Elementary School Students in Minami-Sanriku Celebrate their Graduation

Presents for Graduating Students in the Disaster Area 
On April 29th, students at Isatomae Elementary School in the town of Minami-Sanriku, Miyagi Prefecture, celebrated their long-delayed graduation ceremony. Postponed over a month, a total of 40 students from Isatomae Elementary School and Natari Elementary School attended the ceremony. Located 2 km away near the Pacific coast, Natari Elementary was unable to host its own ceremony due to extensive damage from the tsunami.

AAR JAPAN staff presented teddy bears and candy to the graduating students. As the ceremony ended, the students were led out to the schoolyard, where the tsunami-ravaged landscape of Isatomae and Utatsu lay before them. “Never forget this view,” their teacher told them. “This is your town, and you are the ones who will rebuild it.”

After the graduation ceremony, AAR JAPAN and Peace Project held a soup kitchen at Utatsu Junior High School. Located next door to Isatomae Elementary School, approximately 250 people are using the junior high school as an evacuation center, including graduates from Isatomae Elementary. The soup kitchen offered a special menu of steak, minestrone soup and oden to celebrate their graduation.

At the ceremony, one of the graduating students said, “After the earthquake, I always felt afraid. But in a few days, volunteers came with help and relief supplies. When I become a junior high school student, I want to be the one to help others who are scared.”

Youth takes the first step into the future—the path may be long, but they have started walking toward recovery.
April 29th – Graduating students are presented with Rirakkuma teddy bears. AAR JAPAN’s Tomoya SOEJIMA stands to the left. (Minami-Sanriku, Miyagi Prefecture)

April 29th – Before “leaving the nest” graduating students engrave the memory of the scene into their hearts. (Minami-Sanriku, Miyagi Prefecture)
April 29th – Steak from the soup kitchen in the Utatsu Junior High School evacuation center. (Minami-Sanriku, Miyagi Prefecture)
April 29th – Congratulations on your graduation! (Minami-Sanriku, Miyagi Prefecture)
Photo credits: Yoshifumi KAWABATA