Trucks busy for raising the land level
Kirarin Kids (KK) are, as usual, introducing new programs. One is a monthly program, named “Hallo-Baby for Pre-Mama Day,” which is to provide care to ladies in maternity and child rearing since April 2017. One childcare NPO which has been offering maternity and childcare programs in Oofunato City with the population of 37,000 closed this year, and no organization is now offering the program. Since the government is promoting the support of ladies in maternity and child rearing, hoping to increase the number of toddler population, KK decided to go beyond their original organizational orientation by offering a similar program offered by the closed NPO. The program includes the exercise with a balance ball, the creation of decorations, a talk by a nurse on child skin, etc. The most attractive feature is where ladies in maternity and child rearing can obtain helpful information, experience diverse practices, consult with experienced mothers, etc. Response to this challenge has been much higher than expected, suggesting the existence of high needs by ladies in maternity and child rearing.
The rural area is known for the scarcity of pediatricians, and Rikuzen Takata is not an exception. There is only one hospital which has a pediatrician. A large number of children with mothers wait for their turn to be examined. The examination time is rather short, and hardly any time is given for consultation. KK’s second new attempt is to introduce “Children’s Health Saloon” where mothers can hear lectures on health and have consultation with specialists. For example, in June, KK arranged a specialist to come to lecture on children’s sickness during summer and provide consultation. In the past, one big NGO from Tokyo has been conducting this type of program in cooperation with KK. But now, it withdrew its support and KK decided to offer the same program on their own. This is greatly because KK recognizes the importance of local actions by local people for promoting residents’ understanding and maintaining their health conditions. People are interacting with specialists actively in a relaxed manner unlike what they face in a hospital.
Another new attempt is “Parents-Children Concert.” It is a rare opportunity for children to listen to actual performances of piano, flute, percussion, etc. It is extremely rare to have professional artists to come to Tohoku. While they play music instruments, children freely move around, dance, and even sleep through. In cooperation with other organizations, KK succeeded to bring in touring professionals to stop by at Rikuzen Takata on their way to other places. Its attempt now has a very big meaning to rural community.
After six years of raising land level in the destroyed coastal area, a new shopping mall was finally opened on the raised part. It is called “Apasse” which means “Going together” in local language. Reaction to this building on a destroyed area was diverse. Some people was very happy to see the evidence of recovery and redevelopment. Some recollected terrible experiences, while some still have a fear coming close to the ocean side (Picture 1 and Picture 2). While many construction activities are taking place, it is difficult to find a way to reach “Apasse.” KK offered their parents-children interaction programs in an open space of “Apasse,” hoping to attract people to come to the building and become familiar with this new place of social interaction, another new step for recovery and redevelopment.
On the day the author visited, KK was offering a service of hand massage, getting the participation of parents and children. This service is to have mothers spend a relaxed moment, offered by a shop established after the disaster. This opportunity also enables the shop to be known to people in the area. Given a relaxed environment, children smiled and interacted happily with other children. Looking at them, mothers also smiled and felt happy, generating an unusually heart-warming environment (Picture 3 and Picture 4). KK staffs are working very hard to create such an open and unusual environment.
A question is asked what efforts KK staffs pay to create such a nice environment. They responded that they are trying to create an image that Rikuzen Takata is a city very nice and easy to raise children by responding to the needs of parents and children. In frank and daily conversation with parents and children, they are picking up tacit information through interactions.
In June, there will be a big event for KK. There used to be a very big Summer Festival along the coast lasting over one week by blocking roads. After the disaster, no festival was revived except one-day July-Festival, organized by KK. They are expecting several hundred visitors to be organized by about 40 helpers. All children will enjoy and remember as a good memory of their youth period in the city. This is also a part of KK’s struggles to contribute to developing Rikuzen Takata City as a place where childrearing can be nicely and easily done. KK is undeniably one of the key actors in such activities.
Land Waiting to be Raised
Mother Relaxing with Hand Massage
Babies' Heart-Warming Interaction