The UNICEF Prayer Tree Project is a cross-industry endeavour that brings together designers and arts university students specializing in various fields with corporations and universities in order to ensure that children affected by the Great East Japan Earthquake get to enjoy a happy and heart-warming holiday season. For the project, "Big Prayer Trees" decorated with ornaments created by 1,200 designers from across Japan were put on display at 11 locations in Tokyo and the Tohoku region. The Big Prayer Trees spread awareness about affected Tohoku children, while volunteer designers actually visit the affected areas to conduct original ornament-making workshops together with the children.
This year, workshops were held at nine locations in three prefectures: Iwate, Miyagi and Yamagata (for evacuees from Fukushima). Approximately 100 volunteers coming from the Kanto region as well as Aichi, Saga, Ehime and other prefectures on Sunday, 2 December and Monday, 10 December dressed up as "UNICEF Santas" and visited the workshop venues. At the workshops, children could choose their favorite from among five different ornament shapes: a reindeer, tree, boots, ball or a house. Next, they assembled the ornaments out of white construction paper and used markers, crayons, stickers, yarn and lace to decorate them as they liked. The children had a blast talking with the designers and other children, but concentrated hard on their original ornament designs. In this report, JCU will present pictures from the UNICEF Santa workshops.
In Otsuchi Town, workshop was held at a shopping centre which serves as a symbol for the recovery efforts of a town that was heavily damaged by the disaster. In Miyako City, the workshop was held at Marine Coop DORA. Roughly 50 children participated in the ornament-making workshops. At the Miyako workshop, 12 fathers responded to JCU's call for assistance and participated, making ornaments together with the children. This call for participation was part of JCU's Single-Father Household and Fathering Assistance Project. These fathers rarely have time to enjoy arts and crafts with their children, and at the event the father-child groups had a wonderful time working and talking together as they made ornaments.
|The crowded Otsuchi venue.||The Otsuchi volunteer team.|
|Children at the Miyako venue making ornaments with their fathers.|
In Miyagi Prefecture, UNICEF Santas visited nursery centres in the Oshika district, as well as Yoshida Nursery Centre and Arahama Nursery Centre in Watari Town, where the children enjoyed making their own ornaments with the help of the UNICEF Santas. After finishing the ornaments, each child looked proud as they joyfully placed their new creations on the tree. At Kesennuma Yokocho in Fukko Yatai Mura, the ornaments made by children were used to decorate the eight-meter Kizuna-no-To tower, transforming it into a big tree that shined warm light over the district of Kesennuma.
|Staff greeting the children in Oshika.||Children concentrating on their ornaments in Yoshida.||Children high-fiving staff after the event in Arahama.|
Yamagata Prefecture is still host to a large number of evacuees from Fukushima Prefecture. With the cooperation of the Yamagata Child and Family Care Circleland, an organization that provides living and child-rearing assistance to parent and child evacuees, JCU held workshops in Yamagata and Yonezawa Cities. On the day of the workshops, both cities were hit with an unusually heavy snowfall, but that did not stop nearly 30 families with preschool-age children from turning out for the event. JCU staff and parents alike were amazed by how the children concentrated hard for nearly an hour to create ornaments that were rich with individual character and charm. One mother told JCU, "I thought we were here for the kids, but I found myself becoming absorbed in the workshop myself!" One child smiled and said, "I can't wait to show my dad!" After the end of the workshop, the parents enjoyed chatting over a relaxing lunch.
|Staff planned into the night before to ensure the workshop was a success.||Even little hands can make big things!|
|A UNICEF Santa assisting a little girl.||Some of the completed ornaments.|
All photo credits: © Japan Committee for UNICEF