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Mar 4, 2019

Baseball Project Report Winter 2019

Thank you so much for your generous donations so far this year.  All your donations are helping us further prepare the 2019 Baseball Project for Natural Disaster Survivors for junior high school baseball players from Kumamoto and Tohoku.

 This Project will be held in Los Angeles this coming summer, which means we must complete all of the preparations and fundraising over the next five months.

 With your generous support, we will bring together and provide approximately 20 junior high school baseball players and their coaches from Kumamoto and Ishinomaki with baseball, leadership, teamwork, communications and disaster preparedness training and have them participate in a volunteer activity.  One of the former participants from Kumamoto who is now in high school will participate as well as an intern to learn further leadership, management and communications skills.

 This Project was inspired by Shohei Ohtani joining the Los Angeles Angels as a pitcher and designated hitter.  Ohtani is a hero and great inspiration in the eyes of many young Japanese players.  We thought how can we inspire these young baseball players to aim high and to be future leaders in their communities if we don’t aim high ourselves in organizing this Project. We are very excited to be organizing this Project so that these young baseball players can gain further confidence and life skills by training overseas and by training and playing baseball with their peers who are overcoming many challenges growing up in underprivileged communities in the greater Los Angeles area.  It will also be a very meaningful learning experience for their peers in the Los Angeles area who will be participating in this Project.

 Kumamoto experienced several earthquakes in April 2016 including a 6.2 magnitude (on the Japanese scale) earthquake on April 15th and a 7.0 magnitude earthquake (on the Japanese scale) in April 16th.  More than 50,000 people were evacuated from their homes and more than two years later many are still living in temporary housing.  Many of the buildings, including schools and the iconic Kumamoto Castle, were severely damaged.  Kumamoto is still very much a city undergoing long-term reconstruction.

 Ishinomaki in Tohoku was one of the areas most severely impacted by the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami.  A 33 foot wall of water traveled more than three miles inland leveling 80% of the homes and destroying many other buildings.  Eight years later Ishinomaki is still rebuilding and many are still living in temporary housing.

 In both cities, school buildings and sports training facilities were impacted.  For example, sports fields have been used as locations for temporary housing. 

 Since our last report, we have been very busy preparing for this Project.  There is still lots to be done by this summer!  We are meeting regularly with Major League Baseball representatives to organize the baseball training workshops.  In addition, we have are meeting with sponsors and potential sponsors to arrange for in-kind and other donations.  And we are in regular communication with the local junior high schools and junior high school baseball coaches.  Everyone is very excited about this Project and we are certain that these young baseball players from Japan and the United States will work very hard to learn as much as they can from this Project.

 We greatly appreciate your generous support and your making it possible for us to provide baseball, leadership, teamwork, communications and disaster preparedness training to all these promising young kids who are -- and will continue to be -- leaders and role models in their local communities. 

Jan 15, 2019

Disaster Recovery New Years Report 2019

Happy New Year! 

 This is the Year of the Inoshishi // Wild Boar in Japan and, energized and empowered by your generosity, we will work very hard throughout the year to find ways to continue supporting Tohoku. 

 It is hard to believe that it has been nearly eight years since the devastating earthquake and tsunami. You have helped us assure people in Tohoku that they have not been forgotten as they continue to overcome daily challenges in further rebuilding their lives. Recovery and rebuilding take years. People are still living in what was originally intended to be temporary housing and there are still significant housing, infrastructure, labor and other shortages in the region. In addition, with the passage of time and the occurrence of devastating natural disasters in other parts of Japan, the number of volunteers going to and the amount of charitable donations being made for Tohoku continue to drop.

 Since our last report, we have made two trips to Tohoku — bringing children and their caregivers from a children’s home and members of a boy scouts troop, each in the Greater Tokyo Area, to Miyagi Prefecture by bus to volunteer, gain greater confidence and learn about disaster preparedness. These volunteer trips and critical learning experiences are only possible with your generous donations.

 Late autumn and early winter are very busy times for farmers in Tohoku as it is when they must finish harvesting their crops, clear the fields and prepare the soil for next year’s growing season.  Labor shortages continue to make it very hard for local farmers in Tohoku to run their farms and in turn to further rebuild their lives. Many of the local farms are family run with one, two or three family members doing all the work themselves.  Growing rice, vegetables and fruit sufficient enough to earn a modest livelihood and to repay the significant debts they incurred after the earthquake and tsunami is very labor intensive and the local farmers cannot do all the work by themselves.  They need the continued support of volunteers.

 With your generous donations, Hands On Tokyo was able to bring the children, their caregivers and the boy scouts to Miyagi Prefecture to help local farmers, Saito-san and his wife, and the New Rice Center (NRC) in Yamamoto-cho.  The NRC is an agricultural association of local farmers who grow and promote local rice and local produce.

 In October, Hands On Tokyo brought 20 volunteers from a Greater Tokyo Area children’s home — including junior and high school boys and girls — to Yamamoto-cho.  We helped Saito-san by weeding greenhouses where Saito-san grows paprika plants.  Paprikas are his primary crop and main source of income with which to feed his family and to repay his bank loans. 

