Japan Earthquake & Tsunami Emergency Relief

Japan Earthquake & Tsunami Emergency Relief (94th report)
Fuji Kindergarten temporarily reopens in Yamamoto Town, Miyagi Prefecture!

[MIYAGI, JAPAN, 2 August 2011]

On 1 August, temporary classes were reopened at Fuji Kindergarten, a school severely damaged in the Great East Japan Earthquake. The temporary classes were the first in nearly five months since the disaster, and more than 70 students showed up on the first day. Children and their parents began to gather at Maniwa Civic Center, the temporary location kindergarten classes, from early in the morning. The children were thrilled to be able to see their friends after being out of touch for so long.

One father that had been looking forward to this day smiled and said, “I was so happy that classes were restarting that I showed up an hour early! Our house was destroyed and now we are living somewhere else. My children have been forced to stay at home and couldn’t play with their friends. We’ve been through a lot but I am so thankful to the teachers for all of their hard work.”

At the opening ceremony the kindergarten’s principal, Ms. Nobuko Suzuki, delivered the following greeting:

“My heart is filled with joy to see all of you here today after so long. You all have gotten so big. I am sorry that I haven’t been able to see you since that cold day on 11 March, but you’ve always been in my thoughts. That is why I am so happy to see you today. There have been a lot of earthquakes and I know that it has been scary. Some of you have been waiting at home for school to restart and some of you have made new friends at other schools. Today, I hope that we can all have fun playing together here at Fuji Kindergarten. Remember that our friends that have moved to other kindergartens and our friends that we will not be able to see anymore will always be our friends. Let’s make the most of this Totoro forest building and have a great time playing together!”

“Parents, we will take very good care of your children. There are many things that we must never forget. I intend to pave a new road for the kindergarten while never forgetting the children that we have lost. I will do my sincere best in taking care of your children.”

“We had been worried whether we would be able to reopen the kindergarten, and that’s when UNICEF decided to assist us by providing a place hold classes. They are even here today. The other day I met with the architect that is to construct the school building, and she was a very trustworthy person. We lost a lot in the tsunami, leaving us in quite a loss about what to do, but we received assistance from kindergartens and others from across Japan. Busses even came from Nara and Osaka. We will work together with UNICEF and the children’s parents and enjoy the process of building a new kindergarten. The majority of the 73 children here today either lives in temporary housing or have moved—everyone is going through hard times. I will be working with everyone so that we can restore things to a level higher than before the disaster. UNICEF has also suggested that we incorporate play therapy. I plan to hold seminars and study sessions on how to respond to the needs of children and on psychosocial care for parents as well.”

Next, Chair of Fuji Kindergarten, Tsunenobu Akanuma, greeted everyone by saying, “I apologize for the worry that we have caused since 11 March. The kindergarten’s employees have all been working together, and we now plan on opening the new school building in January of next year. We were on the verge of giving up. That’s when UNICEF stepped in, and for that we are extremely grateful. We intend to accept assistance from UNICEF in building our new school building. I kindly ask for the heartfelt understanding of you all until we have finished our new building.”

The children’s parents looked relieved as they watched their children play. The following are selected comments made from parents on the opening day.

“School has finally restarted! I was thinking about transferring to another kindergarten, but my child told me that she likes Fuji Kindergarten and didn’t want to go anywhere else. I am so happy that I am able to send her here, the environment that she is used to.”

“The children are so happy. They said that they were happy when they went to another kindergarten, too, but that doesn’t even compare to how excited they were this morning. It was hard to keep them calm. They kept saying, ‘Mom, hurry up! Let’s go!’ I was looking forward to this myself, so I came at 7:00 a.m. just to confirm the location.”

“While the kindergarten was closed I had my son go to another kindergarten. I thought about having him continue to go there, but his older sister also went to Fuji Kindergarten, so I felt more comfortable having him go here. He even has the same teacher! I am so happy.”

“We waited for so long for this, so I am very happy today. My son was at home for four straight months. He wanted to play with his friends and see his teachers. I feel a lot better today to see him running around and playing so energetically.”

Some of the parents also revealed their mixed emotions following the disaster.

“My daughter saw the tsunami and she still has trouble sleeping at night. She hasn’t been able to go outside since the disaster. We didn’t even have a car, so today was the first time we’ve really been able to get outside. We are so thankful for the assistance of UNICEF,” said one parent.

Another parent commented, “My child thought that everyone but him at the kindergarten had died in the tsunami. Every time he met someone he would say, ‘Everybody was washed away in the tsunami.’ Even if I told him that that wasn’t true and that everyone was fine, he kept repeating the same thing over and over again. I am so grateful that he was able to see everyone here today!”

Yet another parent said, “I have been at home with my children since the disaster. I am sure that that type of time is also important, but after school was restarted today and seeing the teachers again it made me realize how blessed we are to have such wonderful teachers. I still think that the children will need psychosocial care though.”

The Japan Committee for UNICEF is promoting a project to assist the reconstruction of kindergartens and preschools while incorporating the requests of teachers, parents and children. There are also plans to provide psychosocial assistance for parents and teachers.

