August 2011 Tohoku
Our project co-leader, Mike Maher King, has recently moved to Sendai in order to work closely with 19 children's homes in Miyagi, Iwate, and Fukushima prefectures. During the week of 8/8/11 Mike will be driving to all homes to meet (once again) with home directors and to deliver various donations for their children. For this particular trip, Mike will be delivering new clothing for kids (mostly winter wear for 2012) as well as toys.
Since April 2011, our organization has been working with these 19 children's homes to find out what their immediate and long-term needs are for their children. These needs have ranged from very basic items to more enriching program support (tutoring, camps, art workshops, etc). Not all of the homes have provided full details of their needs, but our goal is to have a starting base of information from all 19 homes by Fall 2011.
Based on personal communications with homes, and completed needs assessment surveys by many of the home directors, we have been able to learn about many needs and have purchased and arranged for the delivery of the following for Summer 2011 across the 3 prefectures:
The above is just the beginning of our organization's support plans for children's homes in Tohoku... once this first phase of (mostly) 'tier one' support is carried out, our organization will look to deliver more enriching-type programs such as more camps, snowboarding trips, arts therapy workshops, yoga classes, tutoring and computer labs through 2011 and well into 2012.
Upon clearance from the children's home staff (if permission is in fact granted), we will post photos from some of the programs and support delivered to date. Children's homes are very careful to ensure the privacy and security of their children. Only photos of children approved by the homes will be allowed to post here on GlobalGiving.
When the Tohoku Kids' Support Team went on their first early support run to the Tohoku region, Field Leader Michael Maher King spent time with children and adults at a make-shift shelter and children's home in Kesennuma. Aside from delivering very basic supplies (food, drinks, clothing, toys), this time was spent connecting with survivors and hearing their emotional stories--often told in a very stoic manner and always showing tremendous resilience and courage. Here are a few snippets of their stories...
- Kei, 19 year-old who is volunteering in Dai-ichi shelter in Rikuzentakata. He spoke quite openly about losing many childhood friends and helping his family escape to higher ground. What is so special about Kei is that he's volunteering his time to teach kids in the shelter 'acapella' singing. He said, "you can't cry forever, it hurts a lot but I have to try and live my life and do what is best for my town."
- Very young boys (3-5 year-olds) were playing chess (or at least trying to!) when Michael Maher King sat down with them to ask how they were doing. One boy replied, “I’m okay, but my father is missing and my house is gone too." The other said that he had also lost his home. They then played rock-scissors-paper to see whose turn it was at chess and were giggling with each other about 10 seconds later as one was trying to explain the rules of how to move a rook. A perfect example of the importance of kids having space to be kids and the need for them to play. Further, it shows the importance of someone to be there to ask how they are doing at a time they want to talk about it.
- Akari, Junior High School student, also working with Kei teaching acapella, told Mike she was trying to stay strong for the younger kids. And then went on to say her sister's cremation was the very next day.
- Shimizu-san – 74 year-old who was a dance teacher and was looking after 2 kids that lost their parents – Naho and Takahashi Tsuchihiya (story also reported in Mainichi Shinbun). She said that their grandparents were coming soon and they may be living with them but she wasn't sure. Shimizu-san is just one extraordinary example of the Japanese spirit--truly looking out for one another without a second thought.
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