The Great East Earthquake: Victims living in different situations mutually support each other

Disaster victims from Fukushima prefecture had a pleasant time on the Sunday afternoon of September 10th, in Musashino, Tokyo. They had evacuated from Fukushima and are taking shelter in and around the city. It was “Musashino Smile,” an organization which supports the evacuees, that organized the gathering, with assistance from AAR Japan. A total of 28 people participated. Junnko Matsuo, the person who organized the gathering, said, “It is difficult for some of the victims to attend a weekday party, so I planned a holiday lunch party so that more people can attend and enjoy a time of chatting.” The participants had an enjoyable time talking about recent happenings in their lives for about three hours over a buffet-style lunch. It was a superb lunch full of lively conversations.
Disaster victims from Fukushima prefecture having a pleasant time on an early Sunday afternoon.(10th, Sep. 2017)


The Great East Japan Earthquake:The Newly-built Katatsumuri, A Social Welfare Facility is now Completed

The previous Social Welfare Facility was lost in the wake of the Great East Japan Earthquake

 A social welfare facility, Katatsumuri, (“Katatsumuri means “snails” in Japanese) was founded in 2001 by approximately 20 families of children with intellectual disabilities. Initially, they rented an old structure in the vicinity of the seaport of Ohfunato City, Iwate Prefecture, and held various events such as tea parties and excursions. As well, the families undertook campaigns promoting access to helpful lifestyle advice and information among participants to create a valuable space for children in addition to their schools.
Staff members and users of Katatsumuri who
started apple-cultivation with aids from AAR Japan,
being accompanied by Akiko KATO (Left, AAR Japan).
(January 2015)


The Great East Japan Earthquake: For those who have no place to go…Opened after clearing the woods

Lavorare Pecore, a type-B support centre for ongoing employment, began its operations on July 29th in the town of Murone, Ichinoseki city, Iwate Prefecture. It is administered by the “Homare no kai” association. Despite the rain, approximately 100 project members and community locals attended the opening ceremony, which was complemented by an elegant harp concert. Lavorare Pecore is a facility surrounded by nature with an extensive area of almost 1 hectare, or 2.45 acres. It was a long and hard road before Lavorare Pecore was able to begin its operations.

Overwhelmingly insufficient number of facilities
The four board members of the “Homare no kai” are all from Kesennuma city and survivors of the Great East Japan Earthquake. They had engaged in supporting people with disabilities for many years. While the four of them worked in a consultation office, they realized that there were not enough places who would receive victims whom had suffered from the earthquake or received abuse by their family members. Many of them had nowhere to go because their conditions did not fulfill the criteria of existing facilities. Thus, the members of “Homare no kai” felt those services were limited. It was then that they were approached by an earthquake survivor who ran a landscaping business. As he was going to close down his business, he offered for them to use his land and house in Murone. The four members all agreed immediately to establish a new place for those who were having difficulties finding a facility.

An image illustrated by Mr. SUGAWARA, a representative of the board who is also a certified landscape designer. In this illustration, he expresses his hope that all residents will live happily and in peace for the rest of their lives.

However, with little funding, the operation hit a rough patch. Having only the four board members to clear the dense woods in the area, as well as restore the house whose floor had fallen through from a leaky roof, was very challenging and made them feel discouraged on many occasions. But, each time they remembered the faces of those who are not accepted by any facility they were motivated to overcome their struggles, finally opening a group home in November, 2016. They were convinced that there were still more needs to be satisfied and came to the decision to launch this support center.
After being referred by Mr. Ryuichi MIURA of Japan Platform, Tohoku office, AAR Japan provided a part of the costs connected to the construction of the building (the photo on the right). AARJ Japan also provided full funding for the plumbing, transportation of the arbor and garden planter, as well as donating the kitchen equipment. All of this was done with the assistance of AEON 1% Club Foundation.
This arbor and garden planter were transported here from the former temporary housing at Hiraishi elementary school. (July 29th, 2017)

