Help disabled and elderly disaster survivors

by Association for Aid and Relief, Japan (AAR Japan)
A volunteer physiotherapist teaching exercise
A volunteer physiotherapist teaching exercise

Immediately after the 3.11 disaster, Association for Aid and Relief, Japan (AAR Japan) entered the disaster-stricken area and launched its emergency assistance. In order to respond to the ever-changing need of the affected people, our relief activities ranged from distribution of emergency relief supplies such as food and daily necessities to the long-term recovery support including psychological care to the survivors. Throughout these efforts, we have felt the strong need to focus on those who are prone to be left out, which evolved into this project ‘Help disabled and elderly disaster survivors’.

The project has carried out diverse activities in the past two and a half years throughout Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima Prefectures. In the immediate aftermath of the disaster, we started our activities with locating Persons with Disabilities (PWDs) and the elderly who failed to move to the evacuation center and had been out of the reach of any assistance. In the recovery phase, we restored the working and living environment for PWDs and elderly through reconstructing the devastated facilities, which enabled the facility users to live at ease and promoted their participation in the society. We also organized mobile clinic and active listening sessions to relieve the evacuee’s concern over mental and physical health. These are only a part of the activities conducted in the project, and we believe that these activities not only provided direct assistance but also delivered the message that ‘you are not forgotten, we care about you’. All these efforts were only possible with your generous and cordial understanding and support.

We continue carrying out the other two projects on GlobalGiving, ‘Support evacuees of Fukushima’ and ‘Building Healthy Communities for Recovery’. In the former, we provide support to evacuees in Fukushima Prefecture, whose life as evacuees is expected to be prolonged due to the influence of radiation problem caused by the accident at Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. The latter, ‘Building Healthy Communities for Recovery’, focuses on promoting the mental and physical health of evacuees who have been living in the cramped temporary housing complexes for such a long period. For more details, please click the links below and we truly appreciate if you consider directing your support to any of these projects.

‘Support evacuees of Fukushima’

‘Building Healthy Communities for Recovery’


For further information on our entire Tohoku operation, please see our annual activity report.

Again we would like to express our sincere gratitude for your warm and hearty support. The recovery of disaster stricken area will take further effort and time and we are determined to continue the assistance which most suits the need of those who have been affected.

Devastated social welfare facility
Devastated social welfare facility
Delivered daily necessities to PWDs
Delivered daily necessities to PWDs
Reconstructed the workshop facility for PWDs
Reconstructed the workshop facility for PWDs
A user of the reconstructed workshop facility
A user of the reconstructed workshop facility
A popular entertainer cheering up the evacuees
A popular entertainer cheering up the evacuees
A set of radiation dosimeter installed
A set of radiation dosimeter installed

Concern over radiation exposure triggered by the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant is widely shared among the residents of Fukushima Prefecture. They live with constant fear of internal and external exposure to radiation. Consumers are careful about what they purchase and consume and at the same time, suppliers are required to take extra care in assuring the safety of what they produce. As a result, in Fukushima Prefecture more and more institutions that deal with food have chosen to have themselves equipped with radiation dosimeters for food items. Those who cannot afford purchasing the device have to go to public institutions to examine their products and ingredients they use, which put extra logistical burden on them. This is why AAR Japan has decided to provide radiation dosimeter to several workshop facilities for Persons with Disabilities (PWDs) including Elle Shirakawa Wakuwaku Bread Factory as a part of its support to PWDs affected by the 3.11 disaster.

Elle Shirakawa Wakuwaku Bread Factory provides vocational training and working opportunities to PWDs, mainly those with intellectual disabilities. The facility users are engaged in baking and selling of bread as a part of their way of participation to the society. They produce as much as 20 kinds of bread that are sold at various places such as shopping center, supermarket and kiosks around Shirakawa Station in Shirakawa City, Fukushima Prefecture. In order to ensure the safety of their products, the bread factory had been procuring only ingredients that were labeled to have low level of radiation, since the facility was not capable of carrying out safety examination on its own. With the set of radiation dosimeter provided by AAR Japan in August 2013, the facility is now able to measure the radiation level of the ingredients they purchased and also of their own products, which enables them to guarantee the safety of what they produce. The neighboring households also bring in vegetables and fruits they purchase, instead of going far to examine the safety of food. Since the factory is planning to open a new facility for PWDs which deals with dried sweet potatoes next year, the radiation dosimeter installed will continue to be a useful device for the facility. 

