As part of the Tohoku Kids Project, I have been volunteering with Living Dreams at a children’s home in Soma, Fukushima since October, 2011. In this short time I have witnessed some really incredible work due to support given to the home through Living Dreams by way of funds donated from the Japanese American Citizens League (JACL) and Direct Relief International (DRI).
From October to March, I have seen some beautiful smiles beam across the faces of staff and children at Soma Aiikuen, due greatly to Living Dream’s brilliant support in programs to better both the health and happiness of the children living there. From the Christmas Wish program, to radioactive decontamination work, to purchasing computes for students, to helping a graduating student acquire a driving license and many other supports, these funds have made a great deal of difference to the welfare of the children and staff at the home.
The JACL/DRI funds that have been donated to Soma Aiikuen really have gone a long way, not just in terms of direct applied support, but also in the form of personal, emotional support. In relation to the disasters, speaking from personal experience and from experience as a teacher in the area, I think that one of the greatest supports needed throughout the region is emotional support, which has really been enabled through the gracious work facilitated through Living Dreams.
Soma is 50 km to the North of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, so there are of course concerns for children in the area with regards to levels of exposure to radiation. In each school and park sit large pod-like radiation detectors, displaying the changing measurements of radiation in the surrounding environment. This newly imposed reality mixed with trauma felt from the Earthquake and Tsunami creates a great challenge to people living in the area, but particularly poses a threat to the morale, happiness and well being of the children living here. In elementary schools and most parks, topsoil has been removed and replaced, as well as trees and plants pruned and trimmed to reduce radioactive elements in the environment.
JACL/DRI funds made it possible for the Aiikuen to replace the soil in the playground, in the children’s sandbox, and to prune the surrounding plants and trees. These items greatly decreased the measurement of radiation on the Aiikuen grounds, an extension of that being that it greatly reduced the stress and worry of the staff by way of giving the children a safer outdoor playground. This month, JACL/DRI funds will be used to purchase radiation monitoring equipment for the kitchen staff to use in creating healthy daily meals for the children.
It’s really such beautiful work, putting beautiful smiles on these beautiful faces. As a volunteer working with the children at Soma Aiikuen, I truly could write an encyclopedia-sized letter of gratitude regarding Living Dreams support. As a person who lives in this area and as a teacher who works with children of all ages, I really thank all supporters of Living Dreams and the Tohoku Kids Project wonderful work that you do. After great tragedy, hearts truly are the hardest to repair and fully restore, and the Tohoku Kid’s Project has sincerely made a wonderful difference in supporting the happiness and growth of the children at the home. I see the success of the Tohoku Kid’s Project each time I visit the home, through the practical work that has been done to help restore and protect the grounds, and most evidently in the beautiful, cheerful, smiling faces of the children and staff there.
By Katherine “Kat” Geeraert