South Sudan Emergency Aid: Water Supply Facilities Completed at Refugee Camp

About 38,000 people have evacuated South Sudan, which has been mired in conflict since the end of last year, to the Kakuma refugee camp in neighboring Kenya (as of June 11th, 2014. UNHCR <United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees>).  AAR Japan has been conducting research and providing support at the Kakuma refugee camp since February this year. Resident Staff of AAR Japan South Sudan Office Daijo TSUCHIKAWA, who is engaged in the activities on the ground, reports:

Installing Water Pipe to Deliver Safe Water to the Camp

Because of continued heavy rain, the water tank truck became stuck on the muddy road before reaching the camp. (March 19th, 2014)


Local staff members from AAR Japan’s offices in Sudan and Afghanistan, who have been working on mine actions at their local sites, visit Japan.

Report from the sites of mine action

In April 2014, local staff members from AAR Japan’s offices in Afghanistan and Sudan, who have been providing landmine/UXO (unexploded ordnance) action, came to Japan to participate in training sessions and workshops here. They reported to the Japanese people what the current situation of landmine damage and injury is like and what kind of assistance they have been organizing; while sharing challenges, actions and creative ideas from daily operations with us.

Visitors from Afghanistan
Yama Hakami (on the left) has been working in our Kabul Office since 2005, in charge of mine risk education. This is his 6th visit to Japan to join our educational sessions. Nader Shah (on the right), at the age of 9, had a UXO accident in his neighborhood, losing both arms and sight in his right eye. Since 2006, Nader has been with AAR in charge of accounting in our Kabul Office. Pictured in the center is Yukie OSA, President of AAR.
Visitors from Sudan
Sana Bashir Ibrahim Elnaw (on the left) has been a speaker and in charge of the development of learning materials of landmine-risk education for AAR since 2008.
Yasir Mohammed El Ghaly Ahmed (on the right) has been working on the development of learning materials for mine risk education at our Khartoum Office since 2006.


Cambodia: Providing Pleasure of Going to School for Children with Disabilities

With Try-and-Error Efforts of Teachers

In Cambodia many children with disabilities cannot receive education even after they reach schooling age for various reasons. In Kandal Province, southern Cambodia, AAR Japan has been providing support to enable an increased number of children with disabilities to have access to education since April 2013.  An AAR staff member Tomoko SONODA reports.

To begin with, AAR built and renovated toilets in three primary schools to make them accessible by wheelchairs. It also carried out construction works to improve physical conditions of the schools, such as installing wheelchair ramps and paving walkways within the school grounds.
Pupils of Cheom Saren Primary School with Tomoko SONODA (right) in front of newly paved pathway in the school. (October 14th, 2013)

AAR then organized training programs for teachers in each school to increase their awareness and understanding of various disabilities. It also offered training for teachers on the use of relevant teaching materials which would facilitate the learning of children with disabilities. The training program included desired seat plans for children with disabilities, loudness of aural instructions for children with hearing disabilities, and the use of blackboard for weak-eye children. In their daily classes, many teachers who have attended the training are now making good use of what they have learnt.

One of the participants in the training program, Ms. Cheom Saren (teacher at Kor Cho Ram primary school), is in charge of a class in which there are several children with disabilities. After the training she became more attentive and effective at caring for children with disabilities and changed her way of speaking and communicating with them. She said, “Thanks to the training I now understand how to cope with matters which I’ve had difficulties in tackling before, such as how to explain to children with disabilities and how to best interact with them.  Pupils with disabilities are as eager to learn as other pupils.  I now want to help them learn well together with other children.”
Teacher Ms. Ny Rithyromny says that AAR’s teacher training program was helpful.  “I would like to continue to foster pupils’ wish to learn,” she says. (February 27th, 2014)
Mr. Ny Rithyromny (8 years old) is with hearing disabilities and sits in the most front row in the classroom.  As the teacher speaks clearly and slowly, he looks happy and says, “I can now comprehend better than before.” (January 13th, 2014)

“Yes, I can.” Fosters Self Confidence.

