Updates from Japan Relief Projects

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.   

Aug 16, 2016

Healing Japan, Together!

Photo by Japan IsraAID Support Program
Photo by Japan IsraAID Support Program

On August 15th, 2016, Japan braved another earthquake- this time of 5.6 magnitude. Although no damage has been reported, it serves as a reminder of the lives changed in past earthquakes. Beginning with donations right after the 2011 earthquake and tsunami to the present, your donations to the Japan Earthquake and Tsunami Relief Fund have supported those impacted every step of the way. Donors like you have provided more than $9 million worth of healing in the region!

As one community therapist said in a report written by Japan IsraAID Support Program, "Just yesterday, she [a patient] finally started to talk about that day - after almost 5 years." Today, we want to share the important work of four nonprofits committed to mental healing. Thank you for standing by them!

Japan IsraAID Support Program’s mission is to build a capacity for trauma-care, PTSD prevention, coping and resilience in Japan by using foreign and local knowledge and methods. Their most recent report shared that, “in the past 4 years, more than 3,500 Japanese survivors, disaster supporters, and mental health professional have participated in HJ trainings.” Just between March and June 2016, Healing Japan worked with 72 clients and survivors.

Association for Aid and Relief, Japan (AAR Japan)’s project aims to encourage the evacuees to take new steps forward, foster community bonds and develop social networks through activities that can help improve their physical and psychological conditions. This past March they visited a community still in temporary housing in Ofunato City to give them muscle relieving massages!

This year Japan Emergency NGO focused one of their programs on the mental recovery of survivors. In a recent project report they said, “psycho-social of the recovery tends to be missed compared with the infrastructure because of its difficulty to be found out.” Today they are partnering with communities to support them as they live through hope.

On the Road,  an organization with the goal to promote to exchange people all over Japan by offering lodging facilities and community space in Long Beach House that we has built- is focusing on mental care of an earthquake victims. Throughout the past few months they have improved their beach house and held many community events.

Japan continues to recover after the 2011 earthquake and tsunami and most recent earthquakes, and mental healing remains a large need. Your donations not only go to support psychological healing but also to our nonprofit partners supporting education, rebuilding infrastructure, and restoring farming lands. Thank you for your generosity and steadfast support!

Jul 25, 2016

Assisting Mothers and Babies in Fukushima

Tohoku has been recovering slowly but surely
Tohoku has been recovering slowly but surely

Currently, JEN is working on partnership-based projects, in which we provide funding and technical support to its partners. The partners are local NPOs or organizations involving in support activities for marginalized people in disaster-affected areas.

In June 2016, JEN became with a partner of Fukushima Midwife Association and began supporting for “Comprehensive Pregnancy and Baby Support Project.” Midwives are experts in helping expectant mothers, nursing mothers, as well as their babies, both physically and mentally. Only people passed the national exam can work as midwives unless they already have nursing qualifications.

According to “the Survey on Expectant Mothers and Nursing Mothers” conducted by Fukushima Prefecture in 2014, 12 percent of those mothers in Fukushima suffered from postpartum depression, which was 3 percent higher than the national average. Frequent phone calls and consultation requests for help from the Midwife Association indicate that many mothers are concerned about both of their mental and health conditions or the mothers are isolated from the society causing absence of child care assistance.

After the earthquake, many families with young children left Fukushima to escape from the critical living conditions. Since those who chose to stay and to feel anxiety about the children’s health, Fukushima Prefecture implemented a policy which grants mothers and babies short stays at maternity centres. Besides being commissioned to perform this plan, the Fukushima Midwife Association is also conducting its own project of providing:

- Pre-prenatal classes;

- Places for nursing mothers to communicate with each other;

- Well balance meals for mothers and babies due to encouraging proper infant diets.

Five years have passed since the earthquake, yet this kind of mother and baby support projects are still little known to see across the nation. The projects will regularly carry on mothers and babies support among other local authorities in Fukushima Prefecture. Therefore, we will be supporting the Association on funding, presenting the project of the Association to the local authorities, and preparing necessary documents for policy promotion targeting other local governments, until December 2018.

Jul 25, 2016

Managing Sustainability by Making Best Use of Existing Means

Land Raising for the Permanent Arcade
Land Raising for the Permanent Arcade

Blue ocean spreading in front of the Temporary Fukko Shopping Arcade in Isatomae, Minami- Sanrikucho, is really beautiful. But visitors to the temporary arcade is not likely to buy goods there, since they are basically for local people to satisfy their needs. Tourists who visit there are returnees to witness town’s redevelopment. They are supporters of Isatomae redevelopment, and come back to see community developments and beautiful blue ocean. However, very soon eight-meter high dike will be completed, blocking even the view of this beautiful blue ocean. Rumors are spreading that the dike construction is even influencing the catch of fish and shellfish in the bay area of the Isatomae. Nobody has provided adequate explanation.  