Facility users baking bread
Facility users baking bread
Mr. Suganuma(right) representative of the facility
Mr. Suganuma(right) representative of the facility
The ground before the pavement construction
The ground before the pavement construction

On June 24th 2013, AAR Japan staff member Masayuki OKADA visited 'Tamura Kibo no Sato', a facility for Persons with Disabilities where we have recently completed concrete pavement work of the ground. Although the construction initially aimed at reducing the risk of radiation exposure by removing contaminated pebbles that covered the ground, it also helped the facility users in wheelchairs to move freely across the property of the facility.

About Tamura Kibo no Sato

Tamura Kibo no Sato is a workshop located in Tamura City, Fukushima Prefecture. It provides job training to approximately 20 persons with mental and physical disabilities and the workshop users are engaged in various work commissioned by companies inside or outside Fukushima Prefecture including folding and bagging of clothes, producing artificial flowers and boxing of gardening kits, etc. The users enjoy working diligently every day, which provides them with opportunity to further participate in the society. Some of the users live in the group home ‘Yu no Sato’ which is located in the same property as the workshop.

Why pavement construction?

The facility is located in the mountainous area approximately 50km away from the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. The mountainous area is said to be exposed to higher risk of radiation since the radioactive materials can be condensed through the ecological circulation system, hence the facility, of which backyard closely looks onto the mountain, has been very concerned over the risk of radiation exposure. Previously the ground of the property was covered with pebbles but those pebbles became contaminated by radiation following the accident at the nuclear power plant. The facility wished to remove all the contaminated pebbles and pave the ground with concrete rather than replacing the old pebbles with new ones, considering that the newly replaced pebbles will again accumulate a large amount of radiation due to its uneven surface. Thus, we decided to carry out the paving work, which completed in May 2013. This enabled the facility users to concentrate on their job training feeling less worried about radiation exposure. In addition, the paving work also brought another benefit to the facility- the facility users in wheelchair used to have trouble in moving on the pebbled ground which also had level differences and ditches. In response to this situation, the pavement construction was completed in the way to ensure eliminating these barriers. The facility is now prepared to provide better working and living environment, in which the wheelchair users can be more active and independent.

The smooth ground after the pavement construction
The smooth ground after the pavement construction
No step at the entrance after the paving work
No step at the entrance after the paving work
The facility user folds and bags the clothes
The facility user folds and bags the clothes
Artificial flowers made by the facility users
Artificial flowers made by the facility users
Delivering chocolates with the message of support
Delivering chocolates with the message of support

The Great East Japan Earthquake: Two years on from the earthquake disaster

- an activity report of the progress to date

Building on its extensive experience in providing international emergency relief, the Association for Aid and Relief, Japan (AAR Japan) has continued its relief activities to support the survivors in the aftermath of the Great East Japan Earthquake. In cooperation with the government and disabled people’s organizations, AAR has utilized its refined mobility as an NGO to continue its relief efforts to those in areas that are difficult to reach. Together with expressing our heart-felt gratitude to the individuals, corporations and organisations that have supported AAR Japan, this report entails our endeavours over the  last two years.


1. Emergency Response  - Life-Saving Emergency Relief

a. First assistance team dispatched to the disaster area:


Immediately after the earthquake, our relief team made initial assessments and distributed relief supplies around the disaster stricken areas.


b. Delivery of Relief Supplies:

To 180,000 individuals in 1,606 locations

Drawing from our experience in overseas disaster relief that persons with disabilities (PWDs) and the elderly are prone to be overlooked during a disaster, AAR Japan implemented its activities focusing on these two population groups. Adult diapers and retort food were well received at social welfare facilities.


 c. Soup Kitchens

25,000 meals in 73 locations

Soup kitchens were organized in our wish to cheer up the disaster survivors with hot meals. Menus were well planned-out so that they were rich in variety and had a fresh taste of the changing seasons.


d. Mobile Clinic and Health-Related Service

Recipients of medical check-ups:   817 individuals

Recipients of home-care nurse visit:   387 individuals

AAR Japan organized mobile clinics with a medical team led by Dr. Toshiaki YASUDA, a local medical practitioner, and implemented health-related services including check-ups for chronic illnesses, prevention of infectious diseases, and provision of psychological support through counseling.

