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.
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