Three years have passed since the great earthquake on March 11, 2011. We lanuched Tohoku Fellowship Program to suppor recovery efforts by dispatching young professionals to good leaders in Tohoku.
We have sent 182 Fellows to 102 projects in 22 municipalities seriously damaged by the earthquake, tsunami and accident of the nuclear plant. This program could have met human resource needs in Tohoku, where the aging rate is high.
We have made a report on 3 years of this program. To share the progress with overseas donors, the report is written both in Japanese and English. Please see the report to catch a glimpse of Tohoku's recovery.
Before 3.11, Gouta Matsumura, the president of ISHINOMAKI 2.0, used to support communities in the coastal city of Ishinomaki. The earthquakes and tsunami on March 11th severely affected his office, which was situated nearby a river, causing flooding on the ground floor and demolition of nearly the half of the building. In the beginning of the disaster recovery, he was working hard to clean mud and rubles. Gradually, more and more people, including volunteer staff from less affected regions, also joined the cleaning.
Ishinomaki city, Miyagi prefecture was enormously damaged by the earthquake on March 11, 2011. Tsunami destroyed almost all area of the center of Ishinomaki city except uplands. Out of a population of 160,000, about 4,000 people were killed or went missing. About 25,000 houses were completely or partially destroyed.
In 2013, Mr. Daigo Hashimoto, who had worked in Ishinomaki as a Fellow, launched “Local Health Support Project” in the north area of Isninomaki city, where the population aging rate approaches to 30%. This project aims to promote better health of local people. He came to Tohoku in May 2011 as a Fellow. Utilizing his expertise as a physical therapist, he supported rehabilitation program in temporary housings, while coordinating volunteers. After his working period as a Fellow, he decided to stay at Ishinomaki city in order to launch the new project. ETIC supported him through our incubation program in Tohoku.
In “Local Health Support Project”, they provide day service to elderly people. They also developed fitness program for rehabilitation to prevent elderly people to fall sick and rely on the nursing-care insurance support. Six months have passed since the launch on May 2013, and now about 40 people aged among 40s to 90s use their services.
They also hold exchange events with local users, and help to establish network among local experts of medical and nursing care fields. They plan to involve local inhabitants as health supporters and to construct environment for local inhabitants to take care of their health by themselves.
“There are many aging areas and depopulation areas across Japan. I want to expand our model to other areas” Mr. Hashimoto says.
Kesennuma city is one of the worst-hit places in the Japan’s quake disaster, extremely damaged by tsunami and widespread fire. Kesennuma city reported more than 1,000 of its 70,000 citizens were dead and the figure of damaged housings rose to at least 15,000.
In Kesennuma city, “Smart City Project” was launched through collaboration between the local government and local companies. The project aims to promote city-planning including energy system redesigning and community building.
Mr. Masaki Takahashi, a president of Kesennuma Regional Energy Development Co., has been working on a new challenge to promote and industrialize renewable energy system with utilization of woody biomass. With a concept of “For the city of Forest, Ocean and Mountain”, Mr. Takahashi established a project to create biomass fuels using woody pellet from local thinned wood as an energy source. Electronic power plant using local unutilized wood resources is an unprecedented attempt in Japan.
They started “Forest Academy”, including a training lecture of how to use a chain saw, has brought a connection between local forest owners and those who want to start forestry business. They also created a monetary unit of local currency “Reneria” in order to circulate the benefits of the forestry business within the local community. As of now, Reneria can be used in more than 180 shops in Kessennuma city.
Ms. Yuko Goto joined this project as a Fellow from May 2012 after 15 years of engagement as a system planner in a big enterprise in Tokyo. Utilizing an abundant experience of designing operation and system development from past carrier, she took charge of developing the supply system of woody biomass fuels. She played a critical role in executing questionnaire surveys, holding training lectures, making purchasing rule of thinned wood and managing monetary unit of local currency. As a result, about 70 people participated in the workshop and they could gather 600 tons of lumber, which was a lot more than they had expected.
She is still remaining in Kesennuma city and continues implementing the project after one year Fellowship period.
Seitaro Kuroda, Rikuzentakata Shopping Street Project
Before the earthquake, Rikuzentakata city in Iwate prefecture, one of the areas where we send Fellows, had a population of 24,246. By the disasters, 1,787 inhabitants died or went missing. In addition, over 1,000 inhabitants have moved out of city after the disaster.
As we have reported in the past report, “Rikuzentakata Shopping Street Project” was launched to build new shopping street using containers and prefabricated building in Rikuzentakata city, with shop owners who suffered devastating damage from the disaster.
Finally, the shopping street held its grand opening in March 2013, two years after the disaster. They aim to rebuild the shopping street as a fun community place to stay for local inhabitants, from children to elderly people. They hold events where local people can gather together—for example, “Kesen morning market”, which has a 300-year-old history in Rikuzentakata.
Mr. Seitaro Kuroda, who had been thinking of working for local revitalization, took part in this project as a Fellow last July. He is in charge of fundraising and PR, and conducted opening events.
*Please check their Facebook page to see latest pictures!
Takuya Yaguchi, Iwaki Organic Cotton Project
Iwaki city in Fukushima prefecture is another area where we send Fellows. Since they accommodated the refugees from the nuclear disaster, their population has increased by 25,000 people. Now the friction between local people and refugees from other area is becoming a serious issue in the city.
“Iwaki Organic Cotton Project” cultivates organic cotton in deserted arable land, and develops products. The project provides opportunities for both local people and refugees to communicating with each other. Through these activities, they try to ease friction in the community while conserving farm land.
Mr. Takuya Yaguchi participated in this project as a Fellow January 2013. His main roles are managing cultivating plan for their 15 farms and planning how to sell their products. He is also promoting collaboration with other organizations in Fukushima prefecture.
*Please check their Facebook page to see latest pictures!
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