Feb 24, 2015

First Steps

IsraAID Agricultural Project

Cabintan, Ormoc City, Leyte, Philippines

After securing funding and recruiting an Agriculture Officer, the process of data collection on climatic conditions and existing practices was resumed and taken to the next stage of development. The Agriculture Officer arrived in the area, and began daily visits and the development of a coordination mechanism with the relevant Ormoc Municipality departments. 

Typhoon “Ruby” made landfall in the Philippines in December 6, 2014. It made serious damage in the neighboring island of Samar. The storm created massive flood in the water source stream that resulted in a disabling damage to the pipe system inlet. The following week, 30 members showed for work on the pipe. The major assignment was to clear the vegetation covering the pipe’s path, since the pipe wasn’t flowing anyway due to the damage at the inlet.

Once the damage from Typhoon Ruby was repaired, and data analysis concluded, materials and equipments were ordered to launch the project. Until they arrive, the Agriculture Officer will begin household visits in the area to build trust and provide professional advice to local farmers.

Feb 2, 2015

Life Story Interviews

Since October, we have collected 42 additional video interviews with respondents in Tohoku to be added to the previous archive of some 200 interviews. Our 3 base points are the towns of Ishinomaki, Kesennuma, and Shichigahama. Briefly, we will describe these community archives and the developments that we have made to the project. Before doing so, we would like to introduce you to some of our respondents.


Meet Mr. Imai

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6 years ago Mr. Imai retired and returned to his hometown of Ishinomaki. He joined a local hiking club, and on March 11th, 2011 was on a trip to Kinkasan, a nearby island with a mountain overlooking the Oshika Peninsula. He had just descended back to the port and was waiting for the boat that would take his group back to the mainland when the earthquake struck. The water in the ocean receded, and Mr. Imai feared the worst. The hiking team quickly climbed back up the mountain for safety and witnessed the tsunami as it crashed into the island and mainland. His group was stuck on the island for a day, after which they finally made it back to the devastated town of Ayukawahama. He was stuck there for 3 days. Thanks to the assistance of a journalist with a contact to Tokyo, he was able to communicate with his son and later reunited with his wife. Luckily, Mr. Imai and his family survived. Today Mr. Imai continues to enjoy his retirement in Ishinomaki. We spent several hours interviewing Mr. Imai. He shared a great deal of information, not just about the disaster, but also about the history of Ishinomaki and his personal life. He remembers when Ishinomaki was a lively port town with horses transporting people through downtown. He hopes Ishinomaki will return to its former grace.


Meet Mr. Kisara

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Mr. Kisara is a resident of temporary housing in Shichigahama. He lives alone, and he very much enjoys the company of friends. His hobby is fishing, and he tries to make friends with fishermen, but it is difficult. He used to live in Rifu, a nearby town, and had lots of friends there. In his first year in the temporary housing, he was able to make many new friends. The residents said hi to him, and he felt welcomed. After the first year he was moved to another temporary housing unit. There it was more difficult for him to make friends. He goes out a lot to the Ramen shop, Mumen, a popular hangout in the temporary shopping mall. Soon he will move into a redevelopment apartment. He is a bit worried about this, as he thinks there will only be old people there, and once again it will be difficult to make friends.  


Meet Mrs. Oikawa 

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Mrs. Oikawa is an Ishinomaki local. At the age of 20 she left Ishinomaki, as she really wanted to live in Tokyo. Eventually she found a job with the Japanese Embassy, which brought her to Yugoslavia and Egypt. When her mother got sick many years ago, she returned from abroad to be with her family. Since then, she married and stayed in Ishinomaki. About 6 months ago, the elderly woman who ran the café she loved near her old junior high school was going to close the shop. She had never run a business or even made coffee before, but she decided to take over the café. Today she runs the Mimi no Ki Cafe, where besides just good coffee they have workshops and events. Once a month they have a musical event called Utagoekissa, where they play guitar and sing. Local artists also display crafts and pictures at the café. She hopes to bring in more young people to liven up the atmosphere.


