by Kate Nare, ChildFund Marketing Specialist
The devastating earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan on March 11 left hundreds of thousands of families homeless, and hundreds of children orphaned.
Following this disaster, ChildFund Japan, with the help of child sponsors and other ChildFund Alliance members – including ChildFund International, was able to quickly create an emergency and reconstruction plan to help the hard-hit community of Ofunato, located in the Iwate jurisdiction.
Response included the delivery of emergency goods, psychological care and grief workshops and other community development projects. ChildFund Japan soon became a lead agency supporting children with counselling services to address the psychological effects of the tsunami and the loss of family members.
Last summer, local government officials asked ChildFund Japan to help build a sense of community in the temporary housing units where many displaced families were living in Ofunato. The goal was to create a space where residents could gather, have tea and socialize, with the key message being: We are with you! You are not alone!
Volunteers from the local university joined carpenters and community members to build colorful benches and tables to serve as a meeting place for the residents. Shortly thereafter, preparations began for a summer festival. Five months after the tsunami, residents were able to find enjoyment in socializing with their new neighbors and reconnecting with community.
Additionally, ChildFund Japan implemented a grief counseling program for teachers to deliver as they continue to interact with students who were in class on the day the tsunami hit, forcing them to flee for their lives. Today, an after-school daycare center provides children with a safe environment where they can once again laugh and play.
One child said, “Since we became victims, the after-school child center changed and became a bit quiet. But my friends are more cheerful now and that’s good.”
Although recovery and rehabilitation continue, these children are a symbol of hope and resiliency for Japan.
View a video from ChildFund Japan highlighting the emergency relief and development work following the earthquake and tsunami.