Two years have passed since the Great East Japan Earthquake hit the Tohoku region on 11th March 2011 in which 20,000 people have died or went missing. Reconstruction on the 500 km of the North-eastern Japan coast that was affected has just begun and about 310,000 people were still forced to live in temporary housings in March 2013.
We, Kokkyo naki Kodomotachi (KnK) planned to continue until 2016 the operations it started in March 2011. Until now, it has supported, mainly in the Iwate prefecture, about 100 schools (elementary, junior high and high schools altogether), 5,000 pupils and 19 districts.
This is a report from KnK staff who is working for the Mobile Children Center in Rikuzentakata.
The Mobile Children Center is a renovated and specially-designed bus that welcome children for study or relaxation.
Reported by Rie Hatakeyama, KnK Staff
Playgrounds are needed!
After the disaster, most parks or school yards have been transformed into temporary housings or parking lots. There is nothing to say about this as it was necessary to secure space to live. Children have understood this at the beginning and showed some patience and reserve towards adults. But as the city is being rebuilt, it seems that the construction of playgrounds for children has been postponed for too long.
When we park our Mobile Children Center (MCC) at assembly points , many children play outside the MCC after studying. But these places are not playgrounds but are usually parking lots. It thus means that safety is not always best assured even among the safest place chosen by the staff. Children albeit knowing that enjoy these little spaces to exercise and play.
We often hear from children that since there are no school yards, they are spending all their breaks, divided by grades, at the gymnasium and thus can’t have fun or that places such as game centers at shopping malls or karaoke where junior high school graders were gathering spending some of their time after school or when on holidays do not longer exist and they now play packed into temporary rooms.
There are only a handful places that can be called parks in Rikuzentakata whose city center has been wiped out.
Children sincerely and without hesitation wish to have at least one place and sooner than later where they can safely spend some time, run and have fun.
We need your support!
The kids of the Mobile Children Center (MCC) in Rikuzentakata
The MCC currently operates every day in 4 locations after the regular school hours proposing 6 sessions either for elementary or junior high schools pupils. It’s been now more than one year since we are operating this center and we’ve seen some evolution in how kids are using it.
The kids got used to the center and closer to the staff and we now hear regularly some “We are here !” or “we made some slime at the club today!” Kids are even queuing waiting for the bus.
Things have greatly changed since the bus was only seen as a study room and was thus commonly called the “Study Bus”. At Takinosato, children are now rope-jumping and playing game of tag after finishing studying. At the Takekoma elementary school, kids, from 1st to 6th graders, talk as a family and like drawing or building objects. The junior high school pupils of Takekoma are chatting together irrespective of their grades or schools. Chit chats are heard at Takinosato where most users are junior high school girls whereas at Otomo Junior high school member of the baseball club are focusing on their study. Except for some breaks when they play cards for instance, third graders are conscientiously and quietly studying. At Hirota Junior High School, girls and boys are getting on well and nearly all first graders come to the center.
But study needs to come first !! We are vigilant at meeting the expectations of the children’s guardians and schools while trying at the same time to offer to the children a comfortable place to stay.
Message to the donors.
Thank you for your warm support.
Reconstruction progress day after day. Vitality is back along with a rebuilt city and new shops. We are willing to continue to think about and listen to local people’s needs and feel very encouraged with the support of all donors and visiting volunteers.
To accomplish our mission, we need your continued support.
We need your support!
We appeal to your generosity to continue our mid and long term actions.