Today marks five years since the Great East Japan Earthquake on March 11, 2011. As of this year, 59,000 people still live in temporary housing. Construction companies have left the area to focus on preparing Tokyo for the 2020 Olympics.
However, residents remain. Alcoholism, suicide and domestic assaults are on the rise. Children’s health is at risk because parents won’t let them play outside for fear of radiation from disabled nuclear reactors.
There are organizations still helping the lost residents of Tohoku. Over the last two years I had the opportunity to write regular updates in Time Out Tokyo highlighting different charities providing aid and for-profit businesses set up with the purpose of providing financial support, and a sense of normalcy, to the people whose homes were devastated by the tsunami.
Here is a synopsis of these organizations:
The Nozomi Project is a jewelry business in Ishinomaki. Several mothers handmake elegant necklaces, earrings and other pieces from shattered pottery collected from the debris. This is where we did all of our Christmas shopping last year.
TOHOKU ARTIST CARAVAN
The Tohoku Artist Caravan is a collective of artists that travels to the affected areas with the goal of making the communities beautiful again. They paint murals on the sides of landmark buildings, beautify businesses and cafes and hold workshops.
OGA FOR AID
OGA for Aid organized countless community projects in Tohoku, including an annual holiday ball, the international spring festival and an American sports camp for children. They basically help anyone in need in any way they can.
Ashinaga, a charity devoted to supporting orphans, constructed three Rainbow Houses in Tohoku. These facilities provide psychological care to children who lost parents and helps bereaved families meet people in similar circumstances.
The professional photographers and designers of the charity Photohoku make regular journeys to Tohoku to help families recreate lost family photo albums. Their portraits are amazing.
The Kesennuma Knitting project set up shop in this sea port that was once famous for its fishing nets. The skilled seamstresses were put to work knitting high-quality, well-designed cardigan and pullover sweaters.
The non-profit organization Apricot raises funds to distribute to mental healthcare professionals volunteering in Tohoku to provide counseling services to families affected by the disaster.
FUKUSHIMA ORGANIC COTTON PROJECT
Volunteers with the Fukushima Organic Cotton Project plant cotton seeds in fields that once grew fruits and vegetables. They then cultivate the plants and use the cotton to make “cotton babes” – dolls that can be sold as souvenirs.