Teacher Ms. Luy Sophon (right), in charge of Mr. Ny Virak’s class, says “Having participated in AAR’s teacher training, I now interact with children with disabilities with a sense of affection.” (February 27th, 2014)
At the three primary schools, AAR also provides wheelchairs and other supporting equipment, as well as physical rehabilitation and medical treatment support. With the supporting equipment, children with disabilities can study more effectively, and with rehabilitation programs they increase what they can do by themselves, all of which contribute to their self-confidence and esteem.
Mr. Ny Virak ( 8 years old) is at first grade in Prek Ta Mek primary school.  Because he has had no arms since birth, he has been taking notes on a small blackboard beneath his desk in chalk using his foot. When AAR offered a chair equipped with a footrest, he was pleased, saying that it made taking notes much easier.  He looked happy and said, “The school is joyful, and thanks to the barrier-free construction works I can move and act easily in the school.”  Teacher Luy Sophon, in charge of Mr. Ny Virak’s class, said “Before, I had difficulty in teaching children with disabilities. Greatly helped by the teacher training, I now interact with them and support their study with a sense of affection.”
Mr. Ny Virak(8 years old) has no arm from his birth.  Previously, he took notes beneath the desk on a small blackboard, which seemed difficult.
When AAR provided a chair equipped with a footrest, Mr. Ny Virak said, “With this, writing is much easier.” (February 21st, 2014)

Involving Local People

In order for children with disabilities to have an opportunity for education, the local people’s understanding and cooperation are as indispensable as those of the schools’.  Late September last year, prior to the new school year, we conducted a campaign to promote education for school-aged children in the three villages where AAR runs its project.  Many primary school pupils gathered and paraded the villages, highlighting the importance of education for children with disabilities by putting up placards and handing out leaflets which read: “Entering school for children with disabilities will enhance human resources of the village,” “Every child, regardless of whether he/she is with disabilities, has a right to education,” etc.
Primary school pupils paraded the village, calling “Let all children, regardless of whether they are with disabilities or not, have the opportunity to go to school!” (September 20th, 2013)

AAR also organized events to increase the local people’s awareness of Cambodian laws and regulations concerning persons with disabilities. Primary school children played skits, or short performances, on the theme of education, employment, medical care or rehabilitation. At a skit on the theme of education, for example, two pairs of a mother and her child appear on the stage, where one of the child is disabled while the other isn’t. The able-bodied child goes to a school with his mother for school enrollment while the other disabled child pleas with his own mother, “I also want to go to school!”  The mother responds, “You are handicapped. What is the use of your going to school?”  This concludes the skit.  The participants are then asked to discuss among themselves what they thought about the skit.  After discussion, the facilitator (an AAR local staff member) explains that children with disabilities also have a right to receive education and that it is stipulated by Cambodian law.
We organized an event to deepen understanding about persons with disabilities using skits.  Skits were eagerly played by children and highly appreciated by the local people. (November 22nd, 2013)

Through the skit, important laws can be explained in a free and easy way informally.  Skit is a very effective way for sharing information, through which participants themselves think and learn with keen interest.  The children played very well at the skit.  The skit was favorably received by the local people as well, including family members of children with disabilities. 
I feel happy whenever I hear “thank you!” for our support activities from children with disabilities, their guardians and teachers.  However, in Cambodia, still only a handful of children with disabilities can receive such support.  AAR will carry out these programs in larger communities, and continue our efforts to increase the number of schools where all the children can go and study with merry smiles, regardless of whether they are with or without disabilities.

Tomoko SONODA, AAR Japan Cambodia Office (profile as of the date of the article)
After graduating from a university, worked in a diplomatic establishment abroad before studying development education in the United Kingdom.  Afterwards, engaged in school management in Cambodia for two years as a member of JOCV (Japan Overseas Cooperation Volunteers), then joined AAR Japan in May, 2011.  “I would like to do what I can do now, one by one, for children with disabilities.”  Ms. Sonoda is from Yamaguchi Prefecture.


Emergency Support for South Sudan: Safe Drinking Water Urgently Needed

As many as 26,000 people (as of March 14th) have fled from continuous fighting in South Sudan to Kakuma Refugee Camp in neighboring Kenya. This is a report on the relief activities and the refugees’ lives by Daijo TSUCHIKAWA, an AAR staff member of South Sudan Office, who is responsible for humanitarian aid in the Camp.

Daijo TSUCHIKAWA (to the left), an AAR staff, interviewing the refugees.  (March 12th, 2014)


The Philippines: Helping People Rebuild Their Homes

The devastating typhoon Haiyan hit the Philippines on November 8th, 2013, affecting more than 16 million victims.  Furthermore, over 1.14 million houses were destroyed or damaged. AAR Japan has been conducting research and providing relief supplies to support these victims, with a focus on providing aid to people with disabilities, who may otherwise be unable to access vital aid. Juri HIROYA (AAR Tokyo office) reports from the severely damaged Tacloban, Leyte Island.

