Japan Earthquake & Tsunami Emergency Relief

Japan Earthquake & Tsunami Emergency Relief (162nd report)
One and a half years after the disaster—Opening ceremony for Kesennuma City Mother's Home and Makisawa Kibo Nursery Centre

[MIYAGI, JAPAN, 12 September 2012]

On 11 September, exactly one year and a half after the disaster, an opening ceremony was held for Mother's Home and Makisawa Kibo (formerly "Ikkeijima") Nursery Centre.

Unveiling of the new school building signboard.

The massive tsunami created by the Great East Japan Earthquake washed away with it Mother's Home, a special complex for disabled children, and Ikkeijima Nursery Centre, two facilities that had been constructed adjacent to one another in the Ikkeijima district of Kesennuma City. Following the disaster, Mother's Home borrowed space from a new nursing home located next to their building and restarted day-care services, and the children of Ikkeijima Nursery Centre transferred to an adjacent nursery centre where they spent a year and a half.

Responding to a request from the Kesennuma City Government, the Japan Committee for UNICEF (JCU) decided to provide assistance for the reconstruction of these two facilities in July 2011. After one year and two months of preparations, design and construction work, the opening ceremony for the two facilities was held yesterday.
The opening ceremony started with the unveiling of the new building signboard. The school's children also attended, where they were greeted by giraffes, elephants and other animals pained to the walls of the new school. The new building structure was specially designed to be safe for children.

Kesennuma City Mayor Sugawara (right) presents JCU with a letter of gratitude on behalf of the city.

Many city officials participated in the ceremony, including Kesennuma City Mayor Shigeru Sugawara and Kesennuma City Assembly Chair Makoto Usui. The event was also attended by Tokyo Vice Governor Naoki Inose. It was Vice Governor Inose who ordered a Tokyo Fire Department helicopter to rescue children from the Ikkeijima Nursery Centre and the head of Mother's Home, Naoko Utsumi, after seeing a Twitter tweet made by Ms. Utsumi's son (currently living in London) pleading for help after she and the children evacuated to the rooftop of Kesennuma's Central Public Hall during the disaster.

Mr. Yuji Hara of K. Ito Architects & Engineers, the company that oversaw the construction of the new school building, spoke at the ceremony about the new building: "This building is the result of the generosity of a large number of people. Our job as architects was to take care in giving shape to that generosity. I hope that people will pour their love into the building, as the bricks that build it represent the kindness of its future users, local residents and a wide range of generous donors."

A message was also delivered by JCU Ambassador Agnes Chan, who visited Mother's Home in April: "I have a feeling that we are here today as a result of new connections being formed between many people. Tokyo Vice Governor Inose saved a lot of lives. We also received assistance from Kesennuma City, not to mention the loving generosity of people that donated to UNICEF from around the world. It makes me so happy that this kindness led to the completion of a new school building. UNICEF works based on the principle of "Building Back Better"; that is, going beyond rebuilding alone to create an environment that is genuinely better than before. I am sure that Kesennuma will grow to be livelier than ever before. There is no question in my mind that the children of Tohoku will Japan's leaders of tomorrow."


The ceremony ended with a present from the children. Children from the former Ikkeijima Nursery Centre enjoyed a dance performed by children from Nainowaki Nursery Centre, followed by a thank-you letter read by the children of Mother's Home. Finally, the children received a large hand-made thank-you card.

Standing in front of the new school building, the head of Mother's Home, Ms. Utsumi, said, "It brings me so much happiness that the children are able to play outside again." Preparations are currently underway to start classes at Makisawa Kibo Nursery Centre on 1 October. Moreover, on the grounds where the two new facilities were constructed there is also a welfare centre for the elderly and a rehabilitation facility for people with disabilities. There is also an adjacent hospital and school for disabled children, making the new area a promising multi-service welfare facility complex.

JCU Ambassador Agnes Chan reading a book to the children after the ceremony.    

*The nursery centre, which is currently undergoing preparations in aim of starting classes on 1 October, is planned to restart operations under the new name Makisawa Kibo Preschool.

All photo credits: © Japan Committee for UNICEF

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