 In addition to the dike construction, the land raising for the main shop arcade across the present temporary one (see Picture 1) is taking place. Due to these construction works, many trucks are driving by the arcade. It may take additional three years to see the total picture of Isatomae, which adds up to ten years after the disaster. But two thirds of residents in a temporary housing in an elementary school have moved out to either publicly-provided housing areas or their self-constructed houses. At least, some changes and advancements are taking place.  

 According to the Minami-Sanrikucho City Government, the main shopping arcade will open in March, 2017. However, due to the government’s past failures to meet its schedule, shop owners are highly skeptical of this schedule and have to be mentally prepared to flexibly cope with any change to come. One fortunate fact is that the designer of the main shopping arcade is the same one as that of the Olympic Stadium in Tokyo to be completed in 2020. Shop owners are hoping that this fact itself will attract more visitors and local shoppers to come to the shopping arcade.

 Now, the reduction of tourists and local customers is becoming a serious issue. The location of the temporary shop arcade is not conspicuous due to construction activities. To show its location, they are showing the flags of J-League Soccer Teams, with which in the past they try to win a Guinness record in vain (see Picture 2). It seems to be catching the eyes of some visitors. But since its location is too far away from the newly built redevelopment housing area, they are not quite succeeding to attract local customers, especially so with senior residents. They even placed picknick tables in front of shops (see Picture 3). However, a group of young people drove to the temporary arcade in order to buy soft-ice-cream, since no other place in the area sells it. It seems that local people know what kind of goods are available at the temporary arcade, though many residents still feel inconvenient to come to this distant place.   

 The main business of Mr. Yamauchi, who was formerly the head of the Shopping Arcade Association and is providing information about the development of the arcade to DSIA, is to sell sports goods. But more recently, the orders of curtain rails are increasing, hinting that local house constructions are developing. But the amount of order seems to be limited, since the order comes only from local construction companies, not from large-sized construction companies. Their bulk-purchases enable them to obtain curtain rails expensively from large shops in big cities. As this trend suggests, shop owners of the arcade is flexibly and wisely operating to supply whatever local people need.

 In this sense, they are more concerned about the movement and development of the area as well as brining people back to the area, rather than the sales amount of their own shops. For example, a large number of children in the community attended the Night Market organized by the temporary arcade in early July. The number of attendants was so large that every child in the community seems to have participated. It is greatly owing to having delivered fliers to all nurseries and schools in the community (two nursery schools, two elementary schools, and one junior high school). The temporary arcade is well contributing to stimulating community activities. They are now planning to organize one event like this every several months. However, unfortunately, Isatomae could not become an aid station of the Tour de Tohoku due to the construction. In August, there will be the Summer Firework Festival and a baseball game of Rakuten Team in the minor league at a ballpark near the arcade. They are working very hard to make the best use of such opportunities to attract visitors to the temporary arcade.

 Population wise, Shizukawa in Minami-Sanrikucho is twice bigger than Isatomae. They have been trying to redevelop the town by building restaurants with nice menu and low price to attract tourists. The next year, a roadside station to sell local food will open. In contrast, the Fukko Shopping Arcade has been maintaining their business based on human relations with local customers.

Mr. Yamauchi decided not to keep his shop in the Main Shopping Arcade when it is completed. He is to rent a publicly-provided house with a shop space in the Area of Redevelopment Housing. It is much more manageable than purchasing a new house or renting a space in the Main Shopping Arcade. The rule is that the size of the shop should not exceed the half of the house size. He is managing his own sustainability by making use of publicly available help. The general impression of this area is that they are sustaining their community and businesses by combining every available means.

J-League Soccer Team Flags to Show their Location
J-League Soccer Team Flags to Show their Location
Picnic Tables to Attract Visitors
Picnic Tables to Attract Visitors

Links:

Jul 22, 2016

JEN Begins Assisting Mothers and Babies in Fukushi

A photo shows Tohoku has been recovering
A photo shows Tohoku has been recovering

Currently, JEN is working on partnership-based projects, in which we provide funding and technical support to its partners. The partners are local NPOs or organizations involving in support activities for marginalized people in disaster-affected areas.

In June 2016, JEN became with a partner of Fukushima Midwife Association and began supporting for “Comprehensive Pregnancy and Baby Support Project.” Midwives are experts in helping expectant mothers, nursing mothers, as well as their babies, both physically and mentally. Only people passed the national exam can work as midwives unless they already have nursing qualifications.

According to “the Survey on Expectant Mothers and Nursing Mothers” conducted by Fukushima Prefecture in 2014, 12 percent of those mothers in Fukushima suffered from postpartum depression , which was 3 percent higher than the national average. Frequent phone calls and consultation requests for help from the Midwife Association indicate that many mothers are concerned about both of their mental and health conditions or the mothers are isolated from the society causing absence of child care assistance.

