AAR JAPAN Aims to Heed the Voice of Every Survivor

Since Friday, March 11th, AAR JAPAN has been engaged in aid activities for survivors of the Great East Japan Earthquake. With its hardest-hit areas located far from major city centers, Iwate Prefecture has been slow to recover compared to neighboring Miyagi Prefecture. Yuki DAIZUMOTO, who has been based in the Morioka Office and engaged in aid activities in Iwate Prefecture, reports on the present situation of AAR JAPAN’s efforts in the area.

From Sudan to the Disaster Area

On April 1st, AAR JAPAN opened its office in Morioka City as a base for relief operations in Iwate Prefecture. Many of our target facilities for persons with disabilities and the elderly are located on the coast, so we spend a few hours every day going to the disaster zone.

I heard about the Great East Japan Earthquake while working in Sudan. I came back to Japan at the end of March, and then started to work in Morioka on April 7th. When I first visited the disaster area, it was some time before I could truly believe that the scene I had seen on the news now lay before me. I still clearly remember an old woman pointing to it all and murmuring, “There was a house there, and a bookshop next to it.” Not even the slightest sign of a building could be recognized.

Survivors are pleased to receive fresh food, which is rarely provided due to the difficulty of long-term storage. Yuki DAIZUMOTO (center) distributes oranges at a facility for persons with disabilities. (Photo by Satoshi TAKAHASHI)

Rapidly Changing Needs

More than two months have passed since the earthquake, and circumstances have been changing in the disaster area. Rubble removal has progressed, supplies are being distributed, and there are more cars on the roads. In some areas, traffic jams occur where roads are closed for reconstruction work on the power lines. However, there are still other areas where the Self-Defense Force is searching for the missing, where water has yet to be reconnected, and there are no shops at all. While we refer to it all as the “disaster zone”, each part is different.

Requests from survivors have been changing. While previously they asked for drinking water and food with a long shelf life, these days we have been distributing fresh food such as vegetables and fruit, clothes for spring and summer, electric fans, and office supplies such as computers and printers that are necessary for facility operations. Local needs have been changing rapidly from fundamental life support supplies to the resources needed for a normal, productive life.

Strengthening Support for Persons with Disabilities, the Elderly, and Evacuees in Their Homes

Compared to Miyagi Prefecture, in Iwate Prefecture there is less information available about groups involved in supporting persons with disabilities and the elderly, so we keep in close contact with each individual group and facility to keep abreast of their situations. Some people visit care facilities from their homes, which means they are likely to be omitted from lists of supply distribution, as these predominantly focus on evacuation centers. We need to strengthen our support for survivors in their homes to ensure that help gets to everyone.

At the request of the Iwate Prefectural Office, AAR JAPAN has also been cooperating in establishing systems to support a variety of tasks such as confirming the safety and whereabouts of survivors and distributing donations in order to contribute to each survivor’s quick recovery.

As Iwate Prefecture covers a large area, the number of groups working here is still not sufficient to meet the region’s needs. We will continue to watch the situation carefully to ensure that no-one is left out, and that we do not overlook even the smallest voice calling for support.

Aid activities in both Miyagi and Iwate Prefectures still face many challenges, and we thank you deeply for your continued support.

AAR JAPAN has also been aiding in the reconstruction of damaged facilities for persons with disabilities and the elderly.

Yuki DAIZUMOTO (Morioka Office)
Worked in private companies and government organizations after graduation from university
Worked in AAR JAPAN Sudan Office from 2009
Stationed in Morioka Office from April 2011, engaged in aid and relief activities for survivors of the Great East Japan Earthquake in Iwate Prefecture
(Born in Hyogo Prefecture)



Zambia: AAR JAPAN’s Bicycles and Emergency Carts Put to Good Use

With a bed attached behind a bicycle, this cart can quickly transport emergency patients to the hospital. In the center is Takashi ASHIDA of AAR JAPAN.