In addition to medical check-ups, AAR Japan staff members lent their ears to survivors who carry concerns like their daily worries toward their future and desperate need for supplies. One beneficiary commented, “I was so happy to have people come to my house on multiple occasions and be so concerned about my health condition. Having people recognize my existence gave me strength.”


2. Recovery Support - Reclaiming Their Daily Lives

a. Delivery of Daily Essentials to Victims in Fukushima Prefecture

To 22,599 families

Daily essentials including kitchenware and basic furniture were distributed to all households in temporary and subsidized housing complexes across 13 municipalities in Fukushima Prefecture.


b. Reconstruction of Facilities for the Elderly and PWDs


71 locations

AAR Japan conducted reconstruction of facilities for PWDs and senior care centers, and provision of necessary equipment in cooperation with local contractors. This helped the PWDs in disaster areas reunite with their fellow colleagues and resume their former activities and job.

AAR Japan assisted construction of a new bread factory at ‘Hakku no Ie’, a workshop for PWDs in Tanohata Village, Iwate Prefecture. The factory has a dine-in space that serves fresh baked goods and is popular among the local community.


c. Vehicle Provision to Facilities for PWDs, Senior Care Centers, and Local Municipal Offices

42 vehicles

Assistive and standard vehicles were provided to facilities and local municipal offices throughout the Tohoku region to be used for pick-up and drop-off services for facility users and as a means of transportation for those partaking in recovery efforts.


d. Container Housing Project

57 containers provided

AAR Japan provided prefabricated container houses which can be used as both residence and shops.


4. Reconstruction Support - For a New Tomorrow

a. Reconstruction of Facilities for the Elderly and PWDs

38 locations

Many facilities for PWDs were damaged by the earthquake. These facilities offered vocational training and employment to those who have difficulty working in private companies; however, as a result of the earthquake disaster, these facilities were lost. By conducting activities such as repairing these facilities for PWDs or supplying the necessary equipment for work, AAR Japan assists PWDs in reclaiming their workplace.


b. Sales Fair of Products of Social Welfare Facilities

Number of fairs organized: 27

Many workshops have come to restart production of sweets and crafts, however, the sales have decreased at many facilities since existing customers themselves are affected by the disaster. In order to help these facilities explore new sales channels, AAR Japan organizes sales fairs at companies in Tokyo and encourages these facilities to participate in joint fairs held at shopping centers in Morioka and Sendai. We also support the development of new products.


c: Hosting of Community Interaction Events

Rehabilitation and active listening: 132 times

Community interaction events: 129 events

In order to help the affected people maintain both their physical and mental health, AAR Japan has organized various events under the title ‘Building Healthy Communities Project’. Events combining programs such as rehabilitation, concerts and active listening are held regularly at temporary housing complexes. We also facilitate farming activities at small-scale gardens in order to promote neighborhood interaction through gardening.


d. For Children in Fukushima Prefecture

Installment and Provision of Playground Equipment: in 45 locations

Delivery of Bottled Water to Nurseries and Kindergartens:  9 locations/11,440 liters

AAR Japan has assisted in creating play areas where children can relieve their stress and solve the problem of lack of exercise that are developed from living in cramped temporary housing complexes. This includes setting up large-scale playground equipment within the premises of the temporary housing complexes and supplying indoor play toys to places such as assembly halls and day care facilities. Furthermore, in response to the concerns of mothers who are worried about radiation in drinking water, bottles of mineral water are also being provided to preschools in Fukushima Prefecture.


e. Walking Side by Side with People in Fukushima

Staff members of AAR Japan’s Soma office continues to visit every residence in temporary housing complexes to carefully listen to the concerns of each resident.

