[ISHINOMAKI, MIYAGI, JAPAN, 24 August 2012]
In response to numerous requests received from municipal governments affected by the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima Prefectures, the Japan Committee for UNICEF (JCU) provides assistance for the construction of new temporary and permanent facilities and for large-scale refurbishments to preschools, kindergartens, welfare facilities, and children's libraries heavily damaged by the Great East Japan Earthquake.
Iuchi Preschool, a public preschool in Ishinomaki City, installed antiseismic reinforcement panels just before the Great East Japan Earthquake of 11 March 2011; however, the building was deemed too dangerous to use after the disaster, forcing it to close its doors. On 18 April 2011, Iuchi Preschool restarted classes by borrowing space located in the Inai Kindergarten school building.
Ishinomaki City requested assistance from JCU to completely rebuild the school, as this was determined a more cost-effective solution than simply reinforcing the building structure again, and as there is a strong possibility that, if the school was built anew, more neighboring residents would be interested in attending the preschool. JCU decided in May 2011 to extend support for the construction project.
After approximately one year and two months of preparations, design and construction work, the new wooden one-story Iuchi Preschool building was complete. On Saturday, 14 July an opening ceremony was held to celebrate the new building, at which today some 85 children attend class.
In late August, JCU Ambassador Agnes Chan visited Iuchi Preschool. Ms. Chan took the time to speak with each child individually and observe how happy they were in their new environment. The children presented Ms. Chan with a large message board that read "Thank you for building our preschool" along with a special song and dance. In return, Ms. Chan delivered a message to the children: "I am very happy to see you all today. This new building is the product of the efforts of many. Seeing the smiles on your faces gives me a renewed energy. I hope that your new preschool building will bring you many happy memories."
Ishinomaki City Vice Mayor Etsuro Kitamura also delivered the following greeting: "In your new school building I hope that you are always happy and cheerful, that you make many new friends, and that you are always full of energy. I cannot thank the Japan Committee for UNICEF enough. We are truly grateful for your assistance."
The Japan Committee for UNICEF incorporates the voices of school teachers, students and parents in providing assistance for the reconstruction of kindergartens and preschools.
All photo credits: © Japan Committee for UNICEF