How Rikuzen Takata City looks now
In January, the Rikuzen Takata City solicited public comments from residents to develop a “General Health Promotion Plan,” consisted of people’s health improvement, mother-children health improvement, and dietary education. Ms. Masako Ito, representing Kirain Kids (KK), is thinking about submitting proposals collected from mothers in KK, especially because she became ever more aware of needs for community development to have proper environments for childrearing. Learning from her experiences in operating KK, she became ever more participative to community development. She believes, “Childrearing is influenced by diverse conditions in environments, exposed to which, children come to acquire social nature and willingness to contribute to society. KK through its activities is engaging in creating a place to cultivate sociality to mothers and children. A small networks of children, if widely spread, may be able to create waves of activities in communities. In Rikuzen Takata, its community was destroyed, and what has been in existence for a long time disappeared. Only thing left was a disserted brown scenery (see the first picture). And only local people living in this condition have to struggle to rebuild a new scenery, though it may take a long time. If KK is working hard to contribute to community building, some local people may start thinking to visit KK, help its activities, and contribute to community building. KK is now acknowledged for its contributions to community building and empowering local people.
One clear evidence of the acknowledgement is three newspaper articles written in the past three months. One article reported about her speech at a conference organized by the National Childrearing Place Association, talking about supports for childrearing at disaster or post-disaster situations and also disaster prevention at ordinary situations (see the article in the picture).
In the conference, she emphasized the importance of creating an environment for people to engage in dialogue and linking such activities to governments, since she herself experienced valuable supports from individuals and human networks in the disaster. But she also recognized at the conference that the nature of disaster and needed supports differ drastically between Fukushima where a nuclear power plant incident generated a disaster and small communities with the disaster like Rikuzen Takata where the number of those who engage in community building actively is still limited while people tend to leave to neighboring cities. It is quite difficult to put all these different disaster-related problems under one word, “disaster-stricken places.” She became aware at the conference that different approaches to different disaster situations should be discussed and practiced, while we tend to talk under one word.
Another indication of Ms. Ito’s contributions to community development came in November 2015. The Rikuzen Takata City Government restarted “Gathering for Improving Health” for the first time after the disaster. It was for promoting people’s health-improvement activities, but in this first restart, the City Government awarded people and organizations whose activities contributed to improve people’s health. Still as high as 60 percent of people remain in the temporary housing, and the residents’ health still remains as a serious problem. KK received a Welfare Award for its contribution to improving the health of mothers and children.
In December, KK organized the third meeting with the Mayer to discuss about childrearing. In the past, it involved mothers, while this time it was organized for fathers to discuss about “How to Build a City Easy to Raise Children” and “a City where Fathers Actively Participate in Childrearing.” Some participants, including the Mayor himself who lost his wife in the disaster, are from the father-children family. Although only ten fathers participated, they all felt that the meeting was quite worthwhile. If attendants increase in the future, this meeting may make this city known as “the First City where Fathers Actively Participate in Childrearing” in this area.
On the one hand, such exposures to mass media is helping KK to increase local people’s awareness about its activities. On the other hand, KK makes extra efforts to go to places where children’s health check is conducted by the Health Office, deliver fliers, and even obtain a permission of the Health Office to verbally explain their activities.
As a New Year resolution of this year, Ms. Ito commits to turn KK to a place of community contributions. Although five years will soon pass since the disaster, nothing has been decided about the future of the temporary shop arcade where KK is presently in. Will there be a permanent facility established by the City Government or does KK have to find a new place to operate? One thing certain is that KK is becoming an important and indispensable actor in community redevelopment in this area.
New Paper Report on Ms. Ito's Presentation
Kirarin Kids in a Snowy Day