Only two days after the charity concert, our Executive Director, Nozomi, left for Japan. She brought back many episodes, both heartbreaking and inspiring, from the evacuation center in Fukushima. She visited a sports arena called the Big Palette, now set up as an evacuation center housing over 25,000 victims in Koriyama, Fukushima Prefecture, about 50 kilometers west of the tsunami-damaged Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant. It was Dr. Hisako Watanabe, a renowned child psychiatrist at Keikou University Hospital, and writer Kunio Yanagida who invited her to attend the first lecture of "Mental Care for Children in Disaster Zones", a project they organized with local teachers. The discussed topics included the importance of "story hours" where parents and adults read aloud to children, and the significant effect of physical affection to relieve the children's anxiety and stress.
The Big Palette is one of the most organized evacuation centers where many victims request to be housed. However, Nozomi says what she witnessed here was one of the most devastating sights she has ever seen in Japan. A heavy atmosphere of distress and anxiety filled the arena, as endless lines formed everywhere for food,water, bathrooms, showers, phones and computers.
A 10-year-old girl at the evacuation center said to her, "I have no hope of getting married. No one wants a 'contaminated' wife." Another young boy told her, " I can't tell anyone I'm from Fukushima." Discrimination against the victims may be the next disaster Japan will face as the unimaginable damage of the earthquake and tsunami unfolds. Nozomi says, it is crucial for adults to stand up for the victims and set an example to the children to prevent this from happening.
In the midst of all the grievance, moments of inspiration and joy could still be found. Children played in the small spaces they could find, mothers found their calm holding their sleeping babies, and old couples cared for their neighbor's children. Nozomi saw a couple cry with joy when they saw a letter from a missing friend on the bulletin board notifying his safety.
At the lecture, Nozomi spoke about HappyDoll's mission to the teachers in Koriyama as she held up HappyDolls brought over from New York. The moment the lecture was over, a flood of teachers surrounded her and with in minutes, all 20 of the HappyDolls were gone. Unfortunately, we did not have enough for all the teachers, but many of them encouraged us to make more and claimed the need for HappyDolls for children at the evacuation centers who have no few or no toys to play with.
As part of our longterm project "STAND WITH JAPAN", we are sending HappyDolls to the children at the evacuation centers in Japan. Already, the twenty HappyDolls made by children from Cape Fear Academy have been delivered to the evacuation camp. If you would like to send HappyDolls to these children, please contact us at : firstname.lastname@example.org
We hope that the HappyDolls made by children in the U.S will bring a smile to a child on the other side of the globe.