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.
In two months, the disaster-stricken Tohoku will be holding the second memorial service of the Higashi Nippon Earthquake and Tsunami Disaster which took place on March 11, 2011. Although many people have found their daily routines and ways of sustaining their lives, situations for many have not really improved. To make the situation worse, supports to them are diminishing day by day, forcing them to face real struggles for survival.
Despite such difficulties, “Kirarin Kids (KK)” in Rikuzen Takada City is managing very well and is continuing to make extra efforts to continue their operations and provide indispensable benefits to the city.
The most significant event took place this January in Tokyo. Understanding the increased difficulty of providing sustainable support to KK, twenty three people who have in many different ways helped KK in diverse stages got together and formed a support organization which tries to pull together separately operated supports in a more organized way. The key actors will be three organizations of HANDS, the Niiza Childcare Center and the DSIA, and we invited staffs in KK to come to Tokyo on January 4, 2013, to express the firmness of our long-term support to them in front of them, and also discussed many issues for KK's long-term development. The three organizations will start periodically exchanging information.
Independent of such movements in Tokyo, KK has already committed to provide more services than people around them expect them to do. First of all, in addition to their routine of childcare sessions (toy play sessions, making traditional mizuki dango cakes, pounding rice cakes, singing children songs, aroma therapies, exercising with balance balls, etc.), they started new activities. One of them is fathers-children sessions. They now host periodic sessions to have fathers and children who lost mothers in the disaster come to their place, and facilitate interactions not only between fathers and children, but also among fathers with similar situations. Fathers seem to be more hesitant to come openly to show their situations and not to share their experiences with other fathers of similar situations. But KK decided to continue this type of sessions, not specifically targeting at fathers of concerned situations, but rather targeting any type of fathers who would love to bring their children to childcare sessions. They have already organized a session to play with blocks, and will host another session soon to have fathers and children jointly make soba noodles. They are still trying to develop a variety of activities to promote fathers/children interactions.
As another type of new activity, KK decided to create more employment to their client mothers. They are planning to increase a variety of special events so that more mothers can come in to help KK and make some extra income. This is greatly because keeping people in the disaster-stricken area is becoming increasingly difficult, despite demands for construction workers are increasing. Just about thirty percent of people who moved out of the disaster-stricken area reported not to come back to their original place. Given this situation, KK is trying its best through diverse activities to improve the attractiveness of the city.
As a part of such efforts, KK is now engaging in toy renting activities and is also requested by mothers in remote temporary housing areas to provide weekend childcare sessions. Hence, KK is now thinking of developing a remote childcare service system, to which the DSIA is newly requested to look for financial help.
The DSIA also has sent three teams of experts: (1) specialists from the Griefcare Institute of Sophia University to be with mothers of KK who suffered from the loss of family members; (2) a specialist to take care of child welfare, especially to offer advises to mothers in KK having special concerns; and (3) a specialist on child psychology to provide general advises to mothers in KK. KK’s responses to (1) and (2) were especially good. Hence, (1) is scheduled to visit there again right before the second memorial service.
Thus, the DSIA has seen radical improvements not only in developing the support system to KK in Tokyo in collaboration with other organizations and active individuals. But KK itself is now advancing their work into new fields to expand their activities. Supports to them have resulted in good responses and advancements. The DSIA has been very lucky to be able to work with such active and devoting people.
The Kirarin Kids (KK) in Rikuzen Takada, Iwate Prefecture, has been quite active, very much becoming a highly important partner for diverse activities for children in the area. In collaboration with other NGOs, it held a session on child allergies by inviting an expert in this field. In addition to such public services, they did engage in diverse impressive activities attractive to mothers and children. They organized sessions about baby massages, flea market, mothers’ coffee shop, a puppet show, a visit by a stuffed doll, parents-children exercises, aroma classes, parents-children cooking sessions, KK OG meetings, etc. These activities are really attractive and beneficial to both children and parents. KK seems to be organizing many events very well. The Head of KK was also a presenter about children’s needs in the disaster-stricken area in a conference on childrearing held in Ofunato City, Iwate Prefecture, on September 8 and 9, 2012. Despite such successful operation, they are facing a shortage of work staff, and KK is trying to figure out its future direction. Thus, to make sure that the KK can operate smoothly in the future and hire better paid people, the Niiza Network and the DSIA are exploring better legal alternatives for its organization to change in the near future. And this is becoming a new and next target for its development. The DSIA is also helping to look for some fund for implementing this transformation.
Capability building of KK staffs is now conducted in full gear. The most important part is conducted by the Niiza Childcare Network. Programs are diverse: (1) On July 17, the Network arranged a lecture by a professor from the Kuwansei Gakuin University to discuss about diverse practices of local childcare support in Japan; (2) From Oct. 16, the Head of KK started enrolling in a distant education program to prepare for an examination which officially certifies Childcare Specialist; (3) the Network invited a specialist who can offer a “Nobody is Perfect” training; and (4) the Head of KK visited the Niiza Childcare Network in Niiza City,Saitama Prfecture, to see diverse Niiza facilities and learn about their operations and practices. Naturally, all of these activities are funded by the DSIA, some via the Niiza Network and some directly. KK also conducted computer lessons to mothers in cooperation with NEC, so that they can also start looking for some means to support themselves. KK takes care of children, while mothers are getting computer lessons.
