Japan Earthquake & Tsunami Emergency Relief

Japan Earthquake & Tsunami Emergency Relief (208th report)
Ofunato's Daiichi Junior High School presents a traditional fisherman's flag at the UNICEF House

[9 September 2013, TOKYO, JAPAN]

© Japan Committee for UNICEF
In Ofunato, traditional Japanese fisherman's flags are said to bring good luck.

On 5 September 2013, six students from Daiichi Junior High School in Ofunato, Iwate visited UNICEF House in Tokyo. This year, as part of school-sponsored field trips, students are being separated into groups to take part in independent trainings under the theme "Giving Thanks for Disaster Assistance and Communicating Our Future". In their groups, students are visiting the various assistance providers.

UNICEF assistance and Ofunato reconstruction

The children were fifth-year primary school students at the time of the disaster. The Class President kicked off the meeting with opening remarks and introductions of his classmates. Next, the classmates spoke about their experiences. One said, "School closed from the day after the disaster, and that's when I started volunteering. School restarted on 21 April 2011. We received a lot of support from UNICEF, including sewing sets, calligraphy sets and stationery." Another classmate added, "That's how we were able to get back to school, and when I learned how UNCIEF helps children across the world. If we see a UNICEF donation box we will definitely give what we can, even if it isn't a lot."

© Japan Committee for UNICEF
Students visiting the UNICEF House.

Saki Niinuma presented how Ofunato—where damage from the disaster was extensive—is making progress towards reconstruction despite continuous obstacles. Showing photographs she talked about the current conditions in Ofunato, as well as about the physical and mental state of people living in temporary housing. Hikari Mizuno talked about how in neighboring Rikuzentakata there are still mountains of rubble even though the rubble from the town was supposed to have been removed, and how efforts are underway to elevate the land.

After a screening of DVD showing the conditions of Ofunato, Chie Sasaki gave a speech on the theme of moving forward: "We have been part of Team Hope. Team Hope is a volunteer team that our older classmates formed after the disaster so that students could also do what we can to help. We clean the windows of temporary housing, pick up trash and even clean riverbeds. We also visited people living alone. People living in temporary housing face many concerns and problems. We want to help them as much as we can."

A Flag of Hope

© Japan Committee for UNICEF
Students compiled 5 lessons based on their experience in the disaster: "Lessons Learned from 3/11: Standing strong against disasters!"

After the presentation, the students of Ofunato Daiichi Junior High School presented JCU with a Japanese fisherman's flag (a decorative flag traditionally used on ships by fishermen to bring good luck) that they had worked hard to make. The flag the students made was decorated with the Japanese characters for "grateful".

Each student's presentation communicated the students' love for their local community, as well as their concern and care for people living in temporary housing, elderly community members and people living alone. Their messages also clearly communicated their strong desire to use their youth and energy to revitalize their community.

The following is an excerpt from their closing remarks:
"As we grow into adults we will travel and move away to various places. Wherever we go, however, our home Ofunato will always have a place in our hearts. We are responsible for the reconstruction of our hometown regardless of whether one day we move to somewhere far away for work, or whether we stay in Ofunato. Never forgetting what happened on that day in 2011, we will take life one step at a time, ensuring the reconstruction of our town. Please watch over us and guide us in our efforts."

Students from Ofunato Daiichi Junior High School inspired and energized JCU staff with their presentations. JCU hopes for the success of these students and for the early reconstruction of Ofunato.

JCU also expresses its sincere gratitude for the generosity of its supporters all over the world.

* * * * *

The Japan Committee for UNICEF has worked with UNICEF Headquarters and other organizations, municipal governments and corporations in the affected areas to provide assistance following the Great East Japan Earthquake. JCU has implemented emergency assistance including the reopening of schools and health services, while also supporting the reconstruction of child welfare facilities.

Today, JCU continues to implement assistance in three areas: psychosocial care, child protection, and child-friendly reconstruction plans. Click here for more information.

All photo credits: c Japan Committee for UNICEF/2013

pdfClick here for the two-year report [7.2MB] »