[SOMA, FUKUSHIMA, JAPAN, 14 November 2011]
|Participants listening enthusiastically to the children’s presentations.|
On 6 November the event “Report on the Great East Japan Earthquake by the Children of Soma” was held in Soma City, Fukushima Prefecture, an area hit hard by the disaster. The Soma City Board of Education decided that it is very important to exchange opinions with the city’s children concerning the disaster and to deepen their understanding of how the city’s children think about the disaster and learn what the challenges they face are. The objective of this event was to allow the children of Soma—who personally experienced major transitions, including life and death, and destruction and reconstruction—to shed light on what their thoughts are and what they see the challenges to be.
The Japan Committee for UNICEF (JCU) created the opportunity for these children to think about their hometown Soma City and make presentations. JCU provided assistance to the Soma Board of Education to host this event in order to support the realization of child friendly reconstruction seen from the perspective of the city’s children.
|Presentations taking place in the Soma City Assembly Building.|
Three representatives from 10 primary schools and five junior high schools in Soma City formed groups and presented what their school had prepared. Each school had a different themed presentation. Some schools even conducted school surveys while others used class time to hold discussions. The presentations included information on the circumstances of children and their families following the disaster, things that they noticed after the disaster, their wishes, and their passionate dreams about the future and for the reconstruction of Soma City. Ms. Mariko Mizuno, who has served as the local Tohoku representative for the JCU Great East Japan Earthquake Emergency Headquarters, commented that, “The presentations were overflowing with creativity; each with analysis from a different perspective. The children delivered strong messages of protecting our planet and staying strong. Raising children in way where they become genuinely remarkable residents in the future will lead to developing a truly remarkable city. Through everyone’s presentation I was able to sense a new hope.”
The following are excerpts from the children’s presentations.
|A letter of gratitude being presented to JCU from the head of the Soma City Board of Education.|
-This disaster taught me about the importance of my family, and life, which I had always taken for granted. It made me realize how grateful I should be for the water and food that I have, and for being able to live life as ordinary. The nuclear power station incident also made be realize the importance of natural resources.
-The population in Fukushima Prefecture dropped by approximately 30,000 people and by nearly 1,000 people in Soma alone. Soma is a very comfortable city to live in with gorgeous natural surroundings. I hope that the number of people living in Soma will increase so that we can advertise the positive and beautiful aspects of our city to the nation so as to restore energy to the city.
-I’m sad that I can’t eat things grown in my hometown. I hope that things will change so that food from my town is safe to eat. -I will never forget how grateful I am for the assistance that I received. When I grow up, I plan to tell my own children about my experience.
-It is important that people in the world are connected. We were able to overcome the confusion following the disaster because of the support of people around the world. I have learned that the more energetic we are as children, the more energy we can instill in people in our community. I want to become a person that contributes to the community.
-These are some of our dreams: When I grow up I want to be a teacher and teach people about this disaster; I want to make delicious deserts that will make others smile; I want to become a baseball player and donate money to Soma City.
-What worries us the most is contamination from the nuclear power station incident. We don’t know how to protect ourselves. We have been told to limit our time spent outdoors, but even then we worry. We have decided on the following three wishes which would make it possible for us to live in the city that we love with peace of mind. First, we want a detailed radiation map to be made. The relative readings for Hachiman were quite high, but other than that we don’t know where levels are high. We understand it is not possible to decontaminate everywhere, so we want to avoid areas with high radioactive readings. Second, we live everyday with dosimeters in hand. We have been told that levels are too low to affect our health, but we are worried about the future. We want you to build research centers and hospitals so that we can receive prompt treatment in the event that the situation does become a health hazard. Third, we want you to build facilities where we can exercise freely.
-There is still rubble in my school, and I am scared that the wall is going to collapse. When I watched the gymnasium crumble I thought that our school was going to close. I was worried about my family, siblings and my own house. When I heard that my grandfather had died, I thought it was a dream.
-I spend many of my days playing cards and drawing in the classroom. The gymnasium is full of people so no one can really run around freely. At home I play games. I get no exercise so I am worried about getting sick or injured. At school, the number of people that suffer from headaches and nausea has increased on last year. We have to revise the situation of our homes as well as our gymnasiums and other athletic facilities.
-It is said that children grow through the act of playing. That means that children need a place where they can play without worry. We pray that a new schoolyard will be constructed in the near future. Children get their energy and develop the ability to be happy through play and exercise. That is why such facilities would contribute to the reconstruction of Soma City.
All photo credits: © Japan Committee for UNICEF