For the time being, the plan for the newly opened type B center “Lavorare Pecore” is to prepare dishes with seasonal vegetables and local specialties, herd sheep and cultivate the seedlings of fruits, vegetables and flowers. They also aim to process and sell their wool or fruit products. The members hope that by interacting with animals and plants in nature, the residents and service users will gradually gain emotional stability and improve “their strength to live” in society. Moreover, making good use of their hectare of land (2.45 acres), they are aiming to not only be engaged in farming and produce specialties, but also to expand their business to distribution and sale. A mobile store to extend the outreach of “Lavorare Pecore” products to one-person households, elderly households and people in areas with little access to supermarkets is also being considered.
“Lavorare Pecore” means “a working sheep” in Italian. This is a photo of a farm located on the premises. They are aiming for production, processing, sale and distribution. (July 29th, 2017)

※This activity is operated with the assistance of Aeon 1% Club Foundation.

[Reporter] profile as of the date of the article
Shinichiro OHARA, AAR Japan Sendai office
Ohara joined AAR Japan in August 2011 after working in a manufacturing company. Based in Sendai, he visits affected areas such as Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima on a daily basis and is engaged in reconstruction assistance. He was born in Sendai, Miyagi Prefecture.

Japanese-English translation by Ms.Yukari Onda
English editing by Ms. Alice Chee

This article has been translated by volunteers as part of the AAR Japan's Volunteer Programme. Their generous contributions allow us to spread our activities and ideas globally, through an ever-growing selection of our reports from the field. 


Vulnerability Multiplied in Syria—Report on the Survivors of Explosive Devices—

AAR Japan, an international NGO, has conducted assessment on the survivors of the conflict inside Syria and published this report, Vulnerability Multiplied in Syria – Report on the Survivors of Explosive Devices –, which makes 6 proposals.

Assessment for this report was conducted over the course of 2016 in cooperation with a Syrian NGO, Hand in Hand for Syria, which began by identifying patients and former patients of medical facilities in northern Syria and entailed interviews with 2,036 survivors of the conflict including 475 children. The result revealed that the majority, 57%, of the survivors were victims of air strikes, followed by other explosive devices (22%) such as landmines, unexploded ordnance (UXO), and improvised explosive devices (IED). In addition, many of the survivors sustained severe injuries and impairments including amputation, visual and hearing impairments in addition to fractures and wounds, resulting in a high level of dependency in activities of daily life like eating, toilet, washing, and dressing.

Furthermore, given the health care system decimated in the conflict, many of these survivors do not have access to adequate medical care, rehabilitation services, or assistive devices. In addition to the physical and psychological burden on the survivors themselves, in the absence of functioning social welfare system, providing assistance in every step of daily life places an enormous burden on the family members as well, not to mention the significant economic impact in case of severe injuries and impairments of main breadwinners of the household.

Based on these findings, AAR Japan proposes the following to aid organizations working in Syria and donor countries, corporations, and individuals that provide indirect support to humanitarian aid in Syria.

1.    Include provision of rehabilitation services and assistive devices in the intervention in consideration of the conflict survivors;
2.    Help build local capacities, local organizations and volunteers working in Syria, to be able to provide rehabilitation and trauma response through training and financial support;
3.    Enhance food security and livelihood support to those who lost jobs due to injuries and impairments;
4.    Improve referral mechanisms across sectors in order to provide comprehensive support to the injured who are particularly vulnerable;
5.    Conduct awareness raising activities to reduce stigma and combat the loss of dignity particularly by the injured;
6.    Adapt the contents of risk education to reflect the context of the ongoing Syrian conflict to maximize the effect.