All photo credits: © Japan Committee for UNICEF

Current arrival status of relief supplies

Type of Emergency
Quantity Donating
Miyagi Water 19 Mar. 12,288
VanaH Co., Ltd. Two-liter plastic bottles
Fukushima Water 22 Mar. 12,672
VanaH Co., Ltd. Two-liter plastic bottles
Miyagi Underwear for boys and girls 22 Mar. 200,000    
Iwate Underwear for boys and girls 23 Mar. 30,000    
Fukushima Water 23 Mar. 4,680
KIRIN MC DANONE WATERS Co., Ltd. Two-liter plastic bottles
Miyagi Children’s shoes 23 Mar. 10,000
Miyagi Children’s diapers 24 Mar. 80 packs P&G Japan  
Iwate Children’s underwear 24 Mar. 9,700    
Fukushima Water 24 Mar. 12,288
VanaH Co., Ltd. Two-liter plastic bottles
Iwate Shoes 26 Mar. 1,404 pairs Achilles Corporation  
Iwate Underwear for boys and girls 27 Mar. 28,266  
Iwate Boots 27 Mar. 7,462 pairs  
Iwate Wipes 28 Mar. 1,200 P&G Japan For babies
Miyagi Recreation kits
Early Childhood Development kits
2 Apr. 50 of each Procured from the UNICEF Supply Division
Iwate Recreation kits
Early Childhood Development kits
2 Apr. 50 of each Procured from the UNICEF Supply Division
Miyagi Book bags 6 Apr. 70 Nihon New Bag Chain
Iwate Book bags 6-7 Apr. 340 Seiban
Miyagi Schoolbags 8 Apr. 18,000 Procured from the UNICEF Supply Division
Iwate Schoolbags 8 Apr. 18,000 Procured from the UNICEF Supply Division
Miyagi Personal security buzzers (for crime prevention purposes) 8 Apr. 5,000
Iwate Personal security buzzers (for crime prevention purposes) 8 Apr. 5,000
Miyagi Minicar 8 Apr. 3 cars
Miyagi Nutritional supplements From early April 4,000 bottles
Fukushima Water 11 Apr. 1,536 bottles VanaH Co., Ltd. Two-liter plastic bottles
Miyagi Replenishments for recreation kits 12 Apr. 60 sets
Miyagi Miniature toy cars 12 Apr. Approx. 1,200 TAKARA TOMY
Sagamihara* Water 12 Apr. 12,288 bottles VanaH Co., Ltd. Two-liter plastic bottles
Miyagi Play mats 13 Apr. Two types; 80 of each type IKEA
Miyagi Drawing sets 13 Apr. 60 sets IKEA
Iwate Preschool-size chairs, tables and low tables 14 Apr. 75 chairs; 11 tables; 9 low tables Donated to preschools, primary schools, junior high schools and high schools in the disaster area as well as their new locations
Miyagi Mopeds 15 Apr. 5
Iwate Notebooks and stationery sets for primary and junior high school students 15. Apr. 16,700 sets
Miyagi 183 computers; 57 copiers and fax machines; 61 printers 18-21 Apr. Distributed to preschools, primary schools, junior high schools and high schools in the disaster area as well as their new locations
Fukushima Movable blackboards 21 Apr. 10
Fukushima Temporary toilets 22 Apr. 20
Iwate Geiger counters 28 Apr. 14 For schools in Soma City
Iwate Dressing room/ breastfeeding partition system 28 Apr. 21 sets
Saitama* Milk From late April Shelter in Futabamachi, Kazo City
Saitama* Yogurt From early May Danone Japan Shelter in Futabamachi, Kazo City
Iwate Color pencils (120 sets) and paint (240 sets) 13 May
Iwate Student lamps 14 May 15
Iwate Stationery sets 16 May 840 sets
Fukushima Lockers 16 May 22 sets For the Board of Education of Minamisoma City
Fukushima Computers 16 May 1 Ishikawa Town Board of Education
Miyagi 2 copiers; 2 computers; 2 printers May For Higashi-Matsushima Day-Care Center and Watari Day-Care Center
Iwate Water receiving tank, water purifier tank, water supply tank May construction May construction
Miyagi Solar-powered vaccine refrigerator 18 May
Fukushima Fans 30 May 112 Minamisoma City Board of Education
Fukushima Masks 30 May 100,000 Minamisoma City Board of Education
Iwate 1 copy machine 2 June
Saitama* Shoes 15 June 460 pairs Converse Footwear Co., Ltd.

-Number of UNICEF Children’s Mini Libraries distributed: Approximately 150,000 books to over 900 locations (as of 20 June 2011).
-Number of children that have participated in the UNICEF “Let’s Play! The Outdoors Playtime Project” in Fukushima Prefecture: Approximately 5,600 (as of 26 May)

*Areas receiving disaster victims.

*In certain cases some supplies may be taken from prefectural supply storage warehouses and distributed to shelters and disaster sites in other prefectures.
As of 9:00 a.m. on 17 June 2011 (compiled by the Information and Public Affairs Division).