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Disaster Relief

A long road ahead for Japan

Some humanitarian disasters occupy a few days worth of headlines -- if that -- and then quickly become a distant memory, if they're remembered at all.

The Japan quake and tsunami, in my opinion, has been the opposite. On March 11, we were instantly exposed to a flood of media coverage on the devastation in northeast Japan and the gravity of the nuclear crisis created by the crippled power plant. That coverage didn't subside much in the weeks to follow. On some level, the headlines and news clips about this historic natural disaster seem to have rendered the crisis more of an ongoing suspense film than a real-life story about human suffering.

One month after the disaster, I must remember to view the events in Japan in the latter context. Some 31 days since the 9.0-magnitude earthquake and tsunami, there are still thousands homeless, still thousands missing, and still thousands who must rebuild their lives from the rubble that this tremor has left behind. This isn't a movie or television program that I can turn on or off based upon my level of interest. The people of Japan certainly can't.

To that end, World Vision is still there -- and we will be, for the days, weeks, and months to come, helping children and families recover a sense of normalcy, stability, and independence. Japan's tragedy may eventually fade from the 24-hour news cycle, but our commitment will not. Check out the updates below on what we've done so far, and what we have planned over the long term.

Child-Friendly Space opens in Japan

Editor's note: In the aftermath of tragedy and disaster, World Vision uses Child-Friendly Spaces (CFS) to care for children by providing them with a safe place to learn, play and emotionally recover from the trauma they've faced. (For more on how we use CFS, read Freedom of imagination) The following was shared with us by Nanako Otsuki, communications officer with World Vision Japan.

Zenin syugo, meaning "everyone gathering together", is the name children in Tome City have come up with for their new playing ground, a World Vision CFS. The name fits perfectly for its purpose, providing children with a venue to come together and share their experiences as they begin the road to recovery.

All the children come from Minami Sanriku, a town that was almost completely destroyed by the tsunami. Right now, they're living in an evacuation center. They don't know when classes will start again; most of their schools were destroyed. Most of them have lost their homes, and many have loved ones who have been confirmed dead. They seek a sense of normalcy after having their lives turned upside down.

"What I want to do"

[caption id="attachment_3438" align="alignright" width="237" caption="Staff at the Child-Friendly Space encourage the children to write and draw their desires. (Itoh Kei/WV/2011)"][/caption]

In the first gathering here, World Vision’s Child Protection Specialist, Makiba Yamano, and other World Vision Japan staff sought to hear the voices of the children. The children wrote down what they wanted to do at the CFS on a piece of paper and made their favorite figure with origami paper.

“I want to play a piano!!” (Minaho, age 12)

“I want to play soccer with eight people.” (Rin, age 8 )

“I want to play cards with other friends.” (RIe, age 12)

“I want to play baseball with everyone.” (Takahiro, age 11)

"What makes me worried"

[caption id="attachment_3439" align="alignright" width="237" caption="Takuma (age 11), Takahiro (age 11), and Syoki (age 12) write "what makes them worried." (Itoh Kei/WV/2011)"][/caption]

The children also wrote down “what makes them worried” and shared their experiences with one another.

“I wonder if I can go to the same junior high school with my old friends.” (Shiori, age 12)

Suffer together, rebuild together -- notes from a Japan aid worker

March 29, 2011- It’s 7:00 am, an aftershock shakes the building awake. It's big, lasts for maybe 30 seconds. Even two weeks after the quake and tsunami, tremors and ripples continue to wreak havoc and remind survivors of their fears and losses. I’m in Miyagi, one of the hardest-hit areas, with World Vision’s emergency response team. We’re....

Freedom of imagination

One of the many measures being planned by World Vision to care for the needs of children after the earthquake and tsunami in Japan are Child-Friendly Spaces — safe, supervised learning and playing places where kids can be kids in a post-traumatic environment. They receive psycho-social "first aid" through counseling and structured activities like playtime, music, and art.....

Pros 4Japan in Uganda

In partnership with World Vision U.S., a group of professional football players is in Uganda this week doing humanitarian aid work with PROS FOR AFRICA. The athletes become pros 4Japan, too, helping to raise funds and awareness for children affected by the recent earthquake and tsunami in Japan

The players are asking people at home....

8.9-magnitude earthquake hits coast of Japan, island nations face tsunami warning

An 8.9-magnitude earthquake hit near the northeast coast of Japan today. Pacific Rim countries are bracing for potential tsunamis. World Vision staff members are on high alert, preparing to respond.

Staff on high alert across region, preparing for response: Asian, North American, and South American countries on the Pacific Rim are facing tsunami...

Coming 'home' to uncertainty

When the president of Sudan, Omar Al Bashir, visited the South Sudanese city of Juba a few days ahead of the January 9 referendum, I was among the thousands who turned up to welcome him. Despite the scorching sun, I humbly joined my countrymen to welcome His Excellency the President. He reiterated that he would be the first to recognize...

Buried for two days beneath the rubble in Haiti

Earthquake survivor, Faradhia, stands at the former site of the Caribbean Market where she was once buried for 50 hours -- the rubble now cleared away and the foundation visible behind her. A powerful experience, it was the first time she had returned to the site since she was rescued. (Mary Kate MacIsaac/WV)

Faradhia Moise walked into the Caribbean Market to pick up dinner for herself and her parents – they were going to have pizza that night – when the floor started to shake. “There was a really loud noise, and I thought the building was about to collapse,” she said, recalling that fateful day last January.  She turned, ran, and then it was dark.

“I could not really move,” she said.  “I was stuck there.” Broken bottles of ketchup, mustard, and hot sauce surrounded her, and screams filled the air.  It would be another 50 hours before she would see the light of day again.

Haiti: One year report

On 12 January 2010, a 7.0-magnitude earthquake struck the nation of Haiti, the most powerful quake to hit in more than 200 years. The impact and aftershocks were devastating.

One year ago today, a devastating earthquake rocked Haiti. Today, the World Vision family around the world celebrates relief accomplishments made so far, prays for the years ahead, and remembers those whose lives were lost. Wherever you are today, please pray for those in Haiti who are working tirelessly to provide children and families with shelter and other necessities, and for those whose memories of the earthquake are still raw and painful.

The following is an excerpt from a letter from Kevin Jenkins, President and Chief Executive Officer, World Vision International

World Vision’s response to the earthquake began immediately. Many of our colleagues were victims themselves and were struggling to find their families in the rubble. Nevertheless, enough were able to respond that we had our first distributions within 24 hours.