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.
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.
Dear Supporters of Kirarin Kids
Please excuse my delay in sending my report on the Kirarin Kids to GlobalGiving, since the Typhoon 18 which brought quite heavy rain and land slides on September 16, 2013, prevented me taking a trip there. It was too risky for me to travel and I might have been stranded in a train.
Kirarin Kids is really an amazing organization. Its staff is constantly making forward-looking moves as usual. They have now submitted documents needed for turning their organization to be recognized as an NPO, which makes them hopefully easier to secure their financial sources in the future. We will know within two months whether the status will be granted to them.
They are conducting regular children-mothers supporting sessions as they have been conducting in the past. In almost every month, they have a yoga session for both children and parents, an aroma session for mothers, music concerts, birthday parties and events, mobile toy library activities, mothers’ counseling sessions, childcare lessons supported by the UNICEF, local-food cooking sessions, baby massages, fathers’ day event, nobody perfect lectures for mothers, refreshing with a balanced ball, etc. They also have seasonable events, such as a Halloween party, evening events with bon dancing, etc. One program which is not working well is one for fathers to come to play with children. Although a session is scheduled once every month, Kirarin Kids is debating whether they should continue to offer the program, since nobody attends the session. One new program is to have a bus tour to the Tohoku New Zealand Village. It was surprising to find that children are not used to ride a bus in a collective way, since their life is more based on a family car. They added some interesting events. They are also planning to offer a lunch time coffee once a month, a bazar for exchanging used goods, and dispatched childcare experts to temporary housing areas.
With donations coming from the GlobalGiving, the Kirarin Kids started offering IT lessons for mothers starting from Sept. 30, 2013 and meeting five times. The purpose was to provide some opportunities for mothers to lean the basic of the IT operations, so that they may find some job opportunities in the future. Another type of training session is to provide English lessons for both children and mothers, so that they can be exposed to international environments. Such an early start of English for children may also trigger their future interest in learning English.
The Kirarin Kids is highly active, trying to satisfy the needs of mothers and children in Rikuzen Takata. Despite these achievements, the future for them is not certain, greatly due to increased competition caused by the nursing school. The key difference is that Kirarin Kids try to promote good and natural environments to build relations between parents and children, while a nursing school rather simply functions to take care of children while mothers are out working. Kirarin Kids seems to be promoting highly important values in the community, while mothers are showing a preference to work by leaving children at a day-care center. Your donation to support the Kirarin Kids means not only to support efforts to create good community environments for nurturing children for the future, but also to support Kirarin Kids’ belief that happy and warm parents-children relations, as it was a tradition in the Tohoku area, are indispensable to nurture the good future of children. Your support for this belief is very much appreciated, since they have a long way to go for building a nice environment.
As usual, the “Kirarin Kids” has been active in not only offering regular children’s playroom services, but also arranging diverse programs for specific purposes every month. They arranged mobile library and toys services to come to their place and also offered seminars for child health by inviting medical doctors and health advisors. Especially these child-health-related services are highly appreciated by not only parents, but also the city government. A program called “Kirarin Mama” allows mothers to engage in diverse interesting activities which are not available in the area. For example, they offer aromatic experiences, refreshing exercises with balance balls and yoga, opportunities for learning how to wear a Japanese traditional kimono and how to cook traditional local food, which the local community keenly interested in maintaining their tradition. They also have seasonal events, such as planting potatoes and other vegetables, making Koinobori for Children’s Day on May 5, and creating presents for not only Father’s Day by female members, but also Mother’s Day by male members. What is impressive is that events for fathers have been significantly increased. This originally started as a program for fathers and children who lost mothers in the disaster. As I have reported earlier, it did not work, since hardly any father of this situation attends a session. Now, instead, a program called “Kirarin Papa” was introduced. Events are offered more frequently, creating an increasing number of opportunities for fathers to play with children. The program so far has covered such activities as fathers’ cooking class, fathers’ storytelling to children, and lessons on how to play with children.
The precious donation received from the 3.11 Japan Matching Campaign created interesting movements in the “Kirarin Kids.” Several female members expressed their interests in enriching the “Kirarin Mama” program, while the DSIA requested to use the donation for building the capability of people involved in the “Kirarin Kids.” Three Kirarin mothers are developing three programs by themselves. The first one is a computer course in cooperation with NEC. They would like to expand a course content which was previously offered by NEC, but this time with funding from the donation. The second one is to introduce English conversation class for both mothers and children, to which one English language school teacher kindly volunteered to teach. It may be quite interesting to see the outcome of this trial, since an English program for children up to age 3 is rather rare to be found in Japan, though it is naturally better to have children being exposed to English as early as possible. A part of donation money will be used for buying textbooks and covering the teacher’s transportation cost, a small amount since the teacher lives not far away from the Kirarin Kids. The third one is already offered in Otsuchi City. One bakery in Kobe volunteered to teach bread making, hoping his transfer of know-how will help the livelihood of people in the disaster-stricken area. He will give his know-how in ways that mothers, in the future, can sell bread to schools or shops, while mothers enjoy their own bread making. Once completing a program, mothers themselves receive a certificate enabling them to offer a bread making course to others. There may be some mothers’ ventures in the future. About cooking, another suggestion was made that they learn the cooking of local vegetables, and engage in creative cooking to produce “Kirarin Kids’ Recipes,” though they sounded more in favor of bread making, though. Well, it is interesting to see what the outcome of these activities will be. But at least, the three mothers are approaching quite creatively.
As the report here indicates, the director of the “Kirarin Kids” is managing well, generating gradual advancement in their programs, and successfully increasing the number of people helping her administration. But her worry does not end, since there are currently three similar organizations in Rikuzen Takata City. In the future, the City Government may reduce this number to a smaller number, since the number of children is declining. But at present, they seem to have unique advantages owing to the quality of their programs.
Thanks to all of your help, Kirakin Kids (KK) in Rikuzen Takata is now operating smoothly, and has expanded its working activities. In the past, with a limited number of staffs, they worked to their best, but resulting in the fatigue of staffs and some even leaving KK. They could not accept some program offers by outsider organizations. They now have more staffs than before to organize diverse activities, operating even on weekends, so that they can dynamically contribute to the local community.
As a part of the regular activities, KK had a reading session of children stories, local food tasting, birthday celebration, farewell mochitsuki (Japanese rice cookie making) party, a mother’s lecture on cosmetics, etc. But what is impressive is the increasing number of activity supports by diverse outside organizations and individuals. For the month of March, they had a dispatch of Toy Library organized by the Iwate Association of Speech-Language-Hearing Therapist, a play and balloon session by the Caring Crown Ton-chan (a famous team of crowns, visiting children’s hospitals and senior houses), and a counseling sessions by a pediatrician. The Griefcare Center of Sophia University again sent Sister Takaki to offer counseling to mothers for the third time. And DSIA also sent a counseling specialist, Prof. Mitsuru Hisada, of Sophia University, also for the third time. These special events filled the March calendar. Besides, KK continued offering a session for fathers by bringing a specialist on reading children’s picture books. They are planning to have at least one session per month for fathers in order to promote more active roles of fathers in childrearing. This event was originally planned for children and fathers who lost mothers, but this specific identification hindered fathers' participation, thus changed to a program simply for fathers to be with children.
KK now started preparing for its future development. They are preparing documents to be submitted to the Government of Japan, hoping their NPO status to be approved around this autumn. They now have an accountant to prepare for its NPO registration, and this status change is necessary to secure the continuous financial support from the city government. I am certain that they will be able to secure the status. Hope I can write to you about this good news soon.
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