Fusion of Projects2012.03.19

Fusion of Projects

Tohoku Help with the support of everyone’s prayers has been able to successfully implement a number of projects, many of which are still ongoing.

Originally Tohoku Help was founded to implement the “Grand House Project”. This project was established with a focus on providing support bases within temporary housing communities for the purpose of collecting information upon which the launching of new and sustainable projects would be based.

We achieved our goal of establishing these bases within all targeted temporary housing communities in September last year. Since then, at the same time as providing ongoing support to the communities in which they were established, Tohoku Help has been constantly asking itself “What are the true needs of these people?”

Support is not provided for the benefit of “Those persons who provide that support” – While this would appear to be an obvious proposition, in actuality it is a far more difficult issue. Every supporting individual, group or organization has their own “Individual philosophy” on what constitutes sustainable support. Without such an “Individual philosophy” any support however well intentioned may be misguided. If any “Individual philosophy” does not embrace the true needs and desires of those receiving support, it may be seen as “Intrusive, aggressive and unneeded.” Regrettably this type of friction between the support groups and recipients has on occasion been observed.

Accordingly Tohoku Help decided to place the highest priority on listening to the opinions, concerns and issues raised by those in the disaster affected communities, and committed itself to the challenge of satisfying the true needs and desires of those affected by these disasters. Although some may say that a particular “Project is a dream, impossible or too large,” we are firmly committed to continuing to promote and implement all such projects and believe in the power of prayer to make these possible.

Tohoku Help has already commenced three major projects as outlined below.

(1) The Centers to Measure Radiation Levels in Foodstuffs

This project is one that we as Christians must undertake. It is not intended as a platform for “Anti-Nuclear Protest” but rather is committed to “Sharing in and Alleviating Uncertainty”, by providing support to those persons worried about the effects of radioactive fallout and seeks to ease their pain and suffering through our thoughts and prayers. In tangible terms Tohoku Help decided to set up radioactivity measuring centers. Having received permission to work in concert with the members of Iwaki Christ Church Association and in close cooperation with NCCJ, the first measurement center was established in Sendai and has commenced trial operations. Presently we are working in close cooperation with the manufacturer of the measurement equipment to increase the accuracy of readings, by each week conducting thorough and repetitive tests on a number of samples. This testing indicates that we are close to the desired accuracy level. A report by the person in charge is due to be released in the near future.

(2) The Non-Japanese Disaster Victims Support Project

This project aims to support all non-Japanese (including those with roots overseas) who are facing difficulties in the disaster affected areas.

Unfortunately it has become apparent that some elements within our society consider there to be “Weaker Ties” between Japanese nationals and non-Japanese residents than those between those of Japanese nationality. Tohoku Help believes that Japan should be a society that embraces all of its residents whether they are born within Japan or come from abroad. However, plainly speaking, a culture of “Weaker Ties” or in other words an “Us or Them” mentality regrettably still exists.

This makes it easier to in times of crisis ignore or overlook those persons with who we Japanese consider to have “Weaker Ties.” Tohoku Help is committed to supporting all people regardless of nationality and embracing a philosophy under which all of Japan’s residents are equally and without prejudice considered to have “Equal Ties”. From a purely practical viewpoint a “Japan where non-Japanese residents may live comfortably is also a more comfortable society for Japanese nationals.” Accordingly within the communities affected by these disasters, which are still too many to count, and in line with the above philosophy, Tohoku Help has commenced surveys of those non-Japanese residents to establish their present living and working conditions. With the generous understanding and support from overseas organizations we expect to be able to establish the “Non-Japanese Disaster Victims Support Center” this April.

(3) The “Mental Care” Project

This project, established with the aim of having pastoral leaders provide “Mental Care”, is being conducted in cooperation with Tohoku University. Within the disaster affected areas there is an ongoing and pressing need for “Mental Care.” However at present there are no lay persons able to fulfill the role of “Mental Care” providers. Of course there are a large number of counselors and therapists now working in the disaster affected areas, however these persons are involved in “Medical Treatment.” “Medical Treatment” by its own definition focuses on curing disease and illness.

It is an indisputable fact that a large number of people within the disaster affected areas are surrounded by a sense of great “Uncertainty” and overwhelming “Grief.” While “Uncertainty and Grief” in and of themselves is not an illness or disease, without the proper care and support they can result in physiological symptoms or illness such as “Insomnia” and “Depression.” Accordingly it is vital to provide “Mental Care” for “Grief” and “Uncertainty” before they lead to illness. For example in Taiwan there are Buddhist priests who as “Chaplains” in the true sense of its meaning provide “Mental Care.” Similarly in the West there is a group of trained professionals mainly pastors, priests and clergy also known as “Chaplains” who also provide such “Mental Care.” However in Japan, with the exception of those in a few hospices, there are no persons performing this role and of course none operating within the disaster affected communities themselves. What we need to ask ourselves is why this is the case.
One possible answer is that within Japan “Religion” is considered to be a private matter whereas “Medical Treatment” is of course seen as a public service to be provided to all. Therefore it is accepted that therapists and counselors from within the medical profession will provide the majority of “Mental Care.” Nevertheless as Christians we believe that despite “Religion” being a private matter it is still able to fulfill a public role in the disaster affected areas. While there is a distinct contrast between the roles that “Religion” and “Medical Treatment” play in the provision of “Mental Care”, we believe that through a synergy between the two that “Mental Care” can be drastically improved. However, regrettably as this concept is yet to be grasped not just within the disaster affected areas themselves but in Japan as a whole, severe shortcomings in the provision of “Mental Care” exist. When it reaches the “Illness stage” medical professionals take care of “Mental Care.” However in the “Pre-illness stage” within the public sector no such care providers exist.