In August 2010, AAR JAPAN provided 16 bicycles and 8 emergency carts for a home-visit nursing group in the Chipapa area, which is near Zambia’s capital of Lusaka. The group’s 25 volunteers visit the homes of 125 HIV-positive people in the area, offering them both physical and mental care. Most residents of the area don’t have bicycles, much less cars, and AAR JAPAN’s bicycles have been of great help in visiting patients spread out over the large Chipapa area. The emergency carts are used for the transportation of emergency patients, enabling them to be taken to the hospital at any time the need arises, giving residents a much-appreciated sense of security.

Mika YAMAI, AAR JAPAN Lusaka office, Zambia
After graduation from university, she worked at an airline company. Studied public health at graduate school in the United States before joining AAR JAPAN. Has been working in AAR JAPAN’s Lusaka office since November 2009. (Born in Hyogo Prefecture)


Cambodia – Vocational Training Center for Persons with Disabilities Concludes its Operations

AAR JAPAN opened Vocational Training Center for Disabled (VTD) at Kien Khleang National Rehabilitation Centre in 1993, and since 2006 the center has been run by Cambodians as a local NGO with support from AAR JAPAN. However, the number of vocational training centers and universities offering learning opportunities to persons with disabilities has been increasing in Cambodia, and as a result, it has been concluded that VTD has fulfilled its role. The center concluded its operations at the end of March, 2011. AAR JAPAN will continue to support wheelchair production and offer assistance to persons with disabilities in accordance with situation on the ground in Cambodia. We express our sincerest gratitude for all the support we’ve received for VTD.

Mr. Chun NAI, 27 years old, lost his right leg to a landmine at the age of 15. After graduating from Kien Khleang Vocational Training Center, he started a business as an electrical repairman, which enabled him to support his wife and five daughters.

Program coordinator. Since September 2009, he has taken charge of projects in Cambodia and Sudan as part of the overseas division of AAR JAPAN. He was involved in emergency assistance during the Philippine Typhoon (2009) and the Haiti Earthquake (2010). 33 years old. (Born in Tokyo)
(Profile at the time of posting of this article)


Japan: Cooperating with the Local Commerce and Industry Association to Support Survivors in Temporary Housing

Providing Aid while Contributing to the Local Economy in Soma City and Minami-Soma City

In cooperation with the non-profit organization ADRA Japan, AAR JAPAN has been providing daily necessities to roughly 35,000 families living in temporary housing and rental housing in Fukushima Prefecture.

With the Japanese Red Cross Society having determined to distribute six-piece sets of electrical appliances in the affected areas, AAR JAPAN has decided to offer other daily necessities such as kitchen supplies, bathroom goods, vacuum cleaners, kotatsu (heated tables), chabu-dai (short-legged tables), cupboards and the like. This project is subsidized by the non-profit organization Japan Platform, with deliverable items selected based on requests from Fukushima’s prefectural or local government authorities.

Our target areas include 4 locations in the Soma region (Soma City, Minami-Soma City, Shinchi Town and Iitate Village) as well as Tomioka Town and Kawauchi Village in Futaba County. AAR JAPAN is cooperating with the Commerce and Industry Association in Soma City and Minami-Soma City to procure as many supplies locally as possible, with the goal of contributing to economic recovery as well as providing direct aid. Distribution has already begun.

In Tomioka Town, Kawauchi Village and Iitate Village, where residents have been evacuated due to the ongoing situation at Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant, AAR JAPAN will work closely with local government authorities and heed the voices of survivors in order to coordinate our aid activities.



Marathon Runner Mari TANIGAWA Runs with Disaster Victims

Between May 3rd and 6th, marathon runner Mari TANIGAWA (AAR JAPAN Executive Board Member and Ambassador for the Demining Campaign) visited areas in Iwate and Miyagi Prefectures affected by the March 11th earthquake to help at local soup kitchens and deliver relief supplies.

With the hope of bringing cheer to the evacuees through sporting activities, Tanigawa presented a lecture and stretching class at Higashihama Elementary School, as well as a mid-distance running class at the Oshika Peninsula Evacuation Center, both of which are located in Ishinomaki City, Miyagi Prefecture.
Smiles and Energy Unleashed through Sports
On May 5th (Children’s Day in Japan), Tanigawa led stretching, jogging, long-distance relay and mid-distance running classes at the Seiyukan Healthcare and Welfare Center on the Oshika Peninsula in Ishinomaki City, Miyagi Prefecture.
The Seiyukan Center was used as an evacuation center for approximately 450 people immediately after the earthquake, but now it is occupied by 140 people, including persons with disabilities who were former residents of the institution, staff from local government offices, and other evacuees.

