IsraAID Healing Hearts Japan Project Sums Up One Year of Work

IsraAID's Japan Post Trauma Training Program Expands in 2012; photo courtesy.

(Sendai, Japan) As Japan prepares to commemorate one year since the devastating March 11, 2011 earthquake and Tsunami, IsraAID continues to support and rehabilitate the population of Northern Japan’s Tohoku region. Over the past year, its professional post-trauma training courses, and its community development programs have greatly expanded.

Initially focused around the teachers of a single school, the organization today reaches hundreds of professionals and through them, thousands of people from 30 different groups across 8 communities of the Miyagi and Fukushima Prefectures.

IsraAID arrived in Japan less than four days after the earthquake and tsunami, and since then, the organization and its projects have grown and matured to reflect the changes on the ground.

In the first stages, when Tohoku was a ravaged ruin, IsraAID helped clean-up destroyed houses, rebuilt damaged buildings, open child safety centers, and distributed emergency aid to the tens of thousands of survivors and displaced people living in shelters.

As time progressed, and rebuilding efforts began, IsraAID shifted to focus on the loss and trauma suffered by millions.

From a simple art activity in a shelter, it became evident that the children and teachers taking part were experiencing stress after going through the trauma of the disaster and that they needed tools to help them cope. The government and organizations were cleaning and rebuilding their homes, others were donating supplies, but very few were helping them through the shock of having the sea rise up and swallow your entire lives.

In Israel, post-trauma is, unfortunately, a well known phenomena. Decades of regional conflict have exposed a significant portion of the population to frequent traumatic events. As a result, the development of home-grown coping techniques has made Israel a world leader in Post Trauma treatment.

IsraAID began bringing experienced practitioners from Israel with expertise in different types of therapy (verbal and non-verbal methods) to work with the people of Watari and help them cope and heal. Word quickly spread, and teachers and city officials introduced the organization to other communities, endorsing the project as “groundbreaking”, one that “everyone should take part in” and that can benefit “anyone affected by the disaster of March 11th”.

Today, IsraAID works with many different groups including children, mothers, and Japanese professionals (counselors, nurses, social workers and teachers). IsraAID’s therapists are training the Japanese professionals, and local community support groups in therapeutic techniques and exercises that can be replicated in different contexts.

In recent months, IsraAID’s work has expanded to include residents of the Temporary Housing Areas in Watari, Ishinomaki and Iwanuma.

These at-risk communities are composed of fragile and displaced families from all over the affected area.

IsraAID teams are training local leaders, organizations, and city officials to alleviate stress and help the residents cope with their difficult situation.

In 2012, IsraAID will expand its activities to include a growing number of communities, a new youth leadership training program, as well as many other planned activities in Tohoku.

IsraAID works in close partnership on all its programs with local Japanese government and municipalities and with Japanese partner organizations and is committed to the people of Japan, and will continue to support their efforts rehabilitate and rebuild for a healthy and prosperous future.

IsraAID’s work in Japan is supported by The UJA Federation of Greater Toronto, The Jewish Federation of the Metropolitan of Chicago, The Jewish Federations of North America, AJC, The Japanese Chamber of Commerce and Industry New York, The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, B’nai B’rith International, The Jewish Federation of Greater Miami, The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington and many global American and Japanese corporations located in Japan and the U.S.

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