The Great East Japan Earthquake Restoration Fund (GBFund), set up by the Association for Corporate Support of the Arts (Kigyo Mécénat Kyogikai), supports communities affected by the disaster through arts and culture. As relief efforts transition to focus more on sustainable recovery and rebuilding communities, culture proves to be increasingly important in the lives of people. Through the Japan Earthquake Relief Fund, we support GBFund’s Hundred Festivals Revival Project, which helps rebuild and bring communities together by revitalizing traditional local festivals and folk performance in Tohoku.
Repair of the mikoshi (portable shrine) for the grand festival of Amaterasu-mioya Shrine project.
Project for the Revival of Namie-machi Toukaichi Festival and Passing on of Traditional Cultures (November 24, 2012)
Project for the restoration of Motoyoshi Houin Kagura (September 14, 2012)
Through its Fellowship Program, Entrepreneurial Training for Innovative Communities, or ETIC, supports disaster recovery efforts from a much needed, innovative angle: matching young, motivated, and knowledgeable professionals with businesses and organizations in Tohoku.
This program has supported 144 Fellows in 54 projects and has made possible initiatives such as the revitalization of “Kesen morning market”, a 300-year-old historical, local gathering place in Rikuzentakata city, Iwate.
Projects such as the “Rikuzentakata Shopping Street Project,” pictured above, help restore traditional and communal locations, strengthening and rebuilding communities that have suffered from damage caused by the disaster.
“Iwaki Organic Cotton Project” is another example of an initiative that helps foster a sense of community through redeveloping deserted, arable land in order to cultivate organic cotton. The project also seeks to improve communication among refugees and local residents, easing any friction between the two groups.
After the Great East Japan Earthquake, large areas of farmland and previously arable land were laid to waste; fear of radiation and contaminants deter consumers from purchasing goods with the label Fukushima; and many had lost faith in moving forward. These are only a few of the daunting challenges that the Fukushima Organic Agriculture Network faced in the wake of the devastating, natural disaster. However, FOAN (short for Fukushima Organic Agriculture Network) continuously finds innovative ways to intrepidly rise to these adversities.
We were delighted to learn that two of the organizations that we support, Sweet Treat 311 and Beyond Tomorrow, collaborated on an exchange program last winter. Beyond Tomorrow in Tokyo, which focuses on leadership development for children affected by the disaster, brought a group of high school students from Boston to Ishinomaki. Sweet Treat 311, which provides educational assistance though creative after-school programs for children in Ishinomaki area, arranged a program for them to learn about the local fishing industry and the recovery process from the disaster. Here are some photos from the program:
Japan Earthquake Relief Fund supported the construction of Boppora Shokudo, a food shop in Ayukawahama, Ishinomaki through Tumugiya. The shop is run by a group of local fishermen’s wives, who calls themselves the “Mermamaids” as they are mothers working by the sea.
The food shop opened at the end of July 2012 and now sells 1000 bento boxes a month, They started to make profits by October last year and hire 6 Mermamaids. We heard that their bento boxes are delicious using fresh local seafood.
Here are the Mermamaids. (Photo above: courtesy of Junichi Takahashi)
Last fall, Gambatte 365 and TechnoKids Japan offered a course to teach PC skills to children in Shiogama, Miyagi. You can tell from the video that the children also learned words in English. Nearly 70 students between the ages of 4-8 participated in the course and Gambatte 365 will continue their activities in Tohoku this year.
34 cast members from the Young Americans, an American non-profit group, are currently touring Tohoku and conducting musical workshops for students at public schools. Here are several snap shots from the workshops.
Ashinaga, a Japanese organization that supports children who have lost one or both parents since its founding in 1969, has been active in Tohoku since the 3.11 disaster.The Japan Earthquake Relief Fund helps to fund Ashinaga’s psychological and emotional support programs for children and their families.
The key message Ashinaga staff delivers to the children and families they support is “you are not alone.” Programs aim to help children—accompanied by trained staff and volunteers—feel and release their emotions through a variety of activities that include playing games and drawing.
At a recent program in the coastal town of Kamaishi, one parent said “I am so grateful. Along with my children, I, too, was able to talk about my grief with other guardians. Although my oldest daughter is quite shy, I hope she will come out of her shell one day.”
Prior to 3.11, the town of Soma in Fukushima Prefecture did not have a mental health clinic or a hospital with a psychiatric unit.Patients would have to travel to Minami Soma to receive care.Since 3.11, large parts of Minami Soma fell into the 30km evacuation zone around the Daiichi nuclear power plant.
To remedy this urgent problem, earlier this year, the Fukushima Prefectural University Medical Center opened its first mental health clinic, called Nagomi, in Soma.
Through the Japan Earthquake Relief Fund, Japan Society supports the efforts of Dr. Shinichi Niwa, Fukushima Prefectural University Medical Center, to bring needed mental health services back to the region.Nagomi offers mental health services and respite care services for families caring for relatives with chronic mental health conditions or elderly family members.
With leadership from the Japanese Medical Society of America, the project represents a unique collaboration to collectively support a local effort in Fukushima to provide much needed mental health services. Supporting institutions include the Japanese Medical Society of America, Fukushima Prefectural University Medical Center, Columbia University, JAMSnet Tokyo, JAMSnet NY, Mount Sinai Global Health, Noveida, the Rotary Club and Japan Society.
The Japan Society Michinoku Scholarship, managed by AFS Intercultural Programs Japan, recently selected five outstanding high school students from Tohoku who will study in the US for one academic year.
The students spoke of their wish to “work at the United Nations” and “learn more about the world and Japan” during the award ceremony.
During the scholarship application process, one student said:
“After watching the video of the disaster area on the news, my will to work internationally for an organization like the United Nations or UNICEF grew even stronger.I want to do work that creates a world where everyone can live in peace and extend a helping hand to people affected by conflicts, famines, earthquakes, and tsunami.”