Wednesday, January 2, 2013

A Letter from the Director (English)

"For the Future of the Children of Fukushima"


At this time, it has been decided that four homes on the main grounds, the dining hall/kitchen, and the Takano Home (a local small-scale children’s/group home) of the Horikawa Aiseien Children’s Home will undergo reconstruction.

Our Children’s Home was established 67 years ago, and our main grounds have undergone reconstruction once in 1969. This will be our largest reconstruction effort in 43 years. I would like to introduce to you the recent developments at and current condition of Horikawa Aiseien.

As of 2011, there were 40 children, ranging from the age of five to teen in their third year of high school, and 21 staff members who share our facilities of six small homes, including two satellite group homes.

Though we experienced two large earthquakes, one on March 11th, 2011 and another on April 11th, we were blessed enough that our facilities did not sustain any immediate damage which would prevent the children from continuing to live in these homes. However, due to their construction in 1969, it is no exaggeration to say that it was a miracle these small homes withstood quakes of such immense magnitudes. In addition, because the Takano Home is a former police substation and clinic that was sold to us by the city, they are probably just as old, or older than our homes on the main grounds.

Thus, though the idea had existed before, due to the earthquake it became of upmost importance that the four homes on the main grounds and the Takano Home be rebuilt as soon as possible, for the safety of the children. However, it was clear that such a project could not be financially feasible out by a small organization like ours, without public assistance. Since the Tohoku Earthquake, we have received many kind words and gestures, relaying concern and encouragement. In Fall 2011, it was announced that we would receive a grant from the Fukushima Prefecture for our reconstruction-efforts, as a part of their “Seismic Retrofitting Project Support” program. In 2012, our Board of Directors officially decided that our facilities would undergo a Reconstruction Project. Thus, during a short period of three months, all the children and the staff eagerly shared their wisdom and exchanged ideas for the sake of their ‘new home’.

For these children who, due to reasons outside of their control, have no choice but to live in a Children’s Home, seeing the ‘dream’ of Aiseien take shape in a way that couldn’t have possibly been imagined half a year ago has become a bright ray of hope. I pray that by March 2013, our projected completion date, we will have our ‘new home’ successfully built.

Fukushima Now

In addition to the aftermath of the earthquake, the effects of the Fukushima Nuclear Disaster is also a continuing issue for the people of this Prefecture. Horikawa Aiseien is located within a 80 km (~50 miles) radius of the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant. Recently, we have recorded a daily average of 0.2 micro-sieverts of radiation in the area (as of July 2012). When 2012 began, the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare mandated the placement of radiation measuring instruments on the grounds of all facilities relating to children within the Fukushima Prefecture. Going further back to mid-April of 2011, when schools had finally reopened, it was initially mandated that all elementary and middle school students should wear masks and hats as they attend school. Though the area around our homes never went so far as to order restrictions on the amount of time spent outside, the children’s lives here have been impacted in various ways, such as having their outdoor sports activity shortened, and their outdoor pool instruction during the Summer canceled.

At Horikawa Aiseien, these problems continue to loom overhead, as we can see the added stress creating further riffs in the families that our children have left behind.

In addition, as more than a year has passed since the Tohoku Disaster, we foresee that in addition to the children that were directly affected, there is the danger that children will become victims within households, as they are put under immense stress due to the instability and uncertainty for the future that has come with the Nuclear and Tohoku Disasters. If this happens, it will likely lead to a higher number of children within Fukushima who will be forced to seek facilities like ours.

In Closing

For the children who have come to live at our facilities due to not having the privilege of loving homes, knowing that there are many people out there who warmly watch over and support them has become a great source of encouragement in their daily lives --- it allows them to live with smiles on their faces.

Though this is a small step in our overall development, I would greatly appreciate if you could keep us in your prayers.

Director, Horikawa Aiseien
Nobuhiko Ito 伊藤信彦

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