Ekuko Yokoyama, a staff member of Soma office makes rounds every day to talk to those who have confronted loss of family members and face uncertainty about the future.


f. Distribution of Radiation Dosimeters

11 devices delivered

To measure the contamination level of outdoor-grown harvests and food items that they consume daily, radiation dosimeters were installed at support centers of temporary housing complexes and public halls in Soma City.



g. Delivering Kindness from Across the Country

Hand-made tote bags delivered   10,543 bags

Chocolate   4,843 boxes

Flower seedlings   1,603 pots 

In response to suggestions made by the disaster survivors that a tote bag would be useful when going to school or to organize relief supplies that were provided, a large number of handmade bags with messages attached were donated after a nation-wide call out for their creation. (Bags collected in April 2011, October 2011 and September 2012).

Several people also contributed to the “Heart-Warming Chocolate Delivery Campaign” where messages of support from the public were attached to boxes of AAR Japan’s charity chocolate (with cooperation from the Rokkatei Confectionary Co., Ltd.) and delivered to the disaster areas. There were those who shed tears when they received the message, “We have not forgotten about you”.  (Messages collected: Winter 2011-2012 and Winter 2012-2013).

In the spring of 2012, AAR Japan commenced the “Delivering Flowers and Magokoro (literally translated as sincerity) Campaign” that aimed to send flowers to brighten up the disaster-stricken areas. Purchasing potted plants from florists and facilities for PWDs in the disaster areas, they were then individually delivered to places such as temporary housing complexes, each with a message attached.


h. For a Healthy Living

In cooperation with the Morioka City’s municipal office and Morioka Municipal Hospital, AAR Japan implements activities to promote the health of people living in the coastal areas of Iwate and Miyagi prefectures. People living in cramped temporary housing are prone to suffer from lack of exercise that could lead to economy syndrome and disuse syndrome. A medical team makes visits to temporary housing complexes to conduct prevention screening and workshop for exercise to counter these diseases.


i. Improving the Welfare System for PWDs in the Disaster Areas

5 staff members dispatched for 51 cumulative months

In cooperation with the local government and other organizations, AAR Japan addresses issues surrounding the welfare system for PWDs in the disaster areas. In Iwate Prefecture, 4 staff members were temporarily dispatched to the regional centers of the “Iwate Disability and Welfare Recovery and Relief Center”. Creating manuals for emergency evacuations and gaining a deeper understanding of the actual conditions of the disaster survivors with disabilities are examples of the work that is being conducted. In Miyagi Prefecture, AAR Japan has dispatched one staff member to the “Miyagi Prefecture Ikuseikai”. Focusing on Minami-Sanriku Town, this project has continued with repairs of areas in which children with disabilities can play after school and during the summer holidays.


Help Survivors to Make a New Start

There is still a lot of work to do in the disaster-hit areas of Japan! If you would like to help us provide long-term assistance to the earthquake and tsunami survivors, please consider making a monthly donation to one of the above projects. Every donation (be it one-time or recurring) is truly appreciated.

Thank you for your support!

Your AAR Japan Project Team



Check our other activities on !


AAR's first assistance team in Kesennuma City
Vehicle provided to a facility for PWDs
Vehicle provided to a facility for PWDs
'Work Follow Otsuchi', workshop for PWDs, repaired
a member of hand-craft circle Tsugihagi-Suppe-cha
a member of hand-craft circle Tsugihagi-Suppe-cha
People at the community interaction event
People at the community interaction event
Now she can live in her temporary housing at ease
Now she can live in her temporary housing at ease

