In the wake of the Great East Japan Earthquake, AAR JAPAN has been providing equipment and supporting the repair and maintenance of approximately 50 social welfare facilities in the disaster-affected areas. One of the facilities we support is Huck’s House, a vocational center for persons with disabilities in Tanohata Village, Iwate Prefecture.
Before the earthquake, the facility’s users made calamari in a seafood processing plant, bread in a bread factory, and Japanese pickles in an agricultural processing plant, all of which were run by Huck’s House. The seafood processing plant brought in a significant income, but the seaside plant was totally destroyed by the March 11th tsunami. To compensate, the facility decided to expand the bread factory and agricultural processing plant, which fortunately escaped damage from the tsunami. The new buildings of the bread factory and agricultural processing plant were completed at the end of December 2011.
The users of Huck’s House were very happy with the new bread factory. While full production will commence once all of the new equipment is installed in May 2012, partial production has already begun using the existing baking equipment.
On January 31st, 10 elementary and 5 junior high school students from the neighboring special needs school attended baking classes led by the baking supervisors at Huck’s House. This was the students’ first time to bake bread. All of them were excited to put on white caps, aprons and face masks, and they listened carefully to the instructions of Mr. Hideki TAKESHITA, the factory manager. “Bread dough breathes,” he told them—and for a moment everyone was afraid to touch the dough with their hands. When facility manager Atsuko TAKESHITA told them that they could make their favorite shapes with the dough, the students smiled and quickly started to make their own original designs.
When the students were done, the tray was lined with shapes of bread that were unique in the world. One boy made his bread in the image of his favorite teacher’s face, planning to give it to him when it was done. Another boy made a rainbow of 7 different types of jam along a 30-cm length of bread, hoping to surprise his friends. One girl simply crammed the dough with as much jam as she could.
The 3 bakers at Huck’s House supported the elementary school students. Like dependable elder brothers, they carried heavy trays, spread the students’ requested jams, and helped students who couldn’t close their dough around their jam. The dough was placed in the oven, and the bread was ready a short time later. The students were happy first with the pleasant smells, and then to see their own unique designs.
Mr. Kiichi SOJIGAMI used to work at the seafood processing plant. “I was worried because I didn’t know when we could start working again,” he told us. “And we couldn’t see our colleagues because we needed to stay at home for a while after the earthquake.” Now he has started working at the newly-expanded bread factory. He told us enthusiastically, “I am learning now, but I want to be better. I’ll practice every day.”
Huck’s House has been selected to make bread for school lunch in the village, which is anticipated to offer a stable revenue stream. The neighbors both in the nearby temporary housing complex and in the local community are looking forward to having bread from Huck’s House, and the venue is expected to be a place for interaction in the community.
This project has been made possible thanks to many individual donations and through a grant from Japan Platform.
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