May 5th - Children struggling to keep up with Tanigawa’s pace.

Realizing that the evacuees did not have many chances to exercise while living in the evacuation center, Tanigawa proposed a variety of fun activities. Thanks to the cooperation of Mr. Azumi Eiichi, chief of the local government office and its staff, people of all ages, from a 4-year old boy to a 76-year old woman, were able to participate in the events.  
Tanigawa started with stretching exercises. Though we could already see people desperately struggling to keep up with her movements, we couldn’t help but laugh along with the evacuees as they refused to give up. “I got tired because it’s been ages since I’ve been active,” a 50-year old male participant told us, though he seemed to be brimming with energy.
After Tanigawa offered instruction on running techniques, correct eye position and respiration methods, everyone jogged around the Seiyukan center. After each 500-meter lap, people began to drop out one-by-one, but the determined expressions of the children desperately trying to keep up with Tanigawa made a powerful impression on us.

Kids’ Unbeatable Energy Leaves Adults Behind

April 5th – In the front row, three kids who joined in the mid-distance run (Left to right: Kaito, Ryoki and Mizuho). Mari TANIGAWA is second from right in the back.

Next, a relay was run between two teams. The event included amusing episodes, such as a competitor stopping and waiting while a 4-year old boy on the opposing team retrieved a shoe that had slipped off his foot. 
Last but not least was the mid-distance run. Mizuho SATO (2nd year junior high), Ryoki NARITA (1st year junior high) and Kaito MURAKAMI (6th year elementary school) joined Tanigawa on a 20-minute course near the beach. The three kids showed no sign of fatigue, and seemed to want to keep running even after having run for more than an hour already.
Finally, we organized a relay race between children and adults, including two AAR JAPAN staff members, with the result that the kids’ team won. Mizuho told us it was fun, while Ryoki said, “It was nice having the chance to run with Ms. Tanigawa” and Kaito commented simply, “It was pretty tough.”
Tanigawa was impressed by the kids’ tenacity and energy. She told them, “Keep up your running, and have fun doing long-distance relays with everyone,” to which the kids nodded shyly in response.
Throughout the day, we were able to see the participants raising their voices and having fun being active. I was happy to be able to ease the mental and physical stress suffered by people living in the complicated environment of an evacuation center. This kind of event shows that, even though material support is undoubtedly important, keeping the body and mind healthy through activity is also a vital concern.

Junko MITO
Tokyo HQ, Publicity and Supporter Services Department
AAR JAPAN staff since 2010. From Okayama Prefecture.



Container Houses Quickly Offer a Better Living Space

May 10th – Volunteers who worked to set up the container houses. Front center is Yoshiteru HORIE, Secretary General of AAR JAPAN. (Onagawa, Miyagi Prefecture) (Photo by Mr. Izuru SUGAWARA)

In the areas affected by the Great East Japan Earthquake, there are still thousands of people living in minimal comfort in evacuation centers, risking their health due to stress and exhaustion. The government has not been able to provide enough temporary housing for all of them.

At AAR JAPAN, international journalist, Mr. Izuru SUGAWARA proposed offering the evacuees container houses, which are ready-to-assemble and easy to set up. AAR JAPAN has started sending these container houses to the affected areas.

In the town of Onagawa in Oshika County, Miyagi Prefecture, 6 container houses were set up for evacuees on May 10th. 24 more container houses will be set up in Onagawa in the near future, with more planned in other areas as well.

Having proposed the project, Mr. Izuru SUGAWARA reports on progress in Onagawa as of May 10th.

Virtually Unchanged Since the Day of the Great East Japan Earthquake

May 10th – Yubigahama, where the container houses were set up, remained untouched since the day of the Great East Japan Earthquake. (Onagawa, Miyagi Prefecture) (Photo by Mr. Izuru SUGAWARA)

On May 10th, in a small seaside village a few kilometers from central Onagawa in Miyagi Prefecture, we set up 4 container houses at Yubigahama Kappa Farm Evacuation Center, and set up 2 more in the garden of the private residence behind the farm.

