Association for Aid and Relief, Japan (AAR Japan)

Association for Aid and Relief, Japan(AAR Japan) is a Non-Governmental Organization ( NGO ) aiming to provide emergency assistance, assistance to people with disabilities, and mine action, among other operations. It was established in 1979 as an organization with no political, ideological, or religious affiliation. AAR currently has offices in 10 countries.
Dec 5, 2016

Continuing Assistance in Iwaki City

On 19th November, AAR Japan visited Iwaki City located in the southeastern part of Fukushima prefecture on the Pacific Ocean coastline.

The Great East Japan Earthquake on 11th March, 2011 caused this city several cracks in the ground and violent mudslides among other disasters, completely or partially destroying almost 40,000 houses, the second-worst in all disaster-affected areas only after the massive scale of destruction seen in Sendai city in Miyagi Prefecture. The tsunami and mudslides caused by the earthquake led to the deaths of more than 400 people.

In addition to the direct impact of the earthquake, Iwaki city was heavily affected by the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. Soon after the nuclear meltdown, the northern part of Iwaki city was designated as indoor evacuation zone, driving almost 7,000 citizens out of the city.

The temporary housing complex we visited on 19th November, initially sheltered 72 households who evacuated from their houses in the disaster. Some of them managed to relocate to more permanent housing with or without government support. However, 64 households continue to live in the temporary housing complex today, most of whom are elderly over 65 years old.

To maintain physical and mental health of these disaster survivors who still remain displaced, AAR Japan is providing massages, calisthenics exercises, and health check-ups alongside active listening (counseling) sessions and other community events. Active listening sessions provide the participants with opportunities to interact with one another besides allowing them to pour their hearts out to counselors about the troubles and concerns that they usually keep to themselves. Massage sessions help the participants relax and promote conversations.

One of the participants (60s, woman), who evacuated from Namie-town, came with cold compress on the shoulder crying over its pain. After a massage session, she began to talk about her situation. She said she wanted to repair her house, but instead she and her husband would have to move to public housing in Nihonmatsu so that they can continue to take their grandchild to and from the same school. They look after their grandchild while the child’s parents live in Minamisoma-city, 90 km away from the school, for work. Although the parents wanted to relocate their child to live with them, they worry that the child became too shy after transferring schools several times.

Today, 12 people came to receive massages, and 13 came for counseling sessions, among whom some will remain in the temporary housing, some may relocate to new apartments built for disaster survivors, and others will return to their hometown after the evacuation order is lifted. For over five years since the 3.11 disaster, AAR Japan has continuously supported those affected by the Great East Japan Earthquake by adjusting its aid to serve the changing needs of each survivor.

Sep 7, 2016

Thank you for your support

Almost three months have passed since a strong earthquake shook Kumamoto prefecture. The quake has a recorded magnitude 7.0 on 14th April and another one which is almost the same level occurred two days later. At least 75 people were killed and 3,000 others were injured. There were more than 180,000 evacuees at the peak and 155,066 buildings and houses were destroyed (10th July, 2016).

In response, Association for Aid and Relief, Japan (AAR Japan) dispatched an emergency response team consisting of four staff members. They started serving meals at a makeshift soup kitchen on 15th April at Iino primary school in Mashiki town in collaboration with the Peace Project, a Japanese NPO.

With the help of local authorities, the AAR Japan team carefully selected the soup kitchen venues that were closest to the most vulnerable populations, such as the elderly and persons with disabilities, among the survivors.

Throughout the duration of the project, the Team conducted a total of 44 soup kitchens and distributed 18,710 hot meals. The Team provided a variety of meals such as curry, Yakisoba (fried noodles) and so on. The meals were distributed not only to evacuees at the evacuation center but also to people who live near the center. This is because it took for long time to recover gas and water. Some people formed line with pots to bring meals to their family members.

The meals were also delivered to welfare facilities where many were evacuated. Almost nobody could prepare enough food for everyone as these facilities were not designed to be temporary evacuation centers and their capabilities to accommodate the earthquake survivors are limited.