Meet Mr. Sato 

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Mr. Sato is a local resident of the town of Karakua, who runs a surf shop in Kesennuma. Mr. Sato’s surf shop used to be in another location, but it was washed away by the tsunami. His current shop is in a building that is designated for demolition in March, and he needs to find another location for his shop. For over 20 years Mr. Sato has been surfing the coast along Kesennuma. Since the tsunami, he started the Asuwa non-profit organization, which conducts events and workshops for children. He has two young daughters, who also take part in the events. This past summer Asuwa helped organize the SUP (stand up paddling) workshops at the “Love My Beach Island Festival” on the island of Oshima, off the coast of Kesennuma. Asuwa also conducts workshops to teach children about local history and traditions. Nature is very important to Mr. Sato. He helps the children make gardens and wants them to understand the food chain, how the forest and sea are connected. He worries very much about the construction of concrete levees along the coast, which are destroying the nature.


How to Conduct Life Story Interviews


(An interview with Mr. Suenara from the NPO Second Harvest in Ishinomaki)

As evidenced by these examples, Voices of Tohoku is not just about the 3/11 disaster. Rather, we are collecting life story interviews. This interview is for the respondents and their communities. This is not a movie. Our audience is the person being interviewed and his or her descendants. Respondents are encouraged to talk about what they want to talk about, and not to talk about what they do not want to talk about. If they want to discuss their life as a child, because that makes them feel good, then we will conduct the entire interview about their childhood. If they want to discuss just what they are doing today to support their community, then that is fine. We try not to bring up the disaster, unless they bring it up. All of the respondents do discuss the disaster in some way or another, but it is very important to remember that there is a great deal more to one’s life than the 3/11 disaster.


(An interview with Mr. Endo from the Pikari NPO in Ayukawahama)

These interviews take a very long time, usually between 2 to 3 hours of just filming. We do not rush our respondents. We do not force them to answer specific questions or follow a consistent flow of storytelling. Sometimes respondents will jump from the present to the past to the future and then back to the present. Often we find that it is very conducive to not pack up the camera right away. We keep talking with them after the interview is completed, and then as we are talking off-camera they start discussing many other things that they forgot to talk about. We then turn the camera back on and resume filming.


(An interview with Mrs. Sato, who manages the fish shop at the Shichi no Ichi temporary shopping center in Shichigahama)

So how did we find these people? The majority of our contacts were initially found by volunteering in everything from debris removal to child care. From there we network with our contacts, developing a sort of snowball sampling whereby one respondent introduces us to the next. We spend a lot of time hanging out in the temporary shopping malls, and attending workshops, festivals, and other events. We make friends with the people in the shops and restaurants, and we introduce them to our project.

Oshika no Rengai

(Locals hanging out at the Oshika no Rengai Temporary Shopping Mall in Ayukawahama)

Interviews are preceded by an introductory meeting and followed up with an off the camera meal or night out. Many locals in Tohoku feel abandoned. Volunteers come once. Perhaps they will return a year later, but these people want to see the same faces, the same friends on a routine basis. They don’t just want us to know about them, they also want to know about us. They want us to really care about them and follow up with that relationship. In summary, the people that we filmed did these interviews because they also got to know us.


(An interview with Mr. Ogura at the Kesennuma Reconstruction Association)

The interviews are not complete until we provide respondents with the final product, a copy of their interview on DVD and a photo book that documents their community. The process of editing, burning, backing up, uploading, and delivering take at least a month to complete. Delivery often takes just as long as the interview, as we feel the need to hand deliver and spend time with our former respondent. We have also been taking photographs with the goal of creating community books for Kesennuma and Tagajo (of which Shichigahama is to be included as a suburb). Many of our respondents provided us with pictures or want to provide us with pictures to be used in these books. We look forward to updating you about the continuation of the archive.  


Thank you for your assistance


Jan 12, 2015

Ebola Heroes Sep-Dec 2014

Support group for Ebola Relief workers
Support group for Ebola Relief workers


An IsraAID Support Program for Ebola Affected Communities in West Africa

September-December 2014


The Ebola crisis in West Africa has had massive and devastating effects on the entire region. As of the 25th of November 2014 there have been 5,524 confirmed cases of Ebola in Sierra Leone, and 1,397 deaths (according to the Ministry of Health and Sanitation of Sierra Leone (MOHS)). In addition, the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) outbreak has also caused widespread stress and trauma in the affected countries, where families of infected patients have been completely isolated by their communities, with some even resorting to violence.  The crisis is compounded by the realities of the affected country, which has recently emerged from long periods of conflict and instability, has fragile health system structures and social protection networks, as well as limited human and infrastructural resources.