The town of Onagawa was one of the hardest-hit along Miyagi’s Pacific coast, with 80% of the town devastated by the tsunami. There are few hills, and the town has been noted on the news for its lack of space for building temporary housing. Yubigahama, where the container houses were set up today, has suffered some of the greatest damage in Onagawa, yet due to its distance from the town center, government support has yet to come. I was shocked to see the area: It has been almost 2 months, but nothing has changed since the day of the earthquake. Debris has not been cleared, and the roads have not been repaired at all.

We entered an unpaved farm road from the narrow national road along the Pacific Ocean. There we were met by a mountain of debris, behind which stood a hilltop house that has become an evacuation center. The house is not at all big, but 4 families now live there together. Neither water nor power has been restored. We set up the container houses in front of this private residence. 

Houses Full of Consideration

May 10th - The container houses were imported from China and Italy. Used in war zones and under harsh conditions, they are very sturdy. (Onagawa, Miyagi Prefecture)

Staff from Osaki Hachimanguu Shrine, one of Sendai’s national treasures, first practiced assembling the container houses. They checked the equipment and set-up procedure, and any parts that were damaged in the process were repaired thanks to the superlative skills of the metal workers at Chikurin Sha.

More than 15 volunteers joined us in setting up the houses on the 10th and 11th, including four workers from Tohoku Grader, a prefabrication company in Sendai; the head priest of Osaki Hachimanguu Shrine, Mr. ONOME, and 6 shrine staff; Secretary General HORIE of AAR JAPAN; 2 staff members from Zempro, an advertising agency in Fukuoka; Mr. NARITA from Konishi Arts and Crafts; and my friend Mr. Dylan MONAHAN from the US military.

At first the evacuees only watched from afar, but later they helped us unpack the components. I asked one of them nervously, “What do you think of the house?” Honestly, I was afraid to hear the answer.

May 10th - In the completed container house. “I’m really happy to have some private space,” says Ms. SUZUKI, who has been living in the evacuation center with her 4 family members. “To be honest, living with others for 2 months is a little tiring.” (Onagawa, Miyagi Prefecture)

“It’s larger and better-built than I expected,” I was told. “I thought only a box would come.”

“Right now, four families are living in this evacuation center. I never thought I would care about the lack of privacy, because we have known each other for so long. But living together for 2 months has been mentally exhausting. We don’t have any space to discuss family matters privately. I’m really thankful just to have a space for our families to sleep on our own.”

I almost cried. I know that it would be better to offer a larger space with better facilities like the government’s temporary housing, but government support has not yet reached this area. We started this project in the hope of reducing the stress on evacuees while they are waiting.

With many people’s support, we were able to overcome a variety of obstacles and set up our first container houses. Filled with a sense of consideration, I was able to feel that the houses were helpful to the survivors.

We are planning to assemble 24 more container houses in Onagawa, and we have also had requests to build container houses in Minami-Sanriku and Ishinomaki.

We have just started this project, but from here on we would like to set up as many container houses as quickly as we can. We will try our best to aid in recovery efforts, and I beg your warm support for the survivors of this disaster.

International political analyst and international journalist. Born in Tokyo in 1969. Graduated from Chuo University with a degree in political science. Received a master’s degree in international relations from Universiteit van Amsterdam (University of Amsterdam). Has written for magazines and published books on international affairs as a freelance journalist.

Assembleable container houses are easy to transport and take only a few hours to set up. The container house project was proposed in the hope of providing comfortable living spaces quickly and efficiently while the government sets up temporary housing. We have been actively engaged in this project, from obtaining and importing the container houses to setting them up on the ground.



Two Months Since the Great East Japan Earthquake: Activity Report

Continuing Relief Efforts for Persons with Disabilities and the Elderly

May 2nd - “AAR JAPAN was the first organization to deliver us relief supplies,” say evacuees from Yokoura Evacuation Center. Left is AAR JAPAN’s deputy director Taki KATO (Onagawa Town in Oshika County, Miyagi Prefecture). Photo by Yoshifumi KAWABATA.