Tohoku Help believes that were pastoral leaders able to provide “Mental Care” at the “Pre-illness stage” this would be able to prevent the onset of related physiological symptoms and illness. However at present this care cannot be provided within Japan. The reason being that while “Medical Treatment” is accepted as a public service “Religion” is still perceived to be a personal matter of faith --- With a desire to resolve this issue, since last April discussions involving medical professionals, religious scholars, Buddhists, Christians, Shintoists and those from more recently accepted faiths have been held specifically aimed at identifying and tackling the numerous issues that those living in the disaster affected areas are facing. Based on these discussions it was decided at the end of last year that the planned “Study of Religion in Practice” course that embraces the same philosophy as “Medical Science” in “Medical Treatment” should as a matter of urgency be introduced as a subsidized course at Tohoku University. Tohoku Help is truly grateful to those who have supported this project and appreciates their continued prayers, thoughts and support. With the plan now firmly established, steady progress towards implementation of this project is being made. From a long-term perspective, Tohoku Help believes that the successful implementation of this project will pave the way for ongoing cooperation between medical professionals and pastoral leaders in the provision of “Mental Care”.

Tohoku Help to provide support within the disaster affected areas is committed to the above described “New and Sustainable Projects.” In actuality there are also four more projects under consideration. While I personally recognize that the proposed projects may appear to be overly grandiose or unrealistic, when compared to the sheer size of the disaster affected area, the scale of damage and the number of people affected this support is like a drop in the ocean. It is in times such as these that our faith is called into question and as result we must answer that question.

I would now like to talk about the achievements made last week in which a fusion between three of the above projects was achieved.

Through conducting the “Non-Japanese Disaster Victims Support” surveys, the survey takers had the opportunity to actually meet those in need of support. One of their major concerns and request for support was regarding concerns related to internal radiation exposure. Last Tuesday, medical professionals, spiritual care providers, pastors and other clergy, former welfare professionals and experts in the field of radiation and its effects gathered at the office of Tohoku Help to create a comprehensive care strategy. (To protect the privacy of all individuals, Tohoku Help is unable to provide more specific information at this time.)

According to the Holy Scriptures when you stand close to the Holy Spirit this creates a Spiritual flame that cannot be extinguished. We are taught that prayer and a true belief in the Holy Spirit empowers us to overcome any of the limitless number of challenges that now confront us. The Spiritual flame which is found in the power of sincere prayer has the power to melt many things. For example, it is able to melt the barriers that are commonly experienced in our daily lives. It also allows us to melt rigid assumptions concerning what is “Assumed to be impossible.” It is born of and maintained through fervent prayers of gratitude and support. Over the past week I have also come to realize that the Spiritual flame has created a fusion between these separate projects.

In its original Latin meaning “Fusion” is defined as the “Melting into one or joining of various elements through the application of heat or flame.” I believe that now is the time where we will be able to see a real fusion through the Holy Spirit in the disaster affected areas. Through our prayers we have been able to witness truly miraculous events. Almost one year on with the majority of the disaster affected areas being blanketed by record snowfalls, we request everyone’s ongoing support and prayers which is now more than ever required.
(Feb.6, 2012. Naoya Kawakami)

“Mental Care / Spiritual Support”

Tohoku Help since its establishment has had as its primary ambition to at the very least provide care to those affected by these disasters.

Tohoku Help was established on March 18 last year being just seven days after the earthquake struck. Initially we were holding weekly “General Meetings.” At the second of these on March 25, it was proposed and agreed that Tohoku Help should start tackling its first major project.

Since its establishment Tohoku Help has been directly involved in the distribution of goods and supplies to the disaster affected communities. Through the Church working together with Temples and local welfare commissioners, we made every effort to provide truly needed supplies to those communities in need.

One week after we commenced these activities, at the meeting held on March 25, many attendees gave reports on the help able to be provided to “the survivors” of these disasters. While all of these reports brought us joy and lifted our spirits, it was also pointed out that there was a lack of care for and proper respect being paid to “the deceased.”

The tsunami washed away everything in its path without regard for human life resulting in many missing or dead. On March 18 in the tsunami affected areas, there were still an uncountable number of bodies out in the open or buried beneath the mud and debris that had yet to be properly cared for.

As a Christian group we only had in mind one basic philosophy which would guide our future activities. This was to place a priority on providing care to “Each and every person who has lost their voice.”

