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.