Since March 13th, AAR JAPAN has been carrying out relief activities for the victims of the Great East Japan Earthquake. In addition to delivering emergency supplies, AAR JAPAN is also providing medical support and soup kitchens, operating regular buses, and engaging in efforts to rebuild local institutions.
Here we report on the progress of activities that have been made possible thanks to the efforts of our supporters. AAR JAPAN will continue to deliver relief to persons with disabilities, the elderly, people taking refuge in their homes, and other hard-to-reach survivors.

Delivery Report from March 14th to May 10th

List of supplies delivered and receiving institutions from March 14th to May 10th (PDF file: 257 KB, Japanese only)

Receiving Institutions: approximately 56,200 people in 420 institutions
Miyagi Prefecture: Sendai City, Ishinomaki City, Kesennuma City, Natori City, Tome City, Higashi-Matsushima City, Onagawa Town, Tagajo City, Iwanuma City, Minami-Sanriku Town, Yamamoto Town, Shiogama City

Iwate Prefecture: Otsuchi Town, Ofunato City, Rikuzen-takata City, Kamaishi City, Yamada Town
Fukushima Prefecture: Soma City, Minami-Soma City
Yamagata Prefecture: Yamagata City
And others.

Relief Supplies Delivered to Affected Areas
Diesel oil (13,600 liters)
Kerosene (4,400 liters)
Gasoline (2,060 liters)
Potable water (13 tonnes)
Rice (2 tonnes)
Oranges (2 tonnes)
Bananas (2 tonnes)
Milk (480 packs)
Sweet-bean cakes (25,900 units)
Vegetables (Potatoes, carrots, onions, spinach, etc. – 25 kg each)
Other food (Retort foods, food for the elderly, canned food, miso, soy sauce, nutritional supplements, etc.)
Blankets (1,000 units)
Underwear, scarves and clothes (25,000 units)
Towels and hand cloths (50,000 units)
“Furoshiki” wrapping cloths (3,000 units)
Face masks  (70,280 units)
Hand warmers (5,000 units)
Sleeping bags (3,400 units)
Medicine (60 packages)
Toothbrushes (10,000 units)
Paper diapers (60,232 units)
Women’s sanitary products (17,000 units)
Batteries (80 cartons)
Baby products (Baby food, pacifiers, etc.)
High-pressure washers (32 units)
Chainsaws (30 units)
Shovels (12 units)
Boots (100 pairs)
Books and picture books (20 boxes)
Crayon sets (200 units)
Cell phone chargers (120 units)
Computers (6 units)
Bicycles (70 units)
Washing machines (11 units)
Dryers (21 units)
Refrigerators (9 units)
Care beds (1 unit)
Wheelchairs (3 units)
Power generators (1 unit)
Knives (10 units)
Cutting boards (10 units)
Small shelving units (10 units)
Book shelves (1 unit)
Clothing cases (2 units)
Disinfectant spray (500 units)
Hand soap (168 units)
Plus other miscellaneous items

Medical Assistance
On the Oshika Peninsula, we visited the areas of Makinohama, Takenohama, Kitsunezaki-hama, Sudachi, Fukkiura, Kozumihama and Kobuchihama, where approximately 640 survivors are taking shelter in their homes. Led by Dr. Toshiaki YASUDA, a local medical practitioner, AAR JAPAN’s medical team has established a traveling clinic that works to prevent the spread of infectious diseases, check up on sufferers of chronic illnesses, and offer psychological support, among other health-related activities. We examined 227 people between April 9th and May 9th.
Regular Buses
To guarantee the mobility of those who have lost their regular means of transportation on the Oshika Peninsula, in Ishinomaki City, Miyagi Prefecture, AAR JAPAN has prepared a microbus that circulates twice a day in the Ogihama area and once a day in the Ayukawa area. Between April 10th and April 30th, approximately 108 people made use of bus services in the Ogihama area.
Soup Kitchens
In coordination with Ingram Co., Ltd., which is responsible for the Peace Project, AAR JAPAN organized soup kitchens in Miyagi and Iwate Prefectures from March 31st to May 8th. AAR JAPAN also organized independent soup kitchens in both prefectures between May 1st and May 7th.
Soup Kitchen Locations: approximately 13,150 meals in 20 locations

