Japan: Delivering Vehicles to Welfare Facilities in Disaster-Affected Areas

AAR JAPAN initiated the project to deliver vehicles to institutions that cater to persons with disabilities and elderly people in disaster-stricken areas in the effort to support welfare facilities that have lost their modes of transportation in the disaster. We visited Sasaeai Yamamoto, a facility for elderly people in Yamamoto Town, Miyagi Prefecture, on October 14th, and Suzuran-to-Katatsumuri (“Lilies and Snails”), a facility for persons with disabilities in Rikuzen-takata City, Iwate Prefecture, on October 16th. This report is by Natsuho SHOJI, who attended the presentation ceremonies at these two sites.
* This project was made possible by the generous donation from JTI Foundation.

Vehicles for Pick-up and Drop-off Services Play Vital Roles at Welfare Facilities

In order to accommodate persons with disabilities and elderly people who have difficulty walking, large vehicles play a vital role at social welfare facilities in operating pick-up and drop-off services. However, many facilities lost their vehicles in the disaster. As many facilities have begun to reopen their doors after half a year since the earthquake, the growing demand for vehicles, alongside infrastructure and office supplies, became inevitable.

August 9th, 2011- We are delivering the much-needed vehicles to facilities in disaster-affected areas (Nozomi Fukushi Workshop, welfare facility for persons with disabilities in Minami-sanriku Town, Motoyoshi County, Miyagi Prefecture)
 AAR JAPAN has assessed the needs of various welfare facilities in the affected areas and is currently providing vehicles to these locations in order of urgency. We have delivered a total of 13 vehicles to facilities in Miyagi and Iwate prefectures as of October 31st (of 13, 7 vehicles funded by JTI Foundation), and we are preparing for 8 more deliveries (of 8, 5 vehicles by JTI Foundation) to be made in the near future.

“We Are Grateful That We Can Reopen Our Services to Our Elderly Users”

October 14th, 2011- Ms. Reiko NAKAMURA (left), Director of Sasaeai Yamamoto, thanks Mr. Nenad (center) Ms. NAGATA (right) from JTI Foundation (Yamamoto Town, Watari County, Miyagi Prefecture)
On October 14th, we visited Sasaeai Yamamoto and took part in the presentation ceremony. JTI Foundation, who contributed to the purchasing of the vehicles, arrived from Switzerland to accompany us at the presentation ceremony. Sasaeai Yamamoto is based in Yamamoto Town, Miyagi Prefecture, which was one of the more severely affected areas, situated about 1 kilometer from the coast. The ground floor of the building was flooded and most of the vehicles and office supplies were washed away when the tsunami tore through Yamamoto Town on the day of the earthquake. Fortunately, the building itself was repaired through donor support in addition to property insurance, and the facility reopened on September 20th. AAR JAPAN has visited Sasaeai Yamamoto a number of times since the disaster in March and has continuously carried out delivery of relief supplies.

Ms. Reiko NAKAMURA, the director of Sasaeai Yamamoto, greeted us upon our arrival. The 2 vehicles that were donated had already been delivered to the facility in late September and were being used in their daily services. Ms. NAKAMURA mentioned that on the day of the earthquake, all the users were led to the second floor of the building and luckily evaded the tsunami; however, “we were forced to wait in the cold until the Self-Defense Force rescued us the following day. We lost all of our vehicles including our staff’s personal cars. We are thankful to be able to reopen our services to the elderly.” Listening to her, everyone was in tears.

“The Vehicle Enabled Us to Transport Our Users with Disabilities Who Reside in Distant Areas”

October 16th, 2011- We presented the vehicle to Suzuran-to-Katatsumuri. With JTI Foundation representatives and AAR JAPAN staff (Natsuho SHOJI of AAR JAPAN pictured in center of back row, Rikuzen-Takata City, Iwate Prefecture)
Suzuran-to-Katatsumuri (“Lilies and Snails”) is an organization established after the disaster. The earthquake and tsunami have demolished many facilities that served persons with disabilities, and users of these facilities have had to search for new locations. Accordingly, Suzuran-to-Katatsumuri aims to support persons with disabilities under such predicament, especially those who are having a difficult time finding an institution that has the capacity to take them in. The organization has been active since May and is currently engaged in activities such as selling soft-serve ice cream and good luck charms to serve survivors in Rikuzen-takata City, Iwate Prefecture.

On October 16th, the vehicle that AAR JAPAN had provided thanks to the generous donation from JTI Foundation reached the Suzuran-to-Katatsumuri facility. Previously, facility users living in distant areas with no convenient modes of transportation were reliant on being driven by the families of other facility users; many felt like they were becoming a burden. However, the new vehicle has allowed for convenient pick-up and drop-off, and the users can now enjoy the services of Suzuran-to-Katatsumuri with much more ease and less feeling of guilt.

AAR JAPAN will continue its relief activities with the focus on bringing the lives of persons with disabilities and the elderly back to normal.

August 23rd, 2011- We presented a vehicle to Kick Off facility. (Kamaishi City, Iwate Prefecuture)

We received a lovely thank you letter from a user at Hack’s House in Tanohata Village, Iwate Prefecture, one of our vehicle recipients.

Natsuho SHOJI at Tokyo Office
Joined the Overseas/ Domestic Programs at the AAR JAPAN Tokyo office in June, 2011. After completing her undergraduate studies in Canada, she spent 2 years as a Japan Overseas Cooperation Volunteer in Costa Rica working on a youth rehabilitation project, before joining AAR JAPAN. (Born in Shizuoka Prefecture)