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Laughter, silly games, an abundance of good food, lots of presents and smiles (and a few joyful tears) – tis certainly the season!
With the help of some amazing supporters, Yarn Alive was able to throw Christmas parties for both the Tuesday and Wednesday classes. Thank you so much for the kind donations of scarves and hats (Scarves 4 Japan), 2012 calendars (Noel Yang), gifts from South Africa (Annalie de-Wet) and money contribution (Dellming)! The temporary housing shelters certainly felt festive and joyful!
Yarn Alive has been an amazing initiative that has been running for the past 6 months. These ladies today kept grabbing Teddy Sawka’s hand and saying how thankful they were to Yarn Alive and that they are excited each week to gather for class.
One lady shared with Teddy that she has “no hope and no future but yarn gives [her] something to do and it’s so much fun”.
From Japan Alive, we want to wish everyone a very merry Christmas and hope that 2012 brings greater joy, laughter and LIFE!
[Want to see more photos? Check out: http://s1202.photobucket.com/albums/bb372/yarnalive/]
Last month, Japan Alive got to represent in Watari. This month, 79.2MHz radio station asked us to come back and share on the radio about Domestic Violence.
It has been found that since the great earthquake, domestic violence has increased in Japan. Therefore there is a great need for education on how to best deal with anger along with where to get more help. So today, it was a great privilege to be able to share on their radio about what domestic violence is, what to do and where to seek more help.
We were also able to pass on a large load of beautifully knitted blankets, scarves, and hats that the women of Yarn Alive in Shichigahama made. These women feel that they have been given much so they want to now give to others who also lost everything. These items will be given out to listeners of the radio station in Watari.
Although traffic nearly got the best of us, we finally made it Watari in time to be interviewed at 79.2MHz radio station!
This radio station was birthed after the tsunami as a means of giving the town information. It now runs 6 segments a day, 7 days a week with a dedicated group of 13 volunteers.
We were then taken to the Health Clinic nearby, where we were able to give them muslin wraps for the expecting mothers, our free magazine, and a box of towels, hand cream and other helpful items. Although they had refused these items months ago, with this new contact we have, they gratefully accepted our gift and even asked for more! Seems the door is now wide open!
From there, we were then invited to the “Community Cafe” – a wonderful cafe for the people of Watari to come together, enjoy each other’s company and eat good food for only 200yen!
On arrival to the cafe, a group of ladies bumped into us in the car park and immediately recognized us as being the voices on the radio that they just heard! They were so thankful for our contribution.
This Community Cafe is such a hub! Within opening, people packed out the small building leaving others to peer through the windows to see if there was any room. This cafe serves not only food but as a place for a variety of events to take place including knitting, reading area, computer access, and even a place to leave charitable goods and pick out whatever you want. It is certainly a place where “life” happens! And we like that 🙂
Stay tuned in the next coming weeks to hear the awesome story and heart that this women below has (founder of this Community Cafe). You may just have found that very “cause” you were looking for to give towards this Christmas! Ooh the suspense…
Watari certainly experienced some bad times earlier this year, but good times are now ahead! Here’s to new opportunities, new relationships, increased hope and restoration!
Today a knitting class in Watari was birthed and Yarn Alive was invited to join in its new beginnings! This area was terribly affected by the March 11 earthquake/tsunami and yet they are continuing to hope for a brighter future and finding new opportunities!
After hearing of the Yarn Alive initiative in Shichigahama, this group in Watari believed that they could have a similar program that would make a difference in their community. This particular group that met today take shelter in temporary housing that accommodates up to 500 homes – it is quite the scene!
The amazing thing to note is that since the great earthquake, many new opportunities have opened. For instance, a reporter, who was at the knitting class today, shared with us how herself and 2 other people started a radio program after the earthquake because there was no information being given to the people in this area. They felt the need to inform the people of what was happening – even though they had no previous experience in this area! They now run a radio program that runs 24 hours a day!
With that in mind, we asked her if she knew of any young mothers who meet together in that area. She mentioned another shelter that had many young mothers and babies. We showed her the muslin wraps that London Mothers donated to us, and she got really excited about them. She took the small amount that we had and will hand them out but also mentioned that they have a special package that they give to expecting mothers and that she would love to place the muslin wraps into that package. So more contact will be made which means more impact! New opportunities are awesome!