This applied most to those unfortunate souls who perished in these disasters and will “Never speak again.”

This point was raised at the General Meeting held on March 25 and resulted in a call to action to Tohoku Help. As a result we decided to provide “Care for those who passed” and our administrative office immediately began to implement concrete measures to care for and respect the deceased.

This resulted in two positive outcomes.

The first was to provide support for the holding of funeral services as described in detail on Tohoku Help’s website.

Secondly was the establishment of the “Counseling Room”. Through the participation of Tohoku Help, as a listening focused project supported by persons of all religions and faiths we launched our own radio program, telephone counseling service, and continues to host community café events. This project still continues to date. (For details, search “Sendai” and “Counseling Room”. This site includes recordings of past radio broadcasts as well as information on past, present and future activities.)

Presently within the disaster affected areas a pressing major issue is the provision of “Mental Care” and “Spiritual Support.” Although soon it will be one year since the disasters, the passing of time has only exacerbated the need for mental care and support. Tohoku Help is committed to facing this challenge head on.

At this time it is important to recognize the links between “Material” and “Mental” support. Providing “Items from the heart” is often the first step to “Mental Care.”

As an example of the above I would now like to talk about one of the support activities that Tohoku Help was fortunate enough to participate in. This was the “New Years Deluxe Boxed Meal Provision” project.

While we may think that there isn’t much we can do, through our prayers, wishes and hopes all things are possible. This was evidenced in the success of the “New Years Deluxe Boxed Meal Provision” project as outlined below.

New Year Deluxe Boxed Meal (Makunouchi Bento) Home-Delivery

On January 3, with the support of “Wakabayashi Help” and their volunteers at three temporary housing communities, including the “Higashi-dori” temporary housing community, we were able to deliver free “Makunouchi Bento” to those living in these communities. For Japanese this is similar to receiving a real Christmas lunch or dinner on Christmas day.

This was a project planned by the Representative of Tohoku Help, Takashi Yoshida (The Reformed Church in Japan, Sendai Church, Pastor). As Tohoku Help considered “How it could help in even the smallest way those displaced by these disasters who were struggling to maintain a normal life?” together with Mr. Kurosu, the director of Wakabayashi Help and in cooperation with Plenus Co., Ltd. (Hotto Motto) a subsidized “Obento” boxed meal service was launched last October.
For Japanese the New Year’s meal is similar to a western family’s Christmas dinner. Tohoku Help was happy to be able to provide a deluxe boxed meal with a variety of traditional dishes that provided at least a little bit of cheer during the holiday season.

We selected the deluxe boxed meal with a retail price of 680 yen, and ordered 147. Those delivered included a New Years Greeting from “Everyone from The Sendai Christian Alliance Disaster Relief Network (Tohoku Help)”. In this way Tohoku Help was able to establish contact with the senior citizens living alone in the “Higashi-dori” and, “Shichigo Chuo Koen” temporary housing communities as well as the “JR Apartment Complex”. Many of those senior citizens rely on meal delivery services. Tohoku Help would like to take this opportunity to express our gratitude to all those who delivered these New Year meals to the senior citizens living alone, the community association leaders and security guards working on that day to support those communities.
The community association’s chairperson Mr. Ohashi together with Mr. Kurosu handed out these meals to those living in the Higashi-dori temporary housing community. Mr. Ohashi said “Mr. Kurosu we are truly grateful for all of your efforts since these disasters happened.” Mr. Kurosu replied that “From the time these disasters occurred and we started relief work in the evacuation centers I consider myself to be lucky to have been able to build a number of new friendships based on mutual trust and respect. You are not only a friend but a person who has supported all the activities of Wakabayashi Help.”
While the regular “Subsidized Meal Service” was temporarily suspended over the New Year holiday period, (As previously advised on our website) it recommenced from January 5. This is a subsidized home delivery meal service for those in temporary housing or those otherwise eligible. Tohoku Help provides a subsidy of 100 yen per meal and Hotto Motto has discounted the regular price by 50 yen with the person ordering paying the remainder. Through this system we believe that we will be able to provide this service on a sustainable basis.  

From the launch of the “Subsidized Meal Service” the number of persons receiving this service has risen from 200 to 500 persons per month. Tohoku Help hopes that as many as 1,000 persons will be able to enjoy this “Subsidized Meal Service” in the future. Tohoku Help is promoting this service through advertising in Sendai’s local magazine and other media with the hope of providing healthy, balanced and nutritious home-delivered meals to those “Truly in Need”.

In addition Tohoku Help as another part of its temporary housing community support activities, on January 26 at the Wakabayashi Bunka Hall will hold a free seminar “Mental Medicine” at which the curator of Aida Mitsuo Museum will be the keynote speaker. We have received a request from the media to attend this event which is almost fully booked out. Mr. Kurosu from Wakabayashi Help and a member of the board of directors of Tohoku Help also spoke to me and said “There are still many things we need to think about and a lot we want to do.”

I personally together with the Directors of Tohoku Help and all our supporters would like to thank everyone for their ongoing support and prayers.
(Jan. 16, 2012. Toeda, Kawakami)