[TOKYO, JAPAN, 11 April 2013]
Today marks the two year and one month anniversary of the Great East Japan Earthquake. On this occasion, 20 third-year students from Akasaki Junior High School, a school located in Ofunato City, Iwate Prefecture that was heavily damaged in the disaster, visited the UNCIEF House in Tokyo. At the UNCIEF House, the students learned about UNCIEF's activities at the exhibition booths and presented an audience with a short chorus performance to express their gratitude for assistance received from UNICEF and the Japan Committee for UNICEF (JCU).
Two years ago, Akasaki Junior High School was heavily damaged in the Great East Japan Earthquake. Forced to battle their daily challenges amidst a great deal of uncertainty, their entrance ceremony was held on the third floor of neighbouring Ofunato Junior High School. Akasaki Junior High School moved to a temporary school facility in July 2012, where students began their new lives. It was here that students rediscovered the importance of maintaining a bond with their community and launched a chorus group with the aim to inspire a renewed sense of vigour in the community.
Before the commencement of the chorus concert, student representative Misa Konno greeted the audience on behalf of the junior high school, thanking donors for their warm support:
"We are the third-year students of Akasaki Junior High School in Ofunato City, Iwate Prefecture. We have been very excited to come here and learn more about UNICEF, who has provided us with so much assistance. We hope to learn about the assistance activities of UNICEF and look forward to the opportunity to think about what we can do to make a difference.
"Two years ago, when we entered junior high school, the Akasaki Junior High School building was destroyed in the Great East Japan Earthquake. We were not even sure whether we would be able to go to school. Every day was filled with more concern and doubt than the last. We were overjoyed when we were told that space would be borrowed on the third floor of Ofunato Junior High School, also in the same city, to hold our entrance ceremony. At the same time, however, there was a certain sense of disappointment, as we did not have school bags, uniforms, stationery or the other things to new junior high school students look forward to.
"Friends from our primary school and other primary schools filled the space on the day of the entrance ceremony. But there was something else that filled the space: stationery sets provided by UNICEF for us to use. They were stacked on the desk of each student. That is when the worry went away and I decided that I needed to work hard. UNICEF helped on so many occasions—not only once—making it possible to really enjoy the life of a normal student.
"Now, we go to school at a temporary building completed in July 2012. At the new building, we are working hard to create new tradition for Akasaki Junior High School. One example is this chorus. Chorus is a way to show the community that we are still strong—to provide them with a renewed source of energy. We have presented at school festivals to local residents and parents.
"Starting last year we have sung the Akasaki school song in a four-part chorus. The chorus was arranged by Ferris University and is truly a wonderful school song. At first we had trouble hitting the notes, but after lots of hard work and arranging, we are getting closer to achieving a perfect harmony. We will continue to sing and continue to create tradition at Akasaki. Today, we will present for you that four-part chorus as an expression of our gratitude for all that you have done for us. Thank you for listening."
Twenty students from Akasaki Junior High School sang a cappella the four-part school song along with another song called Michi (The Way). The surprisingly powerful, uplifting voices of the 20 students filled the halls of the UNICEF House, showing the audience just how hard they had practiced in the months before.
Japan Committee for UNICEF staff thanked the students: "Your voices bring out the kindness of your hearts. That kindness should be considered a treasure—one that emboldens us and the people of Tohoku. I only hope that your experience here at the UNICEF House will provide you with a similar treasure—one of knowledge."
The generosity of Japan Committee for UNICEF donors creates significant change in the lives of children. JCU thanks everyone at Akasaki Junior High School for a wonderful concert.
All photo credits: © Japan Committee for UNICEF