The Philippines: Helping People Rebuild Their Homes

The devastating typhoon Haiyan hit the Philippines on November 8th, 2013, affecting more than 16 million victims.  Furthermore, over 1.14 million houses were destroyed or damaged. AAR Japan has been conducting research and providing relief supplies to support these victims, with a focus on providing aid to people with disabilities, who may otherwise be unable to access vital aid. Juri HIROYA (AAR Tokyo office) reports from the severely damaged Tacloban, Leyte Island.

Waste and Debris Scattered Throughout the Town

Tents in the coastal area. Most houses were swept away by the typhoon. (February 7th, 2014.)
In early February I arrived at the airport in Tacloban. The destruction caused by the typhoon is immediately visible. The roof of the terminal still requires repair and the luggage conveyers remain broken, forcing airport staff to screen luggage manually. Despite this difficult circumstance, the airport was quick to reopen to enable vital relief supplies to arrive in the wake of the disaster.
Little improvement has been achieved since my last visit in December, with trees and debris scattered throughout Tacloban. Despite the Philippine Government's attempt to install temporary housing, many people are forced to live in tents or houses which have been patched up with scrap material and plastic sheets.


The Great East Japan Earthquake: The Power of Design – Creating product value from welfare facilities in Northeastern Japan

Since the Great East Japan Earthquake, AAR has provided renovation assistance to some 80 welfare facilities which were damaged from the tsunami and earthquake so that persons with disabilities and the elderly would not be left behind in the wave of reconstruction. Although the wages for people working at such facilities were already as low as some 12,000JPY per month before the Earthquake, it has got even lower after the Earthquake, due to the sharp decrease in demand from companies selling their products. In order to address this situation, AAR, in cooperation with the global consulting firm Accenture, has engaged in activities since October 2012 which aim to provide fresh jobs to persons with disabilities working at these welfare facilities and also make their wages higher than the pre-Earthquake level. Ayana KISHIDA from Sendai Office reports.
19,286 people visited Interior Lifestyle Tokyo. Many came to the equalto product booth. (November 7, 2013)


The Great East Japan Earthquake: Providing necessary support, concern for each person’s situation

Three years have passed since the Great East Japan Earthquake. As time passes, the amount of news attention regarding the earthquake is decreasing and it seems that more and more people have come to think of the earthquake as part of the past. However, 274,088 people (as of December, 2013) are still relocating to other places.
Staffs and users of “Katatsumuri”, a welfare facility that we provided a vehicle operating pick-up and drop-off services for people using the facility. (December 26, 2013. Ofunato, Iwate)

Iwate, Miyagi, and Fukushima, the prefectures where AAR Japan are conducting its activities, are facing various problems such as an aging population, depopulation due to relocation, and the ongoing  situation at nuclear power plants. Those factors are closely intertwined, and can cause longer and uneven setbacks in different areas. Some people have already rebuilt their houses by themselves, while some say that they don’t even know when they will be able to move into newly reconstructed houses and possible have to live in a temporary housing complex for rest of their lives. Even within the same temporary housing complexes, people are facing different problems. It’s necessary to respond to the individual issues.

As time passes, people’s needs have changed. At first, essential daily items such as food or a travelling clinic were in demand, followed by the need for electric appliances as construction on temporary housing complexes began. Then, our support shifted to reconstructing welfare facilities and shopping streets. And now, we are requested to be there to support every single person, and provide a timely and appropriate support that meets each person’s pace of recovery. For the elderly living alone in the temporary housing, we arrange places and opportunities at which they can seek counseling and support. For children living in high-radiation areas, we provide opportunities to play outside to their hearts’ content, without a fear of radiation. For a welfare facility hoping to find a new market, we suggest ideas to develop the market and provide equipment needed for production. We are providing various kinds of support and consultation for each person’s situation and actively make every effort to respond to their needs.
We visit meeting places in temporary housing complexes to provide massages service and active listening.
Left: Kazuya OMURO of AAR, Physiotherapist
(December 8, 2013 Ishinomaki, Miyagi)
Thank you to the continuous donation and assistance from both at home and abroad, victims of the earthquake have been able to start their new lives. One of the staff members of the welfare facility which we provided a vehicle and office equipment mentioned the positive attitude of a person with disability by telling the following story; He seldom went out before, but recently he began to come to our facility. His family told me that they heard him happily saying, “I’ve just come back from work (welfare facility)!”.

On the other hand, Ekuko YOKOYAMA of AAR Soma office, who has been conducting counseling and other related activities at the temporary housing complex, says, “Deeply affected by shock and sorrow, time has essentially stood still for many people since they lost their loved ones in the earthquake, and they have not been able to take the next step forward.” Three years is not enough time to heal the deep emotional wounds, so we still need to help them cope with their sorrow and anxiety.

To deliver your kindness and to reduce the number of people left behind from the recovery, we, the staff of AAR Tohoku office, visit disaster-stricken areas lying under the snowy sky today.
We deeply appreciate your thoughtful and continuous support.

Reported by: Akiko KATO, Representative of Tohoku Office
Ms. Kato had worked at Tokyo office since April 2010 and engaged in projects mainly related to Haiti and Zambia. Since March 2011, she has engaged in supporting project of the Great East Japan Earthquake. Since April 2013, she has been supervising this project as a representative of Tohoku Office. After graduating university, she worked for a private sector. And then studied social development at graduate school in the U.K. She joined AAR after working at a governmental research institution and a diplomatic mission. Originally from Tokyo.  (profile as of the date of the article)