Condensation Becomes a Crucial Problem

In Kesennuma, Miyagi, where the lowest temperature drops as low as -10 degrees Cesium during the winter, condensation has become a very critical issue in emergency temporary

ousing in the Watado district.
Mr. Toshio HATAKEYAMA, President of a Residents’ Association remarked that "some work was done to install double sash and heat insulation materials, but that did not solve the condensation problem. With all the windows open and the exhaust fans in the kitchen and in the bath area turned on, it would be too cold to sleep.” He explained that “with the windows closed, condensation would occur and water droplets start falling on my futon while I’m asleep. The exhaust fan in the attic is too small and useless when it's freezing cold." Water droplets create mold which trigger critical health issues like pneumonia, which can be a life-threatening disease especially to the elderly. The government has provided no further assistance. Mr. HATAKEYAMA sought help from the Volunteer Station in Kesennuma and came up with the idea to take simple measures using do-it-yourself materials that can be purchased at a home improvement center. AAR Japan, who heard about the situation, decided to provide assistance to cover these expenses and help the residents with construction work.

All United to Manually Install Heat Insulation

After prolonged freezing weather, the construction began on December 5 with the help of the residents in the temporary houses, staff from the Volunteer Station in Kesennuma, staff from NPO APCAS, and volunteers from Rakuno Gakuen University. Using double-sided scotch tape and sealant, heat insulation materials were installed without any gaps on ceilings and walls of living areas, bedrooms, kitchens, and closets. After measuring the dimensions and checking the positions of light bulbs and fire alarms in each room, the heat insulation materials were cut into appropriate sizes and shapes. If the heat insulation materials fit well in the designated place, they were attached with double-sided tape to form a tight seal.
Temporary housing for two occupants is composed of just one or two 4-mat rooms with little to no storage space. In these small rooms with barely enough space for a futon and storage closet, such work can take a considerable amount of time and effort. Some of the work had to be done outside in the chilly weather due to the lack of workspace. All volunteers worked together for an entire week to insulate a total of 10 households and 20 rooms for temporary houses in Watado along with some temporary houses in Goemongahara where the residents had claimed to suffer from the same problem.

"We No Longer Have to Worry About Condensation!"

"The temperature here tends to be 2 to 3 degrees Cesium lower comparing to the adjacent national road and it snows a lot here as well.” Mr. Etsurou FUJIKAWA, a resident of temporary housing in Goemongahara shared his experience. “This year, the weather has been colder than the previous one and it started snowing earlier too. The condensation problem was so severe that the futon bedding in our closets were always wet every morning. During the winter season, I had to wipe the condensation off the wall every morning. But, mold would appear on the ceiling since I can't reach high enough to wipe it. Sometimes, I would stand on the chair and try to wipe it, but it's a hard work considering my age." With an expression of relief on his face he said, "but we no longer have to worry about it. Thank you for your help." 

Ms. Nobuko MURAKAMI who resides in the same temporary housing commented "the government offered to add a reheating function to our baths but we declined because the condensation problem was more critical to us. It’s not worth it to spend taxes on what we can get along without. We're doing alright with our baths for now… We appreciate for all the work you've done today. Please help yourselves to some lunch.” She offered some rice with scallops and bamboo shoot she prepared the night before along with some salad, minced soup with saury, and Ganzuki (a well-known snack in Miyagi and Iwate).

Our prayers are with the quake victims who addressed their problems proactively during the toughest of times. We hope that the measures taken against the condensation will help them maintain their health through the winter.

This program is implemented with generous donations received through GlobalGiving and other donors. We appreciate all the support we have received and we will keep continue helping elderly people and persons with disabilities who are still suffering from the aftereffect of March 11th in Tohoku, Japan.

A resident, Mr. HATAKEYAMA working on ceiling
A resident, Mr. HATAKEYAMA working on ceiling
Cutting the heat insulation material for ceiling
Cutting the heat insulation material for ceiling
A volunteer who is working to help his aunt
A volunteer who is working to help his aunt
Working outside in freezing weather
Working outside in freezing weather
Tightly sealed to prevent condensation and mold
Tightly sealed to prevent condensation and mold
Residents prepared delicious lunch for the workers
Residents prepared delicious lunch for the workers

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Organization Information

Association for Aid and Relief, Japan (AAR Japan)

Location: Shinagawa-ku, Tokyo - Japan
Website: http:/​/​​english/​
Project Leader:
Yuko Ito
Program Coordinator
Shinagawa-ku, Tokyo Japan

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