Expanding Solidarity

The official name of Touhoku HELP is The Sendai Christian Alliance Disaster Relief Network. Touhoku HELP, indeed, is a “network.”
The essence of Touhoku HELP is in assisting those who are helping in Touhoku through our network.

Helping comes in varieties; some listen, some carry supplies, some provide manual labor, some volunteer, some serve as the receiving end for volunteers, some give offering, and some pray for the survivors.

All of these are necessary and indispensable.

However, all of these deeds are truly diverse in their ways, and thus, do not bond together easily.

Touhoku HELP makes bringing them together its duty, and carries its basis on the uniting activities of the Sendai Christian Alliance.
Over the course of forty years, many churches have sought union and have achieved it. Touhoku HELP is distinct in that we apply this experience in disaster support.

In Natori-City, neighboring Sendai-City, there is a certain wonderful work being done. The work is called “Yama-chan Service.”
Below is the blog of Yama-chan Service. (http://blog.goo.ne.jp/diakonia25)

Touhoku HELP was able to cooperate with this work which served as the support center for Natori City.
We were introduced to this work through the pastor of Ohgawara Church of the United Church of Chris in Japan’s (UCCJ). So far until today, we have coordinated well.
Here, I would like to inform our activities for July, and introduce the report for “the Children’s Gathering (Warabe no Tsudoi),” a project by Yama-chan Service.

In our next report, we look to elaborate on how this work has spread, and how our circle of solidarity has been expanding.
For now, I would like for you to take a look at July’s report.

August 16, 2012
Naoya Kawakami


About “Warabe no Tsudoi(Gathering of the Children)”

This is Masaharu Yamaki, professor at the Shokei Gakuin University Graduate School, and developer of the Okome(rice) Project writing,
At the end of this past July, we were able to hold our third rice distribution to the residents of eight different temporary housing units in Natori City.
The rice we distributed this time was gathered with monetary support from Tohoku HELP.

With the students of my department, the Department for the Study of Children, at Shokei Gakuin University Graduate School, every month at temporary housing units, we hold a session called “Warabe no Tsudoi.”

We were also able to distribute some rice at the session.
The students that participate in Warabe no Tsudoi are those in my social welfare class and my social welfare support skill class. These classes are targeted to study the basics of social welfare, grief care, and learn support skills.
I ask my students to attend Warabe no Tsudoi with the following attitude.

This activity is a mutual communication with the residents of this region. All of them have lost their homes and have lived under hardships after the earthquake disaster. Some have been swept by the tsunami themselves, and some have lost close ones.
Therefore, be considerate with your questions, and be polite and modest. Keep a peaceful smile on your face, never negate what the participants have to say, be sympathetic and stay on the receiving end. No thoughtless advices or words of encouragement.
Hoping to make the project take advantage of the characteristics of my students, who are hoping to find work in education or child care, I designed Warabe no Tsudoi as a traditional gaming session, where participants would enjoy origami, cat’s cradle, otedama(juggling), and Japanese tiddlywinks. In addition, I wanted the residents of the temporary housing units to teach the students how to play those games. By doing so, I hoped that the residents of the temporary housing would not feel at the receiving end, but instead see that they too can be on the active end.

In the actual session, participants were eager to teach the students origami and cat’s cradle, and enjoyed ken-dama(Japanese bilboquet) and menko(Japanese card game). They even brought in for us handmade juggling balls.

There is a concept called “recovery” in mental health welfare. The word “recovery” itself means becoming well again, but in mental health welfare, it means “to live in his/her likes, even when hurt and weak.”

We, through the distribution of rice and activities such as the Warabe no Tsudoi, hope to be good escorts for the “recovery” of disaster survivors who have never healing wounds and carry much sorrow.

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