Jul 12, 2017

Struggling to Create Child Rearing Environments

Trucks busy for raising the land level
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
Land Waiting to be Raised
Mother Relaxing with Hand Massage
Mother Relaxing with Hand Massage
Babies' Heart-Warming Interaction
Babies' Heart-Warming Interaction

Links:

May 22, 2017

Smiles Returned to Those Who Lost

In Front of Children's Life Education Center
In Front of Children's Life Education Center

The Kamaishi Kitchen Car Team entered Mashiki-cho as the seventh support trip since the Kumamoto Earthquake between April 14th and 17th, 2017. And this is the third support trip funded by GlobalGiving. As the first work, the Team had to repair kitchen cars they have left for Kumamoto kitchen car group to use for free. The high cost repairs, using money provided by the GlobalGiving, was an enormous help to Kumamoto Kitchen Car operators, since they do not have enough fund for operating kitchen cars.

One year has passed since the Kumamoto Earthquake, expecting many events to commemorate the disaster. Especially because of many events planned in Mashiki-cho, the Kamaishi Team visited this time where no media picks up as a rural news or no singer or movie star visits to express their supports. The place is the Children’s Life Education Center (Children’s L.E.C.), operated by a Christian organization, which provides secluded environments to children and families, having psychological or emotional problems due to difficulties encountered in their lives. In many cases, they are the victims of domestic violence and unusual family situations. The organization is not providing any treatment based on drug or operation, but it rather helps patients to develop a rhythm in daily living in secluded environments to restore their psychological order. For those who have graduated from the center, the organization also continues to provide counseling to make sure they do not have recurred problems.

The Kamaishi Kitchen Car Team visited there twice in the past, when they still had temporary houses to disaster-stricken people. In the past, staffs there were highly sensitive to prevent their children having any direct contacts with people in the temporary housing. Even though the Team provided attractive foods, such as chocolate-covered bananas, yakisoba (fried noodles), ox tongues, etc., often sold in festivals, the only information the Team received in the past was that children enjoyed a lot. The Team was never allowed to meet children. However, this time, when the Team offered the same food as it did before, for the first time, children came out and showed the Team their beautiful smiling faces. It was an enormous joy for the Team. But hearing about their psychological difficulties due to their past experiences from the center staffs was really a shock. Knowing their problems, their bright smiles really meant the expression of joy from the bottom of the heart. And their unusual smiles gave the Team an enormous reward, very difficult to be described. Children’s return of smiles on their faces, which they lost in their lives, really meant enormous reward to the Team’s support activities. While the Team was providing a chance of enjoying festival food, they were rewarded by the blessing of beautiful and genuine smiles.

One of success stories of rebuilding Kamaishi is “Kamaishi Yoisa” which performs a festival dance with the participation of a large number of Kamaishi residents and street-side watchers, many from the outside of the city. The Yoisa Festival they organizes strengthens people’s spirit for and commitment to rebuilding Kamaishi, creates business opportunities, and stimulates local economy. Appreciating the fortunate outcome of the festival, they thought of supporting disaster-stricken Kumamoto people by creating special goods and providing donations. This time, the Kamaishi Kitchen Car team carried the donation from Kamaishi Yoisa to a group of young people in Mashiki-machi who developed a movement called “Revival Mashiki.” They are expanding and developing diverse activities to stimulate community movements, while they are trying to learn from Tohoku experiences in rebuilding their communities. The Kamaishi Kitchen Car Team, supported by GlobalGiving, is actually conveying valuable lessons from Tohoku and is providing highly timely supports for community rebuilding. The “Revival Mashiki” team is now really challenging the difficult task of community redevelopment, owing to a strong support from the Kamaishi Kitchen Car Team funded by GlobalGiving.

Small support activities became the source of enormous joy and stimulation for community redevelopment activities. The Kamaishi Kitchen Car Team, without any intention of doing so, actually played highly important and indispensable roles for disaster-stricken Kumamoto people.

