[FUKUSHIMA, JAPAN, 4 November 2012]
On 4 November in Soma City, Fukushima Prefecture, an event with presentations was held by the Furusato Soma Children's Reconstruction Council. This year's event builds off of the presentations made at last November's "Report on the Great East Japan Earthquake by the Children of Soma". Last year's event fell around the six-month anniversary of the disaster, and children presented their feelings and thoughts about life and death, and about the great change in lifestyle, resulting from their personal experience in the disaster. However, in the one year since last year's event the children have grown to become more positive and cheerful, allowing for a fresh, revitalized tone at this year's event. This year the children spoke about reconstruction progress in their hometown Soma, the issues that lie ahead and their vision for the city.
The event host, the Soma Board of Education, believes that it is important that our future leaders take on the lessons learned from this disaster, and that some of the strongest forces behind reconstruction are children's positive, flexible creativity and their forward-looking drive. Moreover, providing children the opportunity to think about the future of Soma allows them to more deeply understand what they learn in school as well as the meaning of life, cultivating a deep appreciation for their lives and the strength to persevere forward.
With the aim to empower children and actively incorporate their ideas in the reconstruction plans of Tohoku, the Japan Committee for UNICEF (JCU) provides opportunities for children to think about the future of Soma City and present their ideas. JCU has continually supported this event, which is held by the Soma City Board of Education, in order to promote children's participation in urban development aimed at reconstruction.
This year's event received the participation of 10 primary schools and five junior high schools from Soma City. Teams were composed of three representatives from each school that delivered their school's presentation using Microsoft PowerPoint and other visual tools. Presentations were diverse: some schools conducted a comparative analysis within their school on their previous year presentations; others engaged in morning greeting campaigns and volunteer activities, reporting what they were able to achieve in terms of action of the past year; and still others interviewed local adults about the future of Soma City, surveyed the use of natural (renewable) energies to replace nuclear power, and presented about how Japan could realistically combine thermal, nuclear, and natural energies moving forward. Each presentation was rich with individuality and content.
Several common themes could be seen across all schools presentations, including: undeniable gratitude for the global support of Soma City; ardent interest in utilizing natural energies; understanding of the importance of politeness and greetings; strong determination to take accountability for the future of Soma; understanding of the need to study hard regardless of the tough circumstances in order to secure Soma's future; and the unwavering determination to never give up. Several schools also pointed out the importance of turning their words into action and actively disseminating the results of those actions externally.
Head of the Soma City Board of Education, Mr. Toshio Horikawa, told JCU about the children's growth over the past year: "Children grow at a remarkable rate. The children of Soma now speak in natural terms about their appreciation for the life that they have been given. They understand that, through the assistance of people from around the world, they have been given the gift of life. This is a truly beautiful realization."
As the children completed their presentations, the serious look vanished from their faces and they returned to the relaxed, joyful children they are. One teacher who attended the event proudly told JCU that next year she was confident the children would deliver even more advanced presentations based on the results of this year's presentations.
All photo credits: © Japan Committee for UNICEF