 In December, Hands On Tokyo brought 23 volunteers from a boy scouts troop in the Greater Tokyo Area to Yamamoto-cho.  Many of the boy scouts have volunteered with Hands On Tokyo in Tohoku before and volunteering in Tohoku is their favorite community service activity. This time we helped Saito-san by clearing a large field of dead eggplant plants. This involved disassembling metal poles that were used to suport the growth of the eggplants, gathering the poles and related supplies for next year’s growing season, digging up the dried plants and piling up the plants on the sides of the field.  It was very labor intensive and the boy scouts worked hard. They also learned an important lesson about sustainability and reusing what can be reused in our daily lives.  Afterwards the boy scouts enjoyed warm sweet potatoes with Saito-san that he had baked in an open fire by the field while we were volunteering.

 The local farmers always ask us to convey to everyone who supports our volunteer activities in Tohoku just how much they appreciate all the support.  What Hands On Tokyo volunteers are able to accomplish in a day would take the local farmers and their families many days to complete. The sound of children’s laughter Is also very healing in an area still recovering from the 2011 natural disasters.

 All of the children also received natural disaster awareness and preparedness training.  We took the children and the boy scouts to an elementary school near Yamamoto-cho which is now a memorial.  There the teachers, students and some local residents survived the tsunami by standing on the highest point of the school.

 Ogatsu in Miyagi Prefecture was completely devastated by the tsunami and is still far from being ready for reconstruction and redevelopment. 

 In October, Hands On Tokyo — with your generous support — brought children and their caregivers from a children’s home in the Greater Tokyo Area to do gardening at the Ogatsu Rose Garden Factory.  We removed rocks from topsoil and added fertilizer to prepare good topsoil for this coming year’s flower growing seasons.

 In December, Hands On Tokyo also brought a boy scout troop from the Greater Tokyo Area to Ogatsu.  We helped move timber and boulders for use in building new garden beds.

 A local resident built this garden near the land where her mother perished in the tsunami to calm the souls of those who perished in the tsunami and so that former residents and visitors can once again see beauty when they first enter Ogatsu.  It is also a place where families go to grieve the loss of their loved ones in the tsunami.  The garden keeps growing every year and now includes a small grove of olive trees. 

 Both times on the way to Ogatsu, we also stopped at Ogawa Elementary School to pay respects by offering incense and flowers to the souls of the teachers and students who tragically perished in the tsunami.

 These volunteer trips were very impactful on the children, their caregivers and the boy scouts. For the children who are the beneficiaries of volunteer activities at their children’s home, this volunteer trip was an opportunity to experience volunteering themselves, to gain new experiences and life skills and to gain further self confidence.  Thank you very much for your generous support in helping make all this possible.  The children greatly appreciate the opportunity and are still benefiting from all that they learned and experienced. Many want to volunteer again and they have encouraged others in their children’s homes and at their schools to volunteer in the future.

 There is still so much to be done and there are still many people in need of encouragement and support in Tohoku.  With your generous support, we will continue to organize volunteer trips to help farmers and others in Tohoku as they continue to work hard to rebuild their lives.

 Thank you very much in advance for your continued generosity, for touching the hearts and souls of so many people in Tohoku and for helping provide these life changing volunteer opportunities to so many children living in children’s homes and to other children in the Greater Tokyo Area. 

 Slowly but steadily the road to recovery is being paved. 

Dec 20, 2018

Youth Impact Report Winter 2018

Thank you to all our donors and supporters of the Youth Impact program. 2018 has proven to be a year of new landmarks for our program and students. Not only did our students volunteer, but they also lead and created their own programs and inspired their peers to also get involved. Additionally, our staff was able to connect with school administrations and establish meaningful partnerships to promote understanding and education.

 The Youth Impact program is fortunate to have students who regularly volunteer, are leaders of our volunteer projects, and are also our key promoters. Without their vocal advocacy and input, the Youth Impact program would not have been able to grow the way it has.

 We estimate that students all over Tokyo have volunteered 290 times with Youth Impact since January 2017. This figure discounts all the students that volunteered solely with Hands On Tokyo. Of those 290, 40 have become seriously committed to our projects, meaning they volunteer consistently and attend meetings. This committed group of students is also elemental in creating their own projects.

 Some of the project creation highlights of this year was a beach cleaning, an easter egg hunt and Christmas lesson with our vulnerable children. These events not only meet needs within the community, but also foster Youth Impact members` creativity and leadership. In 2019, we hope to give more students the opportunity to create their own original program.

 In addition to volunteer projects with Hands On Tokyo`s three core demographics, our LIVES Food Truck, a portable food that sells vegetarian dishes made by people with disabilities, has continued to expand. The project now includes 5 employees with varying mental disabilities and 16 students. In addition we were able to sell food at three university campuses. In 2019, we will be working hard to secure permanent location for our food truck on at least two college campuses. For more information, please check out our global giving page, LIVES Food Truck.

 Finally Youth Impact met its major goal of gaining sponsorship from school administrations. By tapping into our network, we were able to pursue partnerships with 5 universities, including special collaborations with the LIVES Food Truck.One international high school student focused on a potential paralympic and Youth Impact partnership in 2020, while Deakin University from Australia and Sophia University in Tokyo students learned more about the NPO industry in Japan, and helped us to find methods to attract more student involvement. In 2019, we will be looking to have more of these types of collaborations. We believe that students should not only use us as a resource, but we should learn from them as well. 

 In 2018, we proved what listening to student feedback can accomplish. We are an organization that prides ourselves on letting the student lead this program. In 2019, we will work hard to engage youth and give them the space to be leaders. We hope you will consider investing in them in the new year as well. We wish you a happy holidays and New Year.

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