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Thursday, December 22, 2011

Delivery of 951 School Cones to Kamaishi

On the 5th of December, we delivered 951 filled school cones to 9 elementary schools in Kamaishi. Kamaishi is in Iwate, which is one of the poorest regions in Japan and approximately 500 km North of Japan.

The children and teachers were very happy to see us and enjoyed very much the Magic & Clown Show of our Partner "Let's Party Tokyo". After that we gave them the school cones and received "high fives" from the kids :-)

You can find some pictures from that day below as a good impression...

Friday, December 2, 2011

Filling & Packing the School Cones

 Today was the day on which we filled the school cones. Together with 40 school boys and girls of the German School in Tokyo, we filled 951 school cones within 90 minutes. The filling is: school supplies of Herlitz (pens, pencils, eraser, etc.), Japanese and International candies (like Haribo, Ritter Sport, or Jelly Belly), one toy (which could be magic tricks or group games like DokiDoki Gorilla), a funny looking eraser (like McDonalds Burger, Coca Cola Cans, etc.), and a Heating Pack for cold days. You can see some of the items on below pictures.

It was an activity full of joy & pace. At the end our NPO/NGKokkyo naki Kodomotachi (Children without Border) did a short thank you speech with little presents for the kids at the German School as well. I also like to thank Mr Karl Stigler & Mr Harald Gauss from the German School for all their help during the last days and today. We also appreciate the support of the DHL employees and Sam Matsuoka san, the event organizer of "Let`s Party Tokyo".

Now we will bring the school cones and as well all the created photo books and collages with drawings/ postcards from all over the world to Kamaishi, Iwate together with "Let`s Party Tokyo". Monday is the big day and we will report back right after that...

Thanks so much to everyone, who helped and supported us so far!  

Sunday, November 20, 2011

A BIG Thank you & Next Steps

A few weeks ago (on 1st of November), we closed all the accounts for the donation collection, but it was a tremendous success and we like to thank all private persons, schools, clubs, organizations and corporate donators!

We collected 6,876.14 EUR on the donation account in Germany, received 4,000 EUR from Deutsche Post DHL, and as well have received ca. 160,000 JPY (~1,500 EUR)  from the photo exhibition of Markus Grasmueck and his friends. Only a little bit will go into the coordination and logistics, but probably 95% will go into the fillings of school cones (teachers requested some small toys, school supplies and international candies). We will report later with the exact financial statements in order to show clear transparency.

Now we are in our final steps before delivering the school cones to 9 schools on the 5th of December. The schools are all located in Kamaishi, which is a town that was terrible hit by the tsunami.

First, we will plan a small activity in the morning of the 2nd of December at the German School in Tokyo, Yokohama. The students of the elementary school and their teachers will help us to pack the ca. 900 school cones. Our partner organization KnK will present their other activities for kids. And the pupils will create small/ big photo books out of all received drawings and post cards from other schools worldwide.
We hope that it will be a smooth and fast activity - but especially the wrapping/ packing and loading of the DHL truck will be a small challenge. At this point we like to thank Mr Karl Stigler and Mr Harald Gauss for all their help, suggestions and support. This entire project would not be possible without them.

German School in Tokyo/ Yokohama

If anyone of you is in Tokyo on that day and like to help - please let us know! We need any help!

After that the DHL Supply Chain truck will departure to the North and deliver the school cones to 9 elementary schools in Kamaishi, which is North of Sendai. It is a coastal city with 40,000 citizens. One fifth of their houses and buildings got destroyed by 10 meter high tsunami waves.

Many people do not see the long term perspective in their town and we found articles which explain their serious situation:

"Don't talk about the future!" says Emiko Gotoh, who runs a public bath severely damaged by the tsunami. "There's no place with work, so young people might well leave. It would be great if another big company came, but who'd come here after such a big tsunami?"

(pictures and quote taken from:

Maybe our small project can put smiles on the faces of the kids and then they can spread this little joy in their town. It is not a big help in their situation, but we hope that it will be a small one and that the colorful school cones can make people happy. We received good feedback and grateful comments about our activity & the worldwide care already.

Hence, together with the educational board and the help of Mr Katsumi Yokote san we identified 2 schools in which we will deliver the cones personally and conduct a small magic show (with our partner "Let's Party Tokyo"). After that we will meet the principals of the other 7 schools and hand over school cones for the children in the 1st to 3rd grades. Altogether we will bring them approx. 900 school cones and the 9 created photo books (by students of German School in Tokyo) with more than 800 drawings and 500 postcards by kids from all over the world (Scotland, USA, Singapore, China, Germany, France, Hong Kong, Egypt, Kenya, Malta, etc.).

A special thank at this point goes to Gesa Neuert and Professor Hashimoto san, who helped us very much in getting in contact with the schools and the educational board of Kamaishi. Thanks a lot for all your help during the last two weeks.