After the earthquake, many families with young children left Fukushima to escape from the critical living conditions. Since those who chose to stay and to feel anxiety about the children’s health, Fukushima Prefecture implemented a policy which grants mothers and babies short stays at maternity centres. Besides being commissioned to perform this plan, the Fukushima Midwife Association is also conducting its own project of providing:

- Pre-prenatal classes;

- Places for nursing mothers to communicate with each other;

- Well balance meals for mothers and babies due to encouraging proper infant diets.

Five years have passed since the earthquake, yet this kind of mother and baby support projects are still little known to see across the nation. The projects will regularly carry on mothers and babies support among other local authorities in Fukushima Prefecture. Therefore, we will be supporting the Association on funding, presenting the project of the Association to the local authorities, and preparing necessary documents for policy promotion targeting other local governments, until December 2018.

Jun 1, 2016

Hands On Tokyo Tohoku Spring Report

Spring is a very busy time for farmers. They must work very hard to prepare for this year's growing season. Labor shortages continue to make it very hard for local farmers in Tohoku to run their farms and grow their businesses and in turn to further rebuild their lives. Growing rice, vegetables and fruit is very labor intensive and the local farmers cannot do all the work by themselves. With the labor shortages, they need the continued support of volunteers. 
 
With your generous donations, Hands On Tokyo volunteers have been able to continue to support local farmers, Saito-san and his wife, and the New Rice Center (NRC) in Yamamoto-cho in Miyagi Prefecture. The NRC is an agricultural association of local farmers who produce and promote local rice and local produce. 
 
In March, 13 Hands On Tokyo volunteers helped Saito-san and his wife clear hothouses by removing clips and stakes and by pulling out old paprika plants in preparation for this year's growing season. 
 
In April, we took 22 members of the Hands On Tokyo Club at the American School in Japan (ASIJ). The students helped Saito-san, his wife and the NRC prepare for this year's rice growing season by gathering rice seedlings and setting them up in hothouses so that the rice seedlings can grow a bit before they are planted in the rice fields. 
 
Saito-san and his wife always ask us to convey to everyone who supports our volunteer activities in Tohoku just how much they and the NRC appreciate all the support. What Hands On Tokyo volunteers are able to accomplish in a day would take Saito-san and his wife and other local farmers days to complete. 
 
With your generous support, we will continue to organize volunteer trips to further support Saito-san and his wife, the NRC and others in Tohoku as they continue to work very hard to further rebuild their lives.
This spring we also made three trips to Ogatsu in Miyagi Prefecture.  Ogatsu was completely devastated by the tsunami and is where we built the first new permanent building -- the O-link House -- with your generous support and the generous support of the Major League Baseball Players Association and others.  The 0-link House is a community center and plays a very important role in connecting and keeping the Ogatsu community together while the infrastructure is still being rebuilt.  Former Ogatsu residents regularly travel to Ogatsu to use the O-link House to meet their friends and to hold meetings and classes. It also is a place where local artists can hold exhibits. 
In March, 13 Hands On Tokyo volunteers helped weed and plant flowers at the Ogatsu Rose Garden Factory. 
The volunteers also helped make 1,000 slate pieces from slate that was salvaged after the tsunami. The slate pieces are being used in an art installation project aimed at conveying the vibrancy and resilience of the Ogatsu community.  In April, 22 members of the ASIJ Hands On Tokyo Club helped further prepare the slate pieces for this art installation project.
Now there are only approximately 1,000 people who are part of the local community after factoring in all those who tragically perished in the tsunami and all those who have since moved away. Prior the tsunami, Ogatsu was famous for its slate and slate-making crafts. Each remaining community member is being asked to paint a piece of slate and, once all the pieces are painted, the pieces will be arranged in an art installation conveying the continued strength of the local Ogatsu community. We are very happy to be able to support this project. 
A local resident (who founded the Ogatsu Rose Garden Factory after the tsunami so that former residents and visitors would once again see beauty when they first enter the Ogatsu area) kindly conducted a disaster preparedness class for our volunteers who traveled to Ogatsu in March and April. 
In May, 11 Hands On Tokyo volunteers helped maintain the O-link House by weeding the lawn and by painting the community center.  Being located near the ocean, the O-link House needs to be painted every two years. The volunteers were very happy to be able to paint the O-Link House and the fresh paint provides great encouragement to all members of the Ogatsu community. We are planning to bring more volunteers to Ogatsu over the summer. 
In May, the volunteers also made goody bags and decorated baskets filled with cookies handmade and beautifully decorated by volunteers from Moody's Japan in Tokyo. We then delivered the cookie-filled baskets to the Ogatsu Elementary and Middle School Parent Teachers Association so that the PTA could distribute the cookies to all the Ogatsu elementary and middle school children who are waiting for their schools to be rebuilt in Ogatsu. 
With your generous support, we will also continue to hold cafes and other events at temporary housing sites and evacuation centers in Tohoku and neighboring areas so long as people are still living in such places. 
 
