[MIYAGI, JAPAN, 20 October 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 and other facilities heavily damaged by the Great East Japan Earthquake.
One such municipality, Kesennuma City in Miyagi Prefecture, requested assistance for the construction of a complex—now called the Child Support Centre—that provides a diverse range of educational and welfare services for children. In response, JCU has continued construction efforts for the new Child Support Centre, which is located on the grounds of Ashinome School, with the aim to complete the complex by the end of 2012.
As part of this assistance project, a workshop was held for children that attend the centre's adjacent Ashinome School and their parents. At the workshop participants got the chance to design tiles that will be used to construct a "welcome wall" to decorate the entrance of the new Child Support Centre.
At the beginning of the workshop, Mr. Hideo Satsuta of Satsuta Studio of Architecture, the organization in charge of the centre's design, greeted the audience: "The inspiration behind this project was to create an affectionate relationship between the people who participate in the construction of the building and the building. I do not want people to merely 'use' the new centre; I want them to play an active role in building it themselves."
"When it comes to constructing a building, there are the designers, builders and the plasterers, who are in charge of painting and applying plaster to the building. Today, I ask you all to follow the directions of the plasterers as you fix the treasures that you have brought from your homes to the clay tiles. Your treasures—the tiles that you create—will become a wall that decorates the entrance of the new building. I hope you are anticipating the result as much as I."
The children brought various "treasures" from their homes—including beads, dolls and even marbles—carefully placing the items into the clay with the help of their parents. As they finished decorating their tiles, the children eagerly showed off their creations to JCU staff: "This one is mine!", "Isn't it cute?", "Are these really going to become a wall?", "This is so fun!" Looking at the completed wall, Mr. Watanabe, one of the plasterers, said in surprise, "There is no other wall like this anywhere in the world. Thanks to you the wall is even more remarkable than I had imagined!"
Parents also commented that, "We are happy that we are not simply being handed over a finished product to use; but that we are contributing to its construction. This was a great idea." Another parent added, "This will be a day to always remember."
Visitors to the new Child Support Centre will be greeted by a "Welcome Wall" crafted from tiles decorated with the ideas and creativity of children. Construction is underway at a fast pace to complete the centre as soon as possible.
All photo credits: © Japan Committee for UNICEF