Great East Japan Earthquake: Organizations that Support Voluntary Evacuees

6,000 Evacuees Live in Tokyo

Even though 6 years have passed since the Great East Japan Earthquake, there remain approximately 109,000 individuals requiring assistance, who evacuated their home town as a result of the impact of the earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear accident. Of these, approximately 6,000 evacuees live in Tokyo (Reconstruction Agency, April 28, 2017). AAR Japan (Association for Aid and Relief) has been providing various forms of aid since immediately after the earthquake hit, and recently partnered with Musashino Smile, to begin providing aid to the evacuees who reside in Tokyo. Musashino Smile is an organization represented by Ms. Megumi Okada (picture below), an evacuee who fled from Fukushima city to Tokyo with her children, and is supported by various Tokyo-resident volunteers. On April 28, Musashino Smile hosted a “Yoransho Salon,” an event to encourage evacuees to visit and engage in light conversations over tea (picture to the right). “Yoransho” is a word from Fukushima that means “please stop by.” 16 evacuees from Fukushima and other areas participated in the event to exchange information and share updates.

Yoransho Salon was held at Musashino city, an evacuation destination for many evacuees. Yoransho Salon occurs once a month. (April 28th, 2017)


Zambia: Supporting the New Life of “Former Refugees”

AAR Japan has conducted relief activities in Zambia since 1984, for 33 years, when a widespread famine in Africa attracted worldwide attention. At the beginning, its support activities in medical, educational, agricultural and other fields were based in Meheba in the North-Western Province where many Angolan refugees sought shelter after fleeing the civil war in their home country. After many refugees returned home following the end of the Angolan Civil War in 2002, AAR Japan moved the base of its subsequent activities to Lusaka, the capital of Zambia and its environs. Since then, it has provided assistance to people who have tested positive for HIV/AIDS, as the issue became a serious problem at that time, and strengthened health services for mothers and children in farming villages where people have little or no access to medical services.

In March 2017, AAR Japan reopened its office in Meheba and launched activities to assist the joint efforts to build a community by the citizens of Zambia and “former refugees” from Angola who decided to settle in Zambia rather than returning to their home country.
Atsushi NAOE of AAR Japan visits households in the site (April 2017)


The Kumamoto Earthquake, One Year Later: Applying Lessons from the Disaster in Providing Aid

It has been nearly a year since the Kumamoto Earthquakes. During the earthquakes, the town of Mashiki and the village of Nishihara experienced two magnitude 7 earthquakes, and in the village of Minamiaso, the Aso-bridge collapsed due to a large-scale landslide. As of November 30th of last year, 4,165 additional earthquakes, which could be felt, had been recorded. The number of casualties, including 150 earthquake-related deaths, rose to 205 (Kumamoto Prefecture Crisis Management Disaster Prevention Division Announcement, March 3rd, report). Moreover, at its peak there were over 180,000 evacuees and 855 evacuation centers. Since the disaster, AAR Japan has been distributing meals and basic necessities and up to now has been providing aid to a social welfare facilities for people with disabilities and to those in temporary residences.

Rebuilding a Vital Place in the Village

During this earthquake, there were supply and staff shortages at the evacuation centers that were established to accommodate those who require special care, such as those with disabilities and the elderly. In addition, temporary residences had not been designed to be wheelchair accessible. It made us recognize again how easy it is for people with disabilities and the elderly to be put into difficult situations in times of disaster. Because of this, AAR Japan has focused on providing aid to people with disabilities, by supporting local organizations which work with people with disabilities and who are leading recovery efforts in  the region.

In Nishihara Village, 60% of the houses were completely or partially destroyed. Nishihara Tanpopo (Dandelion) House, a NPO near the village office, is the only social welfare facilities of its kind where people with disabilities go to process crops and prepare and sell bentos (lunch box) and snacks. During the day, it is a cafeteria filled with locals, and is a place where those facing economic hardships can enjoy a meal with others whilst lending a hand to the center.  It has become a central entity, a vital place in the village.
Even after the earthquake, the house has become an evacuation center for those disabled persons and staff who frequented, in addition to acting as a point from which supplies and meals could be distributed to nearby regions.
Tanpopo House’s cafeteria has a rich menu, including ramen and curry. (Jun.24th,2016)