AAR Japan also distributed non-food items, with a focus on helping the elderly and persons with disabilities by providing sanitary items, water and other materials based on individual needs. AAR Japan also provided wheelchairs to one of the facilities for swift transportation of elderly people.

Once facilities for PWDs returned to their daily operation, the concern of the cracked buildings and damaged equipment became a major issue. Facilities in affected area called upon AAR Japan for support because the government subsidies for building repairs was limited. AAR Japan provided machines and equipment for one of the facilities where persons with disabilities make a living by making and selling hand-crafts, bento box and baked goods.

This was made possible by your support through Global Giving. We would like to express our sincere gratitude for your warm support. AAR Japan will continue to support people who began new life in temporally housing units in addition to support to the facilities for people with disabilities.

Aug 22, 2016

Visit in Fukushima with Grateful Crane Ensemble

  It’s been five years since the Great East Japan Earthquake, which caused multi-dimensional human catastrophes in the aftermath of tsunami, meltdown at nuclear power plant, and expansive radioactive contamination. Reconstruction/decontamination efforts have made progress while the majority of affected populations have long been displaced away from their home towns. For some, time has elapsed without any future prospect in sight.

  There still remain more than 150, 000 people in displacement today. The populations are predominantly elderly who were particularly vulnerable within the context of disaster recovery. Through the past half a decade, many have moved out of disaster relief temporary housings. A part of undeniable consequences of this was the fragmentation of families and communities that once held solid ties. Prior to the disaster, one family from grandparents to their grandchildren lived together under the same roof. Their communities were also close-knit that acted as a support system for everyone. Today, forced displacement that seemed indefinite has made many young families move away from their hometowns to seek a safer environment to raise their children. On the other hand, many grandparents decided to stay in hopes of going back home once the evacuation order is lifted. Nonetheless, many communities in the affected areas are on the verge of falling apart. It is evident in that less than a half of the original populations would make a decision to go back to their hometowns after the government announces the end of evacuation.

  Against this backdrop, AAR Japan is committed to keeping the communities together and attending to every person’s need in the final phase of disaster recovery. In cooperation with entertainers from home and abroad, we organize recreational events through which they often feel a strong connection to their homeland and culture.

  This past month, AAR Japan coordinated a self-funded Goodwill tour of the Grateful Crane Ensemble which is a non-profit theatrical company of Japanese Americans based in Los Angeles, the United States. In the spirit of reaffirming support and love for people in Tohoku in the midst of prolonged recovery from the disaster, we toured around four temporary housing facilities in Fukushima city, Soma city, Kawamata town and Nihonmatsu city through June 18 to 20. The group performed a repertoire of old Japanese pop songs, which symbolize for both performers and audiences pride and appreciation for the ancestral linage rooted in Japan such as “Like the Flow of the River”(),”Ringo Oiwake”(), “Kitaguni no Haru” (), “Sukiyaki song” (),”Furusato” () and so many more.Their singing inspired nostalgia and love for their homeland, and hope for the future. Many residents among the audiences had not had a chance to take part in live performances, let alone recreational activities. Many broke into tears. Many smiled. Many laughed. Many sang along. A small makeshift assembly room that stands in the middle of temporary housing facilities that are now half empty was filled with so much warmth and love. The audience in Kawamata town in particular was exceptionally ecstatic. They requested an encore after the performance was done.

   “I am very thankful for these people who came all the way from the United States just for us. I did not know the Japanese singer Misora Hibari was famous in the States,” said the woman in Soma city. A male participant in Kawamata town also said “we can’t communicate our thoughts to each other but our hearts became connected. I feel very close to them. I feel happy and supported. It’s a strange feeling but in a positive sense.” One of the members of the Grateful Crane Ensemble expressed to us that “I was thrown into shock at the sight of so many elderly residents who are still living in temporary living facilities. I was welling up while singing because I was able to feel and understand what they were going through. I cried because they cried. I was happy because they were happy. I want to continue to support these people even after I go back to Los Angeles.”

  AAR Japan places an important value on sending out message from Tohoku to let people in other countries know that the struggle still continues for those who were affected by the Great East Japan Earthquake in 2011. We will not let these people be left behind. We will continue to stand by them.   

 
   

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