In July 2021, a massive mudslide disaster occurred in Izuyama, Atami, Shizuoka Prefecture.
Although we have continued our support activities since immediately after the disaster, there are still people living in restricted areas, unable to return to their homes, and often remembering the horror of that time.
Operation Blessing has been continuing to work in the community by organising social events for affected residents and a kids' clubs to provide a play space for the children.
The Izuyama Kids Club started in July 2021 to provide a 'safe place' for children who lost their previous playground due to the mudslide.
The club started with just a few children and then expanded with volunteers from the local community coming to check in on the children.
One child who had been unable to sleep at night after the disaster and had been grinding her teeth due to mental and physical stress, shared with us that her symptoms had stopped after coming to the club.
The community centre is crowded with children who have come to the Kids' Club that we hold every other week and children of all ages from lower to upper grades participate.
At the Christmas party held in December last year, a total of 28 children and 7 parents attended, making for a lively atmosphere.
It was a very fulfilling time, with the children having fun playing candy hunts, Christmas songs, storytelling and bingo games, while the adults in the community watched over them and deepened their interaction.
Operation Blessing will continue to be rooted in Izuyama this year, supporting community recovery through Kids' Clubs and making door-to-door visits in areas with an extremely high rate of elderly residents.
We will continue to support the recovery of resident-led communities by listening to what the needs of the survivors are, and planning together new programs to develop in the future that will help residents to live meaningful lives while being involved in the local community.
In response to request of the local communiy, it was decided that we would be continuing to the Atami Recovery Community Support program for another year. We are pleased to present a report from our local staff member Yoshiki Nanjo, who has been involved in activities to create a safe place for children, and to support the elderly in, who can easily become isolated following a disaster.
"The landslide took away the place where the children of the community used to play. Essentially the local community lost their places of recreation. Unlike adults, children are not easily able to verbalize their anxiety and confusion. At the Kids' Club, we started we noticed that children were at first doing a lot of running around the room frantically, trying to release their pent-up stress.
My goal was to try and engage with the children, so they would be able to express their thoughts and feelings. As a engaging with them through a variety of playful activities, the children began to gradually open up about their confusion and struggles due to the changes in their living environment following the disaster, and we saw the children less agitated, and more peaceful. Adults in the community also visited the Kids Club, and some observed that 'It's nice to see children in such good spirits.' Now, more than a year after the disaster, we strongly feel that a new community is coming to life in the affected areas through our activities."
Thank you so much for your prayers and support that have made this all possible.
July 3rd was the 1st anniversary of the landslide disaster in Atami, Japan where we have been continuing programs for children and the elderly community.
At a recent event, the gathered members made soap, as a means of therapy. Children have also been joining in with the elderly group, which is always a delight.
Another part of our program is to make regular visits to those living alone near the disaster site to check up on their welfare, and to offer encouragement. Our local program coordinator had this to report:
"The area is very hilly, but we went door-to-door in sweaty weather through lush, overgrown roads. One local that we visited was so delighted to see us, and said, 'I'm so glad you care!' "
We will be continuing our involvement with the local survivors and help them reconnect with their community.
Since our initial work at landslide site in Atami, Shizuoka Prefecture, our staff and volunteers have been visiting the community twice a month to run psychosocial support through exercise programs for the elderly and children's program with fun and craft activities, and also were busy visiting elderly residents in their homes to make sure everything is OK.
Report from our local coordinator:
On January 6th, the children's association ran a "Fun Party" where 27 childfren attended.
There was a treasure hunt for candy, Bingo games.
We are happy to see the joyful conversations and the smiling faces of the children.
We also did joint events with the senior citizen's and the children, by making a lunch together!
Our Christmas giving campaign also went very well. residents were visited with a gift of rice and greeting card, and time to share some time for conversation to cheer up the locals. When comments we received were, "I don't usually get any presents at all" ... I"'m really happy!" "We are so pleased."
This past year was a difficult time for the community due to the landslide. But it is a joy to see smiling faces every time we see the children and the senior citizens who particpate in our programs.
Thank you very much for your interest and support.
Since the landslide our staff helped the survivors with basic needs, and provided transportation support, as the local bus service was terminated due to the landslide. We also provided psychosocial support through exercise programs for the elderly and children's program with fun and craft activities. Staff also were busy visiting elderly residents still in their homes near the disaster site, delivering food and water, in steep hilly community.
In appreciation for the daily hard work of our staff during the 3 months since the disaster of early July, the local community leaders held a farewell get-to-gether and presented Operation Blessing with a Certificate of Appreciation.
We are entering a new phase of support, and will be continuing support events for the elderly and children twice a month.
Staff member report:
When I took a woman in her 80s to a beauty salon, she was very pleased with her haircut for the first time in two months. She said, "I'm very happy to be able to get my hair cut.cut my hair. Thank you for taking me."
A couple in their 90s went to the city center to pay utility bills and do some shopping.
"It's safe because someone who you know drives you. It's always helpful."
These may seem to be trivial things, but the steps to regain normal everyday life one by one helps strengthen local resilience.
Even to go a short distance, there are road closures across the debris flow site, making it difficult to move in the current disaster area.
We provided support while paying attention to changes in the health status of residents who have accumulated fatigue and stress.
Children who have not yet been able to attend the usual elementary school and are going to and from the temporary elementary school by bus.
There is no usual park in the area, and large dump trucks and construction vehicles are passing by for restoration work, so children need a safe play area.
While continuing to hold the Kids Club, we opened up the Nakamichi Public Hall to create a place for children to play after school, even when there was no club.
We donated a stand for disinfection (first used by the chairman of the neighborhood, who nodded and laughed with satisfaction!) We implemented measures against COVID-19, and created a picture book shelf with the donation of picture books by our supporters.
We started playing with the children and adults also joined in. It became a place not only for children, but now as a place of healing for local residents.
We praying that this place and everyone will be protected and healed. We will be making regular visits for the next year to run the Kids Club, and events for the elderly.
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