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.
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