Donation by Kamaishi Yosakoi
Donation by Kamaishi Yosakoi
Kitchen Car Operation
Kitchen Car Operation
Broad Casting about Kumamoto Kitchen Car Operation
Broad Casting about Kumamoto Kitchen Car Operation

Links:

Apr 18, 2017

Building New Locally-rooted Childrearing Community

Preparation for Koinobori Corner
Preparation for Koinobori Corner

Kirarin Kids (KK) organized quite many events in the past three months, such as parents-children communications through food, mother’s relaxation exercises, lessons on children’s physical growth, etc. For example, fathers and children got together to make soba (buckwheat noodle). Soba making was very popular because it becomes an opportunity for fathers to enjoy cooking. Since many parents have some worries about the growth of their children, lectures and consultation by public health nurses and medical specialists were helpful to parents. KK now has fixed this event’s schedule to offer on the every fourth Mondays, trying to give a peace of mind to mothers by offering consultation. This will create a good environment for childrearing in Rikuzen Takata.

The City Office is still housed in a temporary facility after six years, and presently has not even arranged a new location for rebuilding the office. Currently discussed are several locations, such as the center of newly raised land beside the sea, the present location, the place of unused elementary school, etc. To absorb people’s opinion on this issue, the Mayor and other city officials requested KK and other organizations to organize discussion sessions with them, especially focusing on difficult issues of a place safe from Tsunami, convenience or lower construction costs. Opinions were diverse, characterizing the existence of highly democratic environment in this city. This is precisely the type of democratic community environment which KK can contribute to build by making such meetings as a regular event of KK. Such meetings will link the city government and people and encourage people to think about the community policies. And an interesting perception of KK is that such activities are not separate from, but rather an extension of parents-children relations.

April is the time KK has graduates and new comers, and for their convenience KK now starts one hour earlier. However, their situation seems to be changing. With the shortage of workforce, many housewives are now wanted as regular or part-time workers. This newly arising situation seems to be reducing the number of parents and children attending daily activities, not special events. They are bringing children to nursery schools during their working time. Some kindergartens did not reopen after the Tsunami wiped away their facilities. But now with increased demand for nursery schools, even former kindergartens started to reopen as nursery schools. The shortage of labor is becoming a serious problem in the city. For example, no one applied for one shop which opened in April 1. They had to make a new offer. Another example is that one lady dental assistant could not get a full maternity leave and had to come back to work earlier due to the shortage of assistants.

Despite such situations, some mothers having multiple children are finding KK more convenient by bringing all children together in one place and have them play with others. In this sense, KK is an ideal place for keeping parents-children relations, while children themselves can play with their playmates. 

In the latter half of April, a new shopping arcade, called Apasse, will open in one corner of a huge land-level-raised area. There KK is planning to offer “One Day Kirarin Event” for children to play in a large space, intending to prevent isolation of parents and children from a newly developing community in a newly rebuilt and opened area. Since it will be held during Children’s Holiday in May, KK is preparing an event for children to make a Koinobori, which shows a carp bravely swimming up a fall (see a picture of preparation).

Even after six years, Rikezen Takata City looks like a construction site where dump cars busily come and go for continuously raising the level of land (see a picture of how raised land looks like). On this raised land, a big commercial complex and a library will be constructed soon, making people picturize a look of soon appearing shape of a city (see a picture of a planning map). The representative of KK recollects that we used to live in a culturally rich environment, where we had cultural facilities and transmitted our traditional culture from generation to generation. However, the situation is quite different now. With regard to one type of traditional dancing, the leader passed away and nobody is continuing the activities she built up, simply because everybody now lives in scattered places. It is not just possible to continue or transmit our culture, since they used to practice every night. Children also play important roles in these activities, and have valuable opportunities to interact with older generations and learn traditional dancing. Such activities enable children to be involved in community activities, which actually symbolized “Childrearing in a Community,” precisely the goal of KK activities. Although such traditional way is unfortunately dying away due to the Tsunami Disaster,  KK is rebuilding a new type of childrearing community in a way local young mothers wish them to be and also by mixing deliberate efforts to mix modern and traditional activities.  

How Raised Land Looks Like
How Raised Land Looks Like
Map of Community in Near Future
Map of Community in Near Future

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