Building back betterFour years have passed since the Great East Japan Earthquake on March 11th, 2011. On March 1st of this year, the Joban Expressway, which connects Tokyo and Sendai, is scheduled to open, and many of the railroads along the Pacific coast have resumed operation. However, at the same time, there are still approximately 234,000 people living in temporary housing complexes (as of December 26th, 2014, Reconstruction Agency). AAR Japan has been on-site since the second day of the disaster and has supported vulnerable populations, including PWDs, elderly people, and those affected by the nuclear accident in Iwate, Miyagi, and Fukushima Prefectures.
Many social welfare facilities were damaged or swept away by the earthquake or tsunami. Accordingly, facilities’ service users, namely PWDs and elderly people, were left isolated from society. AAR Japan visits temporary housing complexes every weekend, and holds counseling and massage sessions, as well as social events for the residents. In addition, AAR Japan has been trying to improve the living environment for PWDs and the elderly by assisting with the reconstruction of social welfare facilities.
Unfortunately, the reconstruction of social welfare facilities does not mean full recovery from the disaster. The facilities for PWDs previously produced and sold hand-made goods for self-reliance of otherwise-dependent PWDs. Many of them lost their distribution channels and the profit has significantly decreased. Nevertheless, they are striving to develop marketable goods and explore new distribution channels in order to restore the financial independence of the PWDs.
|“I can now raise my right arm!” Kazuya OMURO (left), AAR Japan staff and physiotherapist, gives a massage to a resident of temporary housing complex. Many look forward to AAR Japan’s visit”. (November 23rd, 2014)|
Challenge of social welfare facility in Yamada Town, Iwate Prefecture- “working for our community”Yamada Town, Iwate Prefecture is a seaside town in the middle part of the Sanriku coast and is considered one of the most prominent fishing ports. The earthquake and tsunami caused enormous damage to the town, resulting in over 820 deaths and missing persons. Yamada Kyoseikai, a social welfare facility for PWDs, is located away from the coast and fortunately was not affected by the tsunami. In fact, the facility was used as an evacuation center in the aftermath of the disaster. AAR Japan has been working with Yamada Kyoseikai since the emergency phase through various activities such as distribution of relief goods. Today, AAR Japan supports transportation service to ensure medical visits for PWDs and elderly residents as well as participation in social events to prevent isolation of the elderly. At the social events, Yamada Kyoseikai invites nurses and dental hygienists to hold sessions on health tips. In 2013, Yamada Kyoseikai launched the sales of local seafood to share blessings from the sea to show gratitude for the nationwide support received. AAR Japan supplied a large refrigerator since small-sized refrigerators limited the production. Yamada Kyoseikai now delivers seasonal seafood nationwide. Akihiko SATO, the director of Yamada Kyoseikai, said, “We are able to live thanks to the sea. We wish to contribute to the recovery of Yamada Town, as well as strive to increase wages of PWDs working here.”
|Social interaction event for the elderly residents living in temporary housing who tend to stay at home. A local musician (right) performed at the event. (September 30th, 2014)|
Collaboration initiated by a social welfare facility in Koriyama City, Fukushima PrefectureKoriyama City in Fukushima Prefecture hosts many PWDs who have fled Futaba District, which is the area within a 30-kilometer radius of Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. Shinsei in Koriyama City has provided support for PWDs who left their hometown to lead purposeful lives and to have a role in society through employment. In November 2013, Shinsei networked with other social welfare facilities in Fukushima Prefecture, and took the initiative to develop a new product, leveraging their relationships with AAR Japan and private corporations created after the March 11th disaster. The project for the baked cookie, “Polvoron” was then launched. Nisshin Seifun Group Inc. taught techniques for baking cookies, while AAR Japan assisted with package designs and cooking tools. We also provided marketing and PR support, including the production of brochures and hosting launch events for private companies and the general public in Tokyo. The social welfare facilities received many orders immediately after the release of “Polvoron” in October 2014. PWDs diligently work on each task assigned to produce the cookies. It is by working closely together that the eleven facilities in Fukushima Prefecture keep up with the high demand and fill large orders. Ms. Miho TOMINAGA, the Board Chairperson at Shinsei, said, “the PWDs have grown to love and be proud of their work on ‘Polvoron’ production and public relations activities.”
|Workers at CAFÉ Sweet Hot in Koriyama City cutting “Polvoron” our of pastry dough (September 9th, 2014)|