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2020/09/17

【Great East Japan Earthquake】 Summer Retreats Gave Us Hope

Continuing from the previous article, the 3/11 Japan Nuclear Disaster Aid Association is featured in this article. The association is one of Civic Force’s partners for the Great East Japan Earthquake assistance program.
 
As a member of the 3/11 Japan Nuclear Disaster Aid Association, YWCA in Fukushima has provided retreat programs for families called Second House in Yokohama, Kobe, Hakodate, and Nagoya. Families are able to relax without worrying about the possible impact of radiation. In 2019, 23 families (70 people) participated in Second House. Ms. Junko Sato of YWCA shared their 2019 report with Civic Force. The report captures the struggles faced by families in Fukushima and the importance of retreat programs like Second House. Please read some of the feedback received from the Second House participants.
 
We Didn’t Know How Serious Things Were
“When the disaster happened, I didn’t know much about the nuclear power plants and my family stayed in Fukushima. I learned more about the nuclear disaster much later and only then I realized the seriousness of what was happening. I spent days regretting the decision I made for my family to stay in Fukushima. I’m worried about the health of my children but we cannot have a second house elsewhere or move due to financial constraints. In Fukushima, I’m constantly thinking about radiation, ‘is this food safe?’ or ‘what’s the radiation level at this place.’ At Second House, me and my two children can relax without worrying about those things. The retreat gave me hope to move forward.” (Participant of Second House in Yokohama)
 
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We Still Need the Retreats
“My son was three when the nuclear disaster happened. He’s doing okay now but I’m worried about him in ten, twenty years. The government is focusing on the reconstruction efforts and retreats do not receive any support. We desperately need retreats as we live in a high radiation area. Some people don’t understand and say ‘retreats disrupt reconstructions.’ We are really lucky that we have access to Second House. I hope Second House will continue providing retreats for families like us.” (Participant of Second Hose in Kobe)
 
Enjoying the Sun
“I line-dried the laundry outside for the first time in a long time during our six-day stay at Second House. In Fukushima, we have to dry our clothes inside. The sun warmed up our clothes and that reminded me of how refreshing it was to line drying clothes outside. My son talked a lot, ate well, and laughed so much while we were at the retreat.” (Participant of Second House in Nagoya)
 
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Cesium was Found in Children’s Urine
“People at the retreats cheered us up. It was so nice to hear them telling us ‘please come back.’ We have been fighting radiation for the past eight yearsand we’ve always wanted to move elsewhere. Starting 2019, school lunches have more locally grown products. This initiative is to support local farmers in Fukushima. However, cesium was found in children’s urine. A doctor who helped victims of the Chernobyl disaster believes cesium can cause cardiac diseases. I personally know people including a middle school student died from heart failures. Second House saved me when I was in despair.” (Participant of Second House in Hakodate)
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The report features more voices and highlights the important role of Second House. Many families canceled their reservations at Second House this year due to COVID-19. However, Ms. Sato is worried about the children. She began hosting study programs for elementary and middle school students two days per month. Local university students aspiring to become teachers came together to support children with COVID-19 prevention measures in place.

“I think people in Fukushima are facing a second crisis. Because of jishuku (self-restraint from going outside), domestic violence and abuse have risen. People affected by the nuclear disaster have lived in complex environments. Adding COVID-19 to their challenges, Fukushima needs to secure safe places for children more than ever.” (Ms. Sato)

Civic Force is supporting the 3/11 Japan Nuclear Disaster Aid Association and their activities that place children’s physical and emotional well-being as the utmost priority. Please visit herefor more details.