In September 2014, IsraAID arrived in Sierra Leone to support the psycho-social needs of affected communities, healthcare workers, and Ebola survivors.


During September 2014, an IsraAID team arrived to Sierra Leone for the first needs assessment following the Ebola outbreak.

Following IsraAID’s inclusive policy of corporate-based analysis and piloting, IsraAID’s team met and conducted introductory MHPSS workshops with different actors in the Ministries of Health and Sanitation (MOHS), Social Welfare, Gender, and Child Affairs (MSWGCA), and Education, Science and Technology (MEST) as well as the social work department in Fourah Bay College - the leading university in West Africa, as well as leading local and international actors such as G.O.A.L., UNICEF, WHO, AGI, and CDC to better understand the MHPSS needs and the capacity of local responders.

In October 2014, IsraAID was requested by the First Lady of Sierra Leone – Ms. Sia Koroma, a Psychiatric Nurse by profession, to develop a pilot 2-day workshop to introduce to national ministries basic notions of stress management, resilience, and self-care.  During this workshop, nearly 100% of participants (the First Lady included) expressed the need for more knowledge and practical tools to address the overwhelming emotional and psychological challenges created by the EVD crisis. In addition, during a segment on vicarious trauma, government officials (especially those from MOH) strongly advocated for training on self-care to support a health apparatus overwhelmed, exhausted, and traumatized by being on the frontlines of an emergency crisis for over 5 months. These needs were further emphasized during coordination meetings with national and international actors at the MHPSS pillar group, headed by UNICEF and the MSWGCA.

As a result, IsraAID was requested by the Office of the First Lady (OFL), and international actors, to take a lead role on MHPSS service-provider training and supervision.


The ultimate goal of the project is to mitigate the psychological impact of Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) on the affected population, emphasizing survivors and service providers.

To do so in a sustainable manner, IsraAID will focus on strengthening the existing MHPSS structures in Sierra Leone through capacity-building. At the same time, to respond to the immediate needs of the on-going EVD emergency, and to mitigate the already devastating social, psychological, and emotional impact of EVD on the affected populations, IsraAID will facilitate the establishment of peer-based support networks for EVD-related service-providers.

The main expected outcomes of the project will be that:

  1. EVD affected persons (including children and survivors, their families, and their communities) and relevant service providers have strengthened coping mechanisms and resilience, and are receiving appropriate MHPSS support.
  2. Service-providers involved in EVD mitigation are conscious of the dangers of vicarious trauma and are part of self-care peer-based support networks.


Since arriving in Sierra Leone in September 2014, IsraAID has accomplished the following:

  1. Needs assessment and introductory workshops
    1. IsraAID conducted several introductory sessions with operators from the 117 as well as INGO social workers.
  2. Awareness raising and sensitization of government ministries to the psycho-social impact of Ebola
    1. In partnership with the Office of the First Lady, IsraAID organized a 2 day workshop for 22 high level representatives of leading government ministries and organizations, organized and attended by the First Lady of Sierra Leone herself.
  3. Training and self-care for healthcare workers and service providers
    1. Pilot training workshops for 60+ social workers and counsellors from several international organizations
    2. Pilot 2 day training/self-care workshop for 23 healthcare workers from the PCM Hospital Ebola isolation unit in Freetown, Sierra Leone
    3. Facilitated 1 day of a 3 day workshop by the national Mental Health Coalition for 56 national PSS service providers
  4. Strengthening the capacity of the 117 national emergency call center
    1. Launching of a peer-support program for 150 call center operators
    2. Development of a training manual for the hotline training
  5. Psycho-Social Support (PSS) and self-care group facilitation for survivors
    1. Establishment of a 10 member survivor group in Freetown that meet regularly and are facilitated by IsraAID PSS Specialists.
  6. Engagement of social work students from local universities
    1. Oriented, interviewed, and selected 12 social work interns who will be trained and mentored by IsraAID’s psycho-social team.
Training for group facilitators
Training for group facilitators
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