There is still so much to be done and there are still so many people in need of support and encouragement. Thank you very much in advance for your continued support and for touching the hearts and souls of so many people in Tohoku. 
May 12, 2016

Ofunato City, Iwate Prefecture

AAR Japan visited the temporary housing complex in Ofunato City (Iwate Prefecture), a city along the Sanriku Coast. A major tsunami engulfed Ofunato City and more than 3,000 families lost their homes. Although efforts are being made to rebuild residential land, there have been delays in the construction of public restoration apartments. As of April 2016, there are still 35 temporary housing complexes in this city that host 863 displaced households. This month, AAR Japan visited a temporary housing complex built on the ground of a public ballpark that hosts 72 displaced households.

Massages can relieve muscle tension and create a sense of connectedness through therapeutic touch. Even the residents who initially looked nervous were able to relax after a massage session and lingered, sipping on freshly brewed coffee and exchanging friendly conversations with AAR Japan staff and other residents who were also waiting for a massage. There was a resident eagerly awaiting for our arrival. She had prepared homemade marinated mountain vegetables (sansai). “Mountain vegetable picking is so much fun during this season. I always pick more than I can eat, so I preserve them by marinating them. I hope you enjoy eating them,” said the resident.

Each unit in the temporary housing complexes  is so small that when residents lie flat on the floor and extend their arms, they “can touch the walls of the unit”. The walls are so paper thin that residents can hear every little sound. During winter months, residents are troubled by mold that grows on walls resulting from condensation. Living in these temporary housing units for more than five years is undesirable. However, the residents do not show their frustration but visit massage sessions and have friendly conversations about the coming of spring and mountain vegetable picking. Although our capacities are so limited that we cannot drastically improve their lives, our success can be measured by the smiles on their faces.

It has been over five years since the Great East Japan Earthquake. There are still over 170,000 displaced persons in Japan (primarily in Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures) who are forced to live in temporary housing complexes. Construction of public housing, planning of collective relocation of survivors who remain at risk of potential disasters and development of residential land are underway in various affected areas, but these projects are far from completion. AAR Japan remains committed to supporting those affected by the Great East Japan Earthquake.

Apr 26, 2016

The First "Children's Cafeteria" in Iwate

Well balanced meal
Well balanced meal

On the 11th March 2016, it is the fifth anniversary of the Great East Japan earthquake.
Even though many people in Tohoku experienced great fear at that day in 2011, now you can see various restoration endeavours are taking place in the region. JEN is putting its efforts into the recovery by providing a wide range of assistance to four partner organisations involved in unique activities that address people who tend to be left behind by the recovery.

In Iwate Prefecture, JEN has been in partnership with “INCLU IWATE”, an NPO dedicated to supporting single-parent households that we support their initiative “Children’s Cafeteria” since its launch in January, 2016 in Morioka city.

Over 80 percent of Japan’s single parents with job and more than half of them are living in low income; these parents are apt to be isolated from the society. In Morioka city, you can see such households who moved from the coastal regions after the earthquake and began to settle down in the city.

INKLU IWATE and its “Children’s Cafeteria” initiative are expected to change the present situation where single parents and their children easily become socially isolated. The day of opening the Children’s Cafeteria, which runs occasionally, provides single parent households with not only nutritiously well-balanced meals, but also comprehensive support, for example: providing useful information; giving consultation service; learning support for children, and supporting the single parents who quickly access family and child benefits.
Also, INKLU IWATE is going to open the second “Children’s Cafeteria” in the earthquake affected coastal areas.

The first picture shows – the volunteer cooked well-balanced meals. Many of the ingredients are contributions by local farmers or NPO’s.

The second picture shows – the day care centre offers the “Children’s Cafeteria”. The lady on the right is a dietitian, and the lady on the left is a counsellor, they prepare a meal with volunteers.

The specialists
The specialists
 
$10+ million
Over 50,000
in 111
 

The north coast of Japan was hit by a horrible tsunami after an 9.0 magnitude earthquake that occurred 80 miles offshore. The largest earthquake to strike Japan on record, millions of people have been affected by this massive disaster.

Through our network of project partners, who pass GlobalGiving's rigorous due diligence process, issues as diverse as immediate relief and animal safety are being addressed. The Japan Earthquake and Tsunami Relief Fund is composed of a subset of the projects featured on this page as well as other Japanese NGOs. To see updates on how the funds have been used please see the Fund Reports Tab. Alternatively, you may choose to support the efforts of a specific organization.

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