As another dimension of capability building of KK staff, the DSIA was planning to bring professionals from Sophia University in Tokyo to give some public lectures related to human care in the disaster-stricken area. Partly because of limited human resources on the part of KK to organize such public presentations and partly because of professionals’ interest in learning about situations in Rikuzen Takata and providing personal care to those who are in need, the DSIA arranged professionals’ visits in a way that each professional can interact with people in the KK. One type of support for capability building is conducted by the Director of the Institute of Grief Care, Sophia University. She visited KK once to discuss with mothers about the loss of family members. She found that one and a half years after the disaster, many people started having another stage of grief, since they have been pushing themselves hard to overcome their grief and maintain their living. Now, they are relaxed to some extent, but the refreshed memories of their lost ones and difficulties after the disaster are now coming back and are creating a new stage of psychological difficulties. Some mothers started openly, but personally, expressing their feelings and concerns, especially to the Director. Staffs are learning from the behavior of the Director, who talks to mothers in a very natural way, easing their grief and feelings.
In another occasion, one professor specializing in Child Psychology looked for ways to interact with mothers and children by talking to KK staffs one day. He visited the second time to actually interact with mothers and children, finding that KK is providing valuable place for mothers to relax, exchange information, and make friends. He had conversation with a few people, exploring ways for him to provide some psychological counseling. In this process, he also found that the head of KK is overworked and quite tired. He hopes in his second visit to be able to more closely interact with mothers and children, so that we know in a long term what we can do to help to ease psychological problems of people there.
In another occasion, one professor specializing in Child Welfare learned from KK staffs that one child is behaving a little bit differently from other children. He will visit when that child will come to KK to look at the situation and provide some counseling.
The visits of these three professionals from Sophia were to explore potential roles as specialists to provide some help to KK staffs to be able to handle post-disaster situations. There was an immediate appreciation to the grief care specialist, but two other specialists are still exploring ways to provide some kind of counseling at KK. Such help not only gives KK staffs some idea of how to cope with problems in an unusual context of post-disaster, but also gives some prominence of KK in the community by the fact KK’s activities are well supported by professionals.
Since “Kirarin Kids (KK)” moved into a new government-provided temporary shop area, called “Takata Ohsumi Tsudoi no Oka Shotengai,” it is fully in operation with three full-time staff, one helper, and one volunteer. In the opening events on June 2 and 3, 2012, KK invited three character performers from Yokohama and Nara who helped them soon after the Tsunami disaster, and offered diverse activities to children, such as picture-story shows, scooping super balls, etc. A large number of children gathered to enjoy new programs offered by KK.
In addition to regular activities to take care of children, they engage in diverse extra activities to live up children’s daily living. In June, they conducted a lecture on children’s medicine, a concert, aroma lessons, an excursion, etc. They also held special sessions for mothers and fathers separately. Especially the latter is new and important to bring more fathers’ attention to child rearing. In addition to regular activities, they started offering events considered highly important for child rearing presently. Actually, they are offering some new programs which are rather rare to be found in Tokyo.
In July, they newly organized parents-children exercise lessons by inviting an outside lecturer, child counseling sessions by inviting a professional counselor, lessons on baby massage, etc. Despite the busy schedule, they made sure to have some staff training sessions as our “Kirarin Kids” project intends to do. Especially, the Niiza Childcare Network offered several training sessions traveling from Saitama Prefecture to Iwate Prefecture.
In August, though less active due to a summer break, in cooperation with NEC KK plans to offer two-day IT classes for mothers, whose employment opportunities are hoped to be increased. For fathers, they will invite a male childcare professional to teach how to play and dance with children and read stories to them. Again, they are pioneering on newly propagated types of activities.
Given such good programs they offer, they generated good reputation, spreading even outside of Rikuzen Takata. Consequently, they successfully increased the number of members from 49 before the move, to 65 after the move, including some from outside of Rikuzen Takata. Their good reputation also ended up inviting public requests for supporting symposiums, lectures, and shows to be held in Rikuzen Takata. For example, on Saturdays in September, they are requested to support a consulting session on children’s allergy, a symposium on supporting children in disaster-stricken area, a 22 man puppet show, etc.
This success, however, is generating a new problem to them. Members are overworked and started losing time to be with their own children. KK is reaching a critical moment of decision making, whether to reduce their activities or ride on their reputation. But the key difficulty is whether they can have enough funding to have more fully-paid staffs to support such activities. As it is clearly a case of success, a new phase requires more funding and staffs. They have done an excellent work within a short period of time despite difficulties they faced, and thanks to your financial support they managed the present transition fairly well. However, given their new challenges, your future support to KK, enabling them to employ more full-time staffs is highly appreciated. Your contributions may make difference on their future.
The capability building of Kirarin Kids staff by the Niiza Childcare Center was postponed until around the late May, partly due to a Kirarin Kids' move to a new and bigger place constructed by the Rikuzen Takada City Government, and partly because the arrival of a financial support to them from the Japan Disaster Relief Fund Boston was also late to arrive. Despite so, the DSIA already had a few meetings to discuss our training plan with Kirarin Kids' staff and the Niiza Childcare Network. As soon as the move to a new place is completed, we will be starting our training in a little bit smaller capacity, since we could not secure the full amount of support we hoped to have. But for the next six to seven months, we will be engaging in training, arranged by the Niiza Childcare Network with a full speed and capacity. The Sophia University volunteer team will visit Rikuzen Takada around September and October in about three occasions to provide professional training in the fields of grief care, PTSD, and child welfare. We are hoping these professional training to Kirarin Kids's staff provided by the Niiza Childcare Network and Sophia University voluntary team will be of great help to build Kirrin Kids' capability to engage in childcare support in the unusual context of difficulties in disaster-stricken Tohoku.
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