If you will be in Tokyo on the 4th and 5th of December, you are very welcome in traveling with us to Kamaishi and hand over many school cones to the kids. We do not want to finance the transportation, as we like to give all the money into the school cones (or the left overs to other meaningful projects of our partners), but maybe you are interested and join us on our trip - please let us know and we can plan together in order to keep the costs for everyone very low!

Next time we will report with many pictures and a small video, which will be created by "Let's Party Tokyo".

Now we are looking forward to the special days and of course we have to do a lot of shopping before that...

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Updates & New Partner

...long time has passed since our last update, but we have some good news.

The school cones from Germany are on their way to Japan and will arrive in October. DHL Supply Chain confirmed that they will deliver the filled school cones to Tohoku for free. We received more postcards and pictures from many countries including African countries as well a nice pack of postcards from Ireland.

AND, we have a new partner: Let's Party Tokyo 

"Since 2000, Let's Party Tokyo has been providing excellent party entertainment for the international community in Tokyo and Yokohama. With over 10 years of experience Let's Party Tokyo performers have performed at hundreds of parties and events bringing smiles, laughter and lasting memories to children of all ages. 

...impressive magic tricks, funny costumes, cutely painted faces, and active games." (Source: Let's Party Tokyo Homepage)

What we like about them is that they were already very active in Tohoku and that they have the same objective: put a smile on children faces and create with this some fun moments not only for the kids, but the entire community.

On their Blog or Facebook Page, you can find more reports and information about their activities and engagement in community work in Tohoku as well.

One week ago, we met Sam Matsuoka san (who is one of the co-owner of this company) and we explained to him that we like to deliver the school cones to three to four schools in Tohoku in beginning of December, but it would be nice to have some program around it. He liked the idea and suggested either small clown activities with magic or a small Christmas Party with Santa Claus. Both sounded very nice and now we feel honored to work together with them.

He also recommended a friend who might take small video spots which we can send around the world then, to all participating schools globally. We felt really happy after the discussion with him, who is truly an inspiring person, and now we are looking forward to the delivery date - maybe on the 5th or the 6th of December. 

Thank you, Matsuoka san and "Let's Party Tokyo" in advance for all your help and making this project even more meaningful and hopefully even more enjoyable for the kids.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Internal Newsletter at Deutsche Post DHL

Kids Helping Kids in Japan Transition Back to Normal Life

While children all over the world are getting ready to go back to school, some kids in Chicago were already hard at work.  Earlier this week, students at the German School of Chicago were preparing “KinderCones”, a unique back to school gift filled with treats, sweets, school supplies, journals and letters – for school kids in Japan still coping with the aftermath of the earthquake and tsunamis.  Nearly 100 of these special gift packages were picked up on Wednesday, August 17 by DHL Express in Chicago who donated its shipping services for the charitable cause.

Dating back 200 years, the tradition of the Schultuete or “school cone” is one of the most celebrated and long-standing traditions in Germany.  At the beginning of every school year, children all over Germany set off with their large and shiny Schultueten, also called school cones or sugar cones by many.  These large, colorful school cones, purchased or home-made, sweeten the child’s first day of school as they come filled with little gifts, school supplies and sweets.

The Chicago project is actually part of a larger DHL cross-business unit initiative spearheaded by Andreas Baller of DHL Global Forwarding in Japan.  Andreas is coordinating the collection of over 1,000 of these school cones from 10 countries, as well as pictures and postcards – all intended for schools and youth centers in Japan located in areas hardest hit by the earthquake and Tsunamis. Andreas has received support from all DP DHL divisions, including EXPRESS, GLOBAL FORWARDING, FREIGHT, MAIL and SUPPLY CHAIN.

“The project is under the umbrella of the 150 years of German – Japanese friendship which is being commemorated this year,” said Baller. “It’s an incredible gesture of goodwill for schoolchildren that have had terrible traumatic experiences during the big earthquakes and all of its after shocks.  We work together with the German School in Yokohama, and parents of the students and DHL employees.  It’s great for bringing all DHL business units together for one important cause, terrific for the kids as well as improves cultural understanding.”

Andreas Baller was recently awarded €4,000 by the Living Responsibility Fund for this project, under the partner organization “Kokkyo naki Kodomotachi” (KnK) or Children Without Borders.  He has also received a sizeable donation, 1000 school cones, from Herlitz AG, the leading producer of paper, office supplies and stationery articles in Europe.

More information about the project can be found at

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Updates & News

Today, it has been exactly 5 months after the big Earthquake hit in Japan. Still a lot of help & support are needed, but it has become less and less obvious in the news. Today, I'd like to give an overview of where we stand and what has happened since the last update. 

We received a confirmation from the German School in Yokohama that they will organize a small event for filling the school cones together with their pupils and the parents. Another confirmation was from a high school in Yokohama (next to Tokyo), which will ask their students to create the photo/picture books for the kids in Tohoku (out of the more than 400 drawings and maybe 150 postcards which we have received from all over the world).