Waste and Debris Scattered Throughout the Town

Tents in the coastal area. Most houses were swept away by the typhoon. (February 7th, 2014.)
In early February I arrived at the airport in Tacloban. The destruction caused by the typhoon is immediately visible. The roof of the terminal still requires repair and the luggage conveyers remain broken, forcing airport staff to screen luggage manually. Despite this difficult circumstance, the airport was quick to reopen to enable vital relief supplies to arrive in the wake of the disaster.
Little improvement has been achieved since my last visit in December, with trees and debris scattered throughout Tacloban. Despite the Philippine Government's attempt to install temporary housing, many people are forced to live in tents or houses which have been patched up with scrap material and plastic sheets.


Syria: “We cannot go back home. So we lead our lives here.” Towards a life of self-help in Turkey

Over three years have passed since the outbreak of the Syrian civil war in March, 2011. 8,800,000 people, approximately the total population of Tokyo's 23 wards, have fled from their home country in order to escape the warzone and save the lives of their families (February, 2014: UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs - OCHA). Among them, 580,000 people live as refugees in Turkey, where the Association for Aid and Relief, Japan (AAR Japan) has been engaged in activities such as providing food and other basic necessities, supporting persons with disabilities, and preparing learning environments for children. Junko YANAGIDA reports on AAR's current and future support programs.

Ms. Nasim receives rehabilitation care from a physical therapist (left). After repeated treatments, the pain in her right arm has been diminishing and she is able to use it more freely (November 25th, 2013).


The Great East Japan Earthquake: Providing necessary support, concern for each person’s situation

Three years have passed since the Great East Japan Earthquake. As time passes, the amount of news attention regarding the earthquake is decreasing and it seems that more and more people have come to think of the earthquake as part of the past. However, 274,088 people (as of December, 2013) are still relocating to other places.
Staffs and users of “Katatsumuri”, a welfare facility that we provided a vehicle operating pick-up and drop-off services for people using the facility. (December 26, 2013. Ofunato, Iwate)

Iwate, Miyagi, and Fukushima, the prefectures where AAR Japan are conducting its activities, are facing various problems such as an aging population, depopulation due to relocation, and the ongoing  situation at nuclear power plants. Those factors are closely intertwined, and can cause longer and uneven setbacks in different areas. Some people have already rebuilt their houses by themselves, while some say that they don’t even know when they will be able to move into newly reconstructed houses and possible have to live in a temporary housing complex for rest of their lives. Even within the same temporary housing complexes, people are facing different problems. It’s necessary to respond to the individual issues.

As time passes, people’s needs have changed. At first, essential daily items such as food or a travelling clinic were in demand, followed by the need for electric appliances as construction on temporary housing complexes began. Then, our support shifted to reconstructing welfare facilities and shopping streets. And now, we are requested to be there to support every single person, and provide a timely and appropriate support that meets each person’s pace of recovery. For the elderly living alone in the temporary housing, we arrange places and opportunities at which they can seek counseling and support. For children living in high-radiation areas, we provide opportunities to play outside to their hearts’ content, without a fear of radiation. For a welfare facility hoping to find a new market, we suggest ideas to develop the market and provide equipment needed for production. We are providing various kinds of support and consultation for each person’s situation and actively make every effort to respond to their needs.
We visit meeting places in temporary housing complexes to provide massages service and active listening.
Left: Kazuya OMURO of AAR, Physiotherapist
(December 8, 2013 Ishinomaki, Miyagi)
Thank you to the continuous donation and assistance from both at home and abroad, victims of the earthquake have been able to start their new lives. One of the staff members of the welfare facility which we provided a vehicle and office equipment mentioned the positive attitude of a person with disability by telling the following story; He seldom went out before, but recently he began to come to our facility. His family told me that they heard him happily saying, “I’ve just come back from work (welfare facility)!”.

On the other hand, Ekuko YOKOYAMA of AAR Soma office, who has been conducting counseling and other related activities at the temporary housing complex, says, “Deeply affected by shock and sorrow, time has essentially stood still for many people since they lost their loved ones in the earthquake, and they have not been able to take the next step forward.” Three years is not enough time to heal the deep emotional wounds, so we still need to help them cope with their sorrow and anxiety.

To deliver your kindness and to reduce the number of people left behind from the recovery, we, the staff of AAR Tohoku office, visit disaster-stricken areas lying under the snowy sky today.
We deeply appreciate your thoughtful and continuous support.

Reported by: Akiko KATO, Representative of Tohoku Office
Ms. Kato had worked at Tokyo office since April 2010 and engaged in projects mainly related to Haiti and Zambia. Since March 2011, she has engaged in supporting project of the Great East Japan Earthquake. Since April 2013, she has been supervising this project as a representative of Tohoku Office. After graduating university, she worked for a private sector. And then studied social development at graduate school in the U.K. She joined AAR after working at a governmental research institution and a diplomatic mission. Originally from Tokyo.  (profile as of the date of the article)