The Great East Japan Earthquake: Supporting hand-made goods made by PWDs

Nearly 6 years have passed since the Great East Japan Earthquake of March 11 2011. Immediately following the events of the disaster, AAR Japan implemented emergency relief efforts, and at present continues to offer a range of support to those affected persons, including children who suffer from radiation poisoning following the nuclear accident, PWDs, and the elderly who currently reside in temporary housing.
Thanks to the fundraising efforts of the Aeon 1% Club Foundation, we have managed to put in place a total of 107 facilities aimed at supporting the employment of PWDs throughout the prefectures of Iwate, Miyagi, and Fukushima. The funds raised from the foundation from Aeon customers were matched by Aeon and donated to AAR Japan. Here is just one of the activities that were made possible thanks to these fundraising efforts.

A place to showcase products made by PWDs

On November 19th and 20th in the south branch Aeon mall in Iwate prefecture, The Council of Social Welfare in Iwate Prefecture, The Employment Support Office for People with Disabilities along with the order center of products made by people with disabilities held the “Nice Heart Bazaar in Iwate” event. This event has been held every year since 2010, where PWDs from Iwate sell a variety of food that they have made. This year, 33 stalls and booths were set up.

As a joint sponsor, AAR Japan offered goods that could be seen on display on shelves and in glass cases. On this occasion, more than 800 people visited the bazaar and over the 2 days the event was held 700,000 yen (approx. $6300USD) was made in sales. Customers who came to the stores gave their impressions, saying “I always look forward to this event” and “They look so good, and the taste is great”. This was truly a great chance to show the appeal of products made by PWDs.
A picture taken from the “Nice Heart Bazaar in Iwate”(November, 2016)

Supporting the acquisition of new clients

At Pokke no Mori, an employment assistance service office for PWDs in Miyagi prefecture that offers meal deliveries to the elderly and disabled, AAR Japan has provided support by developing bento menus. Moreover, in order to provide further support to their services, AAR Japan offered reusable bento boxes which could appeal to environmentally conscious organizations, perhaps even leading to a potential partnership. AAR Japan also provided on-board refrigeration units for vehicles, preserving the quality of food to be transported to events as well as providing a larger range of foods that could potentially be sold.
A staff member from Pokke no Mori, Ms. Sachi HOSHINO (pictured right) and one of the users of the facility (center). This picture also features Yuko OGASAWARA from AAR Japans Sendai office (left)(July, 2016)

Supporting a new start at a new location

Prior to the events of the disaster, the Aoba Regional Activity Center, located in Fukushima Prefecture, conducted work in Futaba town in Fukushima Prefecture, but decided to relocate to Fukushima City following the nuclear plant crisis. They had been considering returning to Futaba but could not establish a base of operations for their activities, so they have now decided to base themselves and their work in Fukushima City, where they create hand-crafted goods with sewing and other assorted machines that will go on to be sold. In order to ensure that their work can continue, AAR Japan provided new office equipment in the form of larger workbenches with fixed legs and revolving chairs. Prior to receiving this equipment, the center had been using small desks and folding chairs that would usually be used for meetings, due to budget constraints. Since these small desks are not suited for such work, there are often gaps between the desks making it more difficult to conduct work whilst the hard folding chairs place an uncomfortable burden on staff and other users.
Dolls that were made at the Aoba Regional Activity Center(October, 2016)

Thanks to this new equipment though, the changes to efficiency and comfort have been drastic. Using a large workbench prevents the need to use many smaller desks, whilst the revolving chairs make it easier for staff and other users to do their work. Ms. Fumiko Takayama head of the office, said “Compared to when we were using those smaller desks and folding chairs, our work efficiency has increased and we are not tiring out as easily”.
Staff and other users working at the Aoba Regional Activity Center(October, 2016)

However, for many other welfare service offices that have been affected by the disaster, even to just arrange these kinds of facilities or purchase new equipment is financially difficult. Moreover, trying to expand the market for these types of goods remains difficult. AAR Japan is committed to continuing to provide service and support to welfare services offices just like Aoba that are still struggling even after the disaster.

Yuki SAKURAI,Tokyo Office

After completing his Graduation and working at a private foundation, SAKURAI studied peace studies at a graduate school in England. After spending some time working at an NGO in Pakistan, he joined AAR Japan in August 2012. He was stationed in Zambia and Tajikistan before returning to Tokyo and is now overseeing projects related to Tohoku.

Japanese-English translation by Mr. Joseph Scutella