6.20.2014

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)

6.05.2014

Supporting Persons With Disabilities (PWDs) - Graduates of Vocational Training Schools

Offering vocational training to more than 1,200 PWDs for 15 years

In Myanmar, the superstition still persists among people that PWDs were born the way they were because they were sinful in their former lives. In Burmese, the official language of Myanmar, being handicapped has a connotation of “being unable to do anything”, and people tend to dismiss PWDs as unskilled. This explains why PWDs generally have no choice but to be dependent on their family members. As a matter of fact, family members have little or no interest on how to educate PWDs. In addition to these social and cultural factors in Myanmar, the limited number of social workers and limited budget has resulted in fewer opportunities for PWDs to get involved in their community.
The first batch of graduates singing and dancing at the graduation ceremony. The representative of the class said, “We would like to make the most of the skills we acquired in this school and contribute to the welfare of PWDs in our community.”  (April 9th, 2014)

5.31.2014

Grateful for the continuing support 3 years on - Thank you for your cooperation with the “Heart-Warming Chocolate Delivery Campaign”

Many warm sentiments delivered to Tohoku

In the Heart-Warming Chocolate Delivery Campaign, messages of support from people all over Japan were attached to AAR Japan's charity chocolates and delivered to the areas stricken by the Tohoku Earthquake. From December 2011 to March 2014 (with the campaign running during winter only) we received orders for 6,452 chocolates.

In Iwate, Miyagi, and Fukushima prefectures, staff from AAR's Tohoku office distributed the chocolates by visiting temporary housing units door to door and at events organized by AAR. In this report, we will relay some of the circumstances and messages of thanks from the recipients.
"We're grateful for the support from all over Japan". Chocolates were delivered to 15 people in Konakai Temporary Shelter Complex in Ofunato city. In the front row on the far right is AAR Sendai office's Kazuo ITO (February 10th, 2014)

5.22.2014

Attending the UN Meeting on Killer Robots

Attending the experts’ meeting in Switzerland

Government representatives from 87 nations, UN agencies, the International Committee of the Red Cross, and NGOs gathered for the convention. (May 13th, 2014)
Killer robots, or lethal autonomous weapons systems (LAWS), are weapons that autonomously select and attack targets with no human intervention. Although they have not been used in the battlefield, it is estimated that the technology could be developed in 10-20 years. AAR Japan engages in a steering committee of the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots, an international civil society network launched in April 2013 which aims to pre-emptively ban fully autonomous weapons.

From 13th to 16th of May 2014, informal meeting of experts of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW) took place at the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland. It was the first-ever multinational discussion on restricting killer robots. This meeting holds a major significance for work towards imposing restrictions on killer robots by CCW. As a member of Campaign to Stop Killer Robots, AAR sent its President, Yukie OSA, and Natsuki MATSUMOTO from AAR Tokyo office to the meeting.

5.14.2014

Sudan: The Japanese Ambassador visits the Mine Risk Education Project Site

MRE sessions conducted using the original education materials (November 22nd, 2013, Kassala) 
In Sudan, countless landmines were buried during the Second Sudanese Civil War (1983-2005). There are more than 1,900 victims of landmines and unexploded ordinances (UXOs) in the country, and even after the end of war in 2005, 651 cases of new victims by landmines and UXOs have been reported (as of Mach 2014, Information Management System for Mine Action (IMSMA)). In addition, the conflict has reignited in southern regions of Blue Nile state and South Kordofan state in 2011, raising the risk ever higher of an increase in causalities from UXOs. Association for Aid and Relief, Japan (AAR Japan) develops its original education materials such as posters, flip chart story, and songs and goes around villages to conduct educational sessions about landmines for local residents. Since its start in 2006, approximately 100,000 people have attended the MRE sessions.

In 24th March, Ambassador of Japan to the Republic of Sudan, Ryoichi HORIE, visited our project site in Kassala state, Eastern Sudan where AAR conducts the mine risk education (MRE) project. For this occasion, AAR Japan, together with local residents, organized an event to introduce the MRE program to the Ambassador. Takashi UJIKAWA of Sudan Office reports.

5.02.2014

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.

4.14.2014

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.