Let us introduce you to Naoko Utsumi, founder of the Mother’s Home in Kesennuma, north of Miyagi ken, Japan.
This Mother’s Home is a place where 35 autistic children come with their mothers for special care.
On March 11, 2011, Kesennuma was shaken by the great earthquake. Thankfully, this happened during the part of the day when all the children had just woken from their midday nap and gone home. However, the tsunami warnings soon came. Naoko and her 5 dedicated staff quickly went to the day care center next door where there were 71 young children and babies (6 months+) to help evacuate them to the nearby community center. Without knowing how soon the tsunami would hit, they ran out with nothing but young children on their backs.
This community center was the main evacuation point where 450 people were able to escape to. Thirty minutes later, the tsunami swept through their town destroying everything in sight including their own Mother’s Home. The water even rose to the second level of the community center forcing them to flee to the roof top. Fortunately, Naoko was able to use her phone to email her husband and daughter that she was safe. Her daughter was then able to contact Naoko’s son who lives in England.
Then the fires began.
There were explosions all around their building as gas bombs went off. Naoko believed at that point that perhaps they would not survive.
Her phone battery soon died cutting off all communication to her loved ones. Her son, on the other hand, watched the news reports in England and posted on his twitter that his mother was with 10 children on top of the community center (he did not realize at that point that her own children had gone home and that in fact she had 71 young children from the neighboring day center in her care now!) Through this twitter message, the Tokyo fire department was alerted of their situation.
All of their supplies, including food, was washed away as they were kept on the bottom floor. These people had nothing to eat or keep warm with – it was a very long night.
On March 12, 2011 the Tokyo Fire Department arrived in a helicopter however they were only expecting to rescue 10 people… not 450 people! They were able to evacuate the first 50 people – the elderly, pregnant women and children. By March 13, the rest of the people, including Naoko and her staff, were rescued.
These women are truly brave and remarkable! Today, Japan Alive was able to visit them with bundles of blankets knitted by the Yarn Alive Shichigahama Women who meet every Tuesday at one of the temporary home centers. We were also able to hand out teddy bears from Kate Sutcliffe and the Kyōyū kyōyū – share group, muslin wraps from London Mothers and packages of children toys and books put together by Ayumuko Miyaji, which they will then distribute to their young children and families. They were thrilled about the colorful blankets, gorgeous teddy bears and toys and books as it provided them with good study tools to teach the kids.
Once a year between July and August, Japan celebrates Tanabata – a Japanese star festival. The most famous Tanabata festival is held in Sendai, Miyagi-ken in August. People generally celebrate this day by writing wishes on small pieces of paper, and hanging them on large colorful streamers. This year, wishes were written and hung, from not only in Japan but from around the world – wishes for those who had suffered from the March 11, 2011 earthquake and tsunami.
So today amongst the vivid color, kimonos, exotic food and 1000s of paper cranes – Japan Alive appeared on stage and shared a message on “life” during the Tanabata festival.
Through a “Cinderella” like skit, speech, distribution of free literature and a free photo session for people to dress up as a princess or prince – Japan Alive conveyed the message that everybody’s life is valuable and has a purpose from before they were even born. Your experiences do not determine your identity or your dream. Indeed, every life has the potential to change the course of a nation (like a princess) and nobody has the right to treat you as any less than that – everybody is entitled to dream which produces HOPE.
Japan Alive received 100 muslin squares from London Mothers as part of the “Muslin Squares Project” . These squares are “to help young mothers and mothers-to-be in the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear affected areas in Japan. Muslin Squares are large cloths used to wipe babies’ mouths, for breastfeeding or as burp cloths.”
Many thanks to those in London who have supported this project, and the London Mothers group who are sending these squares to Japan and helping those in need!
We are currently distributing them in temporary housing in Shichigahama and will also hand them out at the Tanabata festival in Sendai tomorrow. We also hope to visit an orphanage further up north next week which is in great need! So stay tuned for more photos!