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There are two homes in Kumamoto which we have relationships with. Both homes are in need of supplies of food, sanitary items and counseling. One home is acting as a shelter for 500 evacuees so the supplies would be shared among them.
My great grandfather’s family returned from living in China in 1906 just in time to experience the San Francisco earthquake. He recalled at 6 years old hiding under his bed as the lamp in his room swung violently back and forth.
My first trip to Japan was in 1989 and I returned to San Francisco just in time for the earthquake there. I was in the basement of the Shreve Building which was one of the few that stood in 1906. I was stranded for a week with no electricity and luckily had been to the store the day before because there was no way to get money out of the ATM to buy anything.
I moved to Tokyo in 1993 so lived through the Kobe earthquake news and living abroad, at the time, witnessed the Tsunami and destruction in Tohoku.
Yesterday I visited Kumamoto for the first time. Though I could see the signs of cracks on the walls of the airport, there was a sense of calm and frankly when you ride from the airport into the city, you are reminded of how beautiful the country side is in Japan.
Immediately upon hearing of the earthquake one of our Dream Makers from Living Dreams NPO Yukie-san was on the phone with two homes we support there. Both homes said that their lifelines were up quickly though the children were upset from the quakes. Apparently the one that hit on the 14th of April was small in comparison to the one which hit again on the 16th leaving most of the hardest hit area in rubble. There are over 800 children living in over dozens of group homes in Kumamoto.
Jiai-en was started in 1919 because post World War I, rice had been hoarded by power brokers leaving the prices inflated. Many families were left in dire poverty. Maud Powlas established a model social service program and purchased the current land which the children’s homes reside on.
Her aim was to “gather up the fragments” that no one may be lost. She had cottages built and placed a housemother in each to parent 8 children. Subsequently a geriatrics care facility and a kindergarten. She was repatriated to the US during World War II but returned and established homes for the blind, those with T.B. and leprosy as well as the impoverished. The late Emperor Hirohito and the present Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko have visited.
They sold 1/3 of their land to purchase the property where Hiroyasu Home was established as a cousin home of Jiai-en. One of their group homes which was housing 6 children was reduced to rubble. Luckily all of the children had escaped safely and are now living back at the main compound. They will now need about $500,000 to rebuild the home as it was not insured for earthquakes.
While most of the children have returned to school, we have been purchasing items that were damaged in the earthquake and delivered X-Box and Kinect for the kids to play with to help reduce the anxiety.
Though the two homes we work with did not suffer structural damage, they did host 500 evacuees and the children volunteered by feeding everyone. I think like most situations, the Japanese tend to just get on with life. When I went through the town, however, I was speechless at the destruction which has stopped being shown in the news.
Having experienced earthquakes personally, I am always left with the reality that we are so insignificant compared to Mother Nature. What really stands out, however, is that it brings everyone together and neighbors you didn’t know are now on a first name basis.
Stories are heard like Endo-san who drove 1,800 km to bring 150 kilos of rice to Kumamoto from Tohoku because he remembers the help everyone extended to him and his family in their time of need.
We will continue to support the children and homes in Kumamoto with the donations we have received by bands who have played in Tokyo for the proceeds to go to help out, from numerous individuals and other NPOs who have generously donated to the fund thus far in addition to the allocation we received from Global Giving which has raised almost $500,000 from over 1800 donors from dozens of countries in response to this news.