Miyagi Prefecture: Watanoha, Aikawa, Kitakami and Ayukawa (Oshika Peninsula) in Ishinomaki City; Wakabayashi District in Sendai City; Tagajo Ciy, Shizugawa and Utatsu in Minami-Sanriku Town; Niitsuki, Shishiori and Omose in Kesennuma City
Iwate Prefecture: Kamaishi City, Otsuchi Town, Yamada Town
Soup Kitchen Menu
Tokushima ramen, oden, beef stew, yakisoba (fried noodles), fried chicken, vegetable sticks, chukadon (Chinese-style stir-fried meat and vegetables on rice), beef steak, onion soup, tuna sashimi on rice, chanko-nabe (hot pot), apple pie, onion sauté, minestrone, ground chicken with egg and vegetables on rice, fish soup, hijiki seaweed mix, fried sweet potato sticks, cabbage rolls, mixed bean-curd lees and vegetables, autumn rice, pork soup, boiled fish, cabbage and spinach side dishes, somen noodles, minced fish soup, hand-made sweet potato pies, handmade langue du chats, samgyetang (Korean chicken ginseng soup), yakitori (grilled chicken), miso soup with tofu and shimeji mushrooms, simmered meat and potatoes, boiled komatsuna (Japanese mustard spinach), pasta with meat sauce, potato salad, miso soup with Chinese cabbage and shiitake mushrooms, boiled field mustard, inarizushi (fried tofu stuffed with boiled rice), cooked radish and minced meat, kashiwa mochi (rice cake wrapped in oak leaf), fried whitefish, miso soup with radish, root salad, fruit jelly, udon rice noodles, almond jelly, cooked meat with vegetables, gyoza (Chinese dumplings), borscht, miso soup with clams, marinated octopus, miso soup with cabbage and Japanese mustard spinach, clams with wasabi, seafood curry rice (with scallops, clams and shrimp), Japanese sweets and amazake (sweet mild sake), etc
Institutional Reconstruction
In coordination with local construction companies, AAR JAPAN is repairing cracks in the walls and on the grounds of senior care facilities and facilities for persons with disabilities to enable these people to return to their lives as soon as possible. On April 21st, AAR JAPAN finished fixing cracks in the parking lot of the Asunaro Home, care facility for people with disabilities located in Rikuzen-takata City, Iwate Prefecture.
Container Housing Project
On May 11th, AAR JAPAN installed 6 container housing units in the town of Onagawa in Oshika County, Miyagi Prefecture, to enable evacuees who have been enduring long-term life in evacuation centers to move into more stable housing.
“Let’s Bring Hot Springs to the Disaster Zone!” Project
In coordination with Manyo Club Co., Ltd. (Yokohama City, Kanagawa Prefecture), Ascendia Inc. (Shinagawa-ku, Tokyo) and other companies, AAR JAPAN is carrying out the “Let’s Bring Hot Springs to the Disaster Zone!” Project.
With the cooperation of Kanagawa Prefecture’s Yugawara Onsen (hot spring), on the first day of the project, April 9th, hot spring water was delivered to four evacuation centers in Matsushima City, Miyagi Prefecture: Yamoto Dai-ichi Junior High School, Ushiami Community Center, Akai City Center and Asai Civic Center.
Since April 12th, with the cooperation of Miyagi Prefecture’s Onikobe Onsen (hot spring), hot water has been delivered to facilities in two different locations every day except Sunday. Delivery points include the four locations listed above, plus Miyato Elementary School in Higashi-Matsushima City and Ishinomaki Shoshinkai Social Welfare Corporation in Ishinomaki City. These 6 delivery points enable 500-600 evacuees to bathe every day, and AAR JAPAN plans to continue to provide the service until the end of this month.
Tote Bag Project
Responding to requests from evacuation centers and senior care facilities, AAR JAPAN is collecting hand-made tote bags to be delivered to the survivors of the Great East Japan Earthquake. With the May 20th deadline drawing near, approximately 1600 bags have been received to date. AAR JAPAN volunteers will attach a strap of our mascot “Sunny-chan” to the bags and deliver them to evacuees, with precedence going to the elderly.