided by an NPO called “Fathering Japan.” They also started offering services in temporary housing areas every other month, so that mothers in remote temporary housing areas can have a chance to enjoy services offered by the KK.  

Donations to KK made through GlobalGiving were mostly used for mothers’ diverse training programs. In addition to English language classes for children and mothers reported earlier, the IT lessons had the participation of seven to eight mothers. With the cooperation of NEC and some financial support from the Kiwanis Japan Foundation, lessons on Excell was held five times on Sept. 30, Oct. 1, Oct. 31, Nov. 28, and Dec. 5, 2013, and those on album making was held three times on March 4, 12 and 25, 2014. An impressive outcome of these activities is that not only mothers enjoyed and learned the basic of how to use software, but also one person got an employment at the Rikuzen Takata City, starting April 1, 2014. The DSIA seems to be contributing to the empowerment of mothers through the KK programs. Besides, such training is generating a new collaboration with another NPO, the Save Takata, which is developing a project, called Telework, to develop a system to bring works from Tokyo through IT connections.  

Since the present temporary housing offered by the government is usually said to last two more years, what will happen with the present occupants of the temporary housing is becoming a serious concern. The KK has been contacting the City Government to find out its plan only to face the lack of information, uncertainty and frustration. The number of children in the city seems to be declining, which may require the city to make some selections with regard to childcare organizations. In a new city planning, there will be a cultural center planned to be built. But unfortunately, information about which organizations will enter the facility is not disclosed, while KK was informed to report its plan of operating location before the end of this year. It seems that by fall 2015, almost everything will be fixed. Given uncertainty, KK has set up several contingency plans of (1) remaining in the present place if they are allowed to do so; (2) renting an old house where they can have children engage in agricultural activities; (3) renting a space in the newly established city; and (4) moving into the cultural center. At this moment, they are finding it quite difficult to make any decision, while uncertainty is giving a lot of frustration to the KK. They are now facing new challenges, though they have fairly well overcome past difficulties. We need to psychologically and continuously support the KK, until it will overcome the last stage of redevelopment from the disaster. The KK still needs not only donations, but also psychological support from donors through GlobalGiving.

Friday Morning Clients 2
Friday Morning Clients 2

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Waiting for Children and Mothers to Come 1
Waiting for Children and Mothers to Come 1

Kirarin Kids (KK) is steadily preparing for its future development. The biggest news of the past three months is that they obtained an approval to become an NPO from the Government of Japan on December 26, 2013, for which they have been preparing quite a long time. They had the first preparatory meeting on July 28, 2013, to identify their organization targets as providing a place for parent-children interaction and promoting healthy development of children in a community. These goals are becoming ever more important as the disaster caused the decline of children’s population, destroyed many play-grounds, reduced community activities, and disintegrated community identity. By becoming an NPO they will further concentrate their activities on these goals and try to obtain supports from diverse sources, including Rikuzen Takata City. KK firmly believes in the importance of their work for community development.

They try to achieve the goals through their regular programs: (1) sessions for enhancing children-mother relations, such as Nobody-Perfect lessons, eurhythmic lessons with music, symbolic therapy, counselling by a professional, etc.; (2) excursions; (3) sports activities such as Kirarin yoga, baby massages, Kirarin refreshing exercises, etc.; (4) aroma activities; (5) mobile toy-library; (6) cooking sessions (traditional and healthy food, cookies, etc.); (7) birthday parties; (8) toy making; (9) collecting bell marks; etc.

In collaboration with the Niiza Childcare Network and the UNICEF, they are further developing father-children relations, especially for children whose mothers have been lost in the disaster. In the activities, KK now has a program called “On Sundays,” with a content support provided by an NPO called “Fathering Japan.” The program for father-children relations seems to be working better now than before.

So far, with the support from the GlobalGiving, KK offered two programs: one on IT sessions for mothers and the other on mother-children English play time. For the IT sessions, KK offered lessons once in September, twice in October, once in November and once in December, and completed their schedule for IT sessions. For English play time, they offered once in October and once in December.

Although they have to focus more on their original goals as an NPO, being still in the midst of a redevelopment phase from the disaster, they are still expanding their activities as requests come to them. In December, they held a “Health Festival” with a help from dentists and doctors belonging to the Tokyo West Rotary Club. The Festival not only offered dental sessions and first aid practices, but also events to bring the attention of parents and children to overweighing. Conditions in temporary housing seem to be generating unexpected side effects. Now, almost all school grounds are used as temporary housing sites which took away children’s opportunity for playing. For children living in remote temporary-housing sites, they now commute in a school bus, while in the past they used to walk quite a long distance to school. Thus, KK is now also helping in the field of children’ health care.

The Takata Osumi Shopping Archade where KK is located decided to open markets on 7th, 17th, and 27th every month. As a way to show collaborative sprit to the Shopping Archade community, KK decided to open their operations on these three days. This policy change creates additonal days of work, if markets are held on weekends. It is generating not only financial pressure to KK, but also some resistance from their staff, since they are already overworked. To make the situation worse, two staffs will leave Rikuzen Takata due to their husbands’ transfers to different locations. Now as usual, they have headaches from the shortages of both fund and staff.

They have been highly motivated, working hard, and achieving what they hoped to achieve. But constantly they are facing the same problems, suggesting that they still need supports from the GlobalGiving until they graduate from the phase of redevelopment. 

Checking before Mothers and Children Come
Checking before Mothers and Children Come

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Project Leader

Yoshitaka Okada

Tokyo, Japan

Where is this project located?

Map of childcare-support-at-disaster-stricken-tohoku