Japan: Delivering 2,149 Boxes of Chocolate and the Senders’ Thoughts From Around the Country to Disaster Areas

Reaching out to Temporary Houses, Social Welfare Facilities, and Nursery Schools in Iwate, Miyagi, and Fukushima Prefectures
January 26th, 2012- “Thank you so much for the chocolate and your messages!” say the children at Soma Nursery School. (Soma City, Fukushima Prefecture)
AAR JAPAN is currently presenting its “Magokoro Campaign (literally meaning true heart campaign),” in which chocolate boxes (500 yen per box) with handwritten messages of encouragement are sent to those affected by the Great East Japan Earthquake. As of February 21st, 2012, we have received 2,149 orders of chocolate from all over the country, and we have been delivering them along with the messages to temporary houses, social welfare facilities, nursery schools, and kindergartens, among other places, in Iwate, Miyagi, and Fukushima Prefectures. This is a report made by staff members at AAR JAPAN’s Sendai office.

“I felt the senders’ and the recipients’ hearts being connected.”

February 4th, 2012- Too impatient to use his wheelchair, a user crawled to the door in eagerness to receive the chocolate and message. On the left is Shuji OMATSU of AAR JAPAN. (Oguni-no-Sato, Sendai City, Miyagi Prefecture)
On February 4th, 2012, we delivered 42 boxes and messages gathered through the campaign to Oguni-no-Sato, a care center and temporary housing facility for persons with intellectual disabilities and their family members, operated by Social Welfare Corporation Shoshin-kai. Oguni-no-Sato is comprised of 2 group housing facilities for persons with disabilities (PWDs) living alone and 40 houses for their family members with residential staff members stationed on a 24-hour basis. However, since this temporary housing facility was not built as a government property, it was excluded from Ishinomaki City’s governmental support that assisted the evacuees pass the winter. Following the facility staff’s negotiation with city officials, they had just received relief supplies such as heaters. Furthermore, although it is a temporary housing complex, the houses are made out of container units, so the PWDs and their family members are living in much smaller spaces compared to normal temporary houses.

Under such circumstance, the evacuees dashed out of their homes when we knocked on their doors to deliver the chocolate and messages, as though they had been eagerly waiting for our arrival, since they were informed beforehand that we would visit their homes. We felt like we were playing the role of Santa Clause. When we explained the meanings of the message cards to them, they directed their brightest smiles to our camera to express their appreciation, for they were unable to speak clearly due to their disabilities. Through the delivery of chocolate brought together by the “Magokoro Campaign”, I felt the senders’ “true hearts” and the recipients’ feeling of appreciation being connected. (Shuji OMATSU, Sendai office)

Even “men of sea” were Filled with Smiles

February 14th, 2012- Reading the messages one by one, all with different words of encouragement, the fishermen were filled with smiles. Pictured in the center is AAR JAPAN’s Yuko OGASAWARA. (Higashi-Matsushima City, Miyagi Prefecture)
On February 14th, 2012, Valentine’s Day, we visited the Miyato branch office of Miyagi Prefecture Fishermen’s Cooperative Association to deliver 60 boxes of chocolate with messages, along with warm winter clothes for protection against the cold. At the Miyato branch office, the local fishermen removed the rubbles on their own without the help from the government, repaired their broken boats, and restarted their fishing activity using fixed nets, at the end of last year. They have been moving forward one step at a time, working together. I handed the chocolate to these fishermen, who had just returned from the sea dressed in work clothes that AAR JAPAN had provided, gallantly disembarking the boat. The men commented, “That’s right” or “This makes me happy” as they read the individual messages with words such as “Spring will always arrive” and “We’re rooting for you from a faraway place”.

I was overcome with a feeling of happiness, given the opportunity to deliver chocolate filled with such strong feelings of compassion to those who are working towards recovery in the disaster area. Miyato branch office is located in Higashi-Matsushima City, a coastal region with a temperature that is 1 or 2 degrees lower than the city of Sendai with nothing to block the cold wind, but I was able to feel the warmth through this support, both physically and emotionally. (Yuko OGASAWARA, Sendai office)

February 11th, 2012- The evacuees living in temporary houses lost their homes in the tsunami and also lost their jobs. Their faces were immediately filled with smiles when we delivered your “true hearts”. (Back row left is AAR JAPAN’s Hiromi SATO and 3rd from the left is Haruka HINOSUGI, at a community center at a temporary housing facility in Kamaishi City, Iwate Prefecture)

February 22nd, 2012- Pre-primary children and their guardians at a parenting support center. The mothers were deeply touched as they read the messages attached to the boxes of chocolate one by one. (Back row left is AAR JAPAN’s Ryo OIKAWA, Rikuzen-Takata City, Iwate Prefecture)