Vivian Lie in Chicago has started a small activity at the German School in Chicago. Together with DHL Express US and her company Kinder Cone, she is organizing a special event on 17th of August 2011.
One of our project members, Pierre is running Sydney marathon and hoping to collect some money/ donations by a small bet. Also, we still have some charity parties in Italy and France coming up.

DHL Global Forwarding Japan & Germany have agreed to support the transportation of school cones from Berlin to Tokyo, and we have also received the positive feedback from DHL Supply Chain Japan that they will deliver the filled school cones from the German School in Yokohama to these affected schools in Tohoku.

In addition to all the above, we have received a nice letter from the German Embassy that they would like to include us in the event list of their "150 Years German-Japanese Friendship" Project. We are one of their official partners now. The Swiss Chamber of Commerce and Industry also listed us on their web page for initiatives and activities for Tohoku, which is a real honor for us.

More than 6000 visitos have visited our homepage, more than 250 friends and follower on our Facebook Page, more than 8,000 EUR collected, over 700 drawings, art works and postcards have arrived.... which is more than we expected when we initiated the project. Thank you.

Now you are probably wondering when the distribution to Tohoku will take place. 
During the last meeting with  NGO/NPO KnK International, Children without Borders in July, they suggested us, if we can postpone the delivery of the school cones to a later date due to the following reasons:

a.) Many children received gifts and toys during last months and schools are concerned about children being too spoiled. They want to encourage children to stand up by themselves.

b.) As mentioned at the beginning of this blog: the consequences of the big earthquake are disappearing from the news. Maybe you hear something about the nuclear fear, but nothing about the situation in the tsunami hit areas. BUT help is of course still needed (for instance we organize a company trip to Tohoku next week and will do cleaning up for three days). 

Their suggestion was to spread the help over a longer period for better sustainability, as psychological help will be needed in long term. Originally we wanted to distribute in September when the school resumes after summer holiday but these two reasons made us think that December might be a better timing and we will comply with the recommendation of our NGO Partner, who is experienced and better informed. It also gives us the opportunity to possibly combine it with a small christmas or year-end party at the schools, and also to extend our deadline for donation and support from schools all over the world. 

We are very happy and thankful to all your support. We still have a long way to go and we do not stop or slow down. We still need your further support! Please help to spread the word even further and promote our web page. Please write to us, we are always open for any suggestions or ideas!

I am sure that the children in Tohoku will have a big smiles on their faces when we deliver your warm support filled in School cones!!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

4 months after Disaster

Buddhist monks offer prayers near the ruins of Okawa Elementary School (back R) in Ishinomaki, Miyagi Prefecture, as Japan marked four months since the March 11 earthquake and tsunami. Some 70 percent of pupils at the school died or went missing in the disaster.

People look at an area ravaged by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami in Ishinomaki, Miyagi Prefecture, from an elevated spot on July 11, 2011, four months after the disaster.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Trip to Ishinomaki - June 2011 (by Stephan Schmidt)

A friend of mine, Stephan, went back to Ishinomaki as he promised in an earlier blog. I read his blog entry on Facebook and want to share it with you.

After three months I return to Ishinomaki. Every day I followed the News about the relief work in Tohoku. Volunteers helping out, companies emphazising theire staff members to volunteer and a Japanese government try to help out with dragging eagerness.   

The french community organizes every two weeks a weekend trip to Ishinomaki and offers volunteers a short-term period working in the affected areas. We stay in the Minato elementary school which still hosts over 250 evacuees. The school character has shifted towards a home for social disadvantaged groups. Up until now the temporary houses situation is insuffiecent. The residents mostly aged people wait, smoke, receive three warm meals a day and take everyday a bath in the ofuro (Japanese public bath) infront of the school building. 

The entrances and windows are covered with close-meshed nets. Flys are everywhere. Copulating they sink down on my sleeping bag. They find the ideal environment. The schoolfloors smell is a mixture of stale food and self-pitti.  

The feeling-well program for the evacuees is completed by a variety of cultural entertainments. It’s comfortable and an easy to obtain living. The people sharing one room becoming closer friends now. To live in a temporary house they need to pay rent or have some savings they could live off. Most of the residents can’t and won’t afford this kind of living. Another problem for the Ishinomaki commune.   

Maruyama-san plays cello and is on tour through Tohoku. For two evenings he stops at Ishinomaki. What else can I do, he says, the people are happy about me playing for them. Accompanied by the piano he plays for two hours in the music classroom which is used by the volunteers as the resting spot for the night. 

The same effort shows the Russian Community in Japan and came to Ishinomaki for a weekend. They brought toys for the children, food and russian folklore. Lech asks me why it seems that he sees more foreign volunteers arround then Japanese. I do not know the answer. The japanese people I spoke to explained me, they would love to volunteer but they do not get vacation or are afraid of loosing theire jobs. And so it won’t have enough volunteers until university ends for this semester. 

Ishinomaki receives a lot of media attention. Alone four media teams have been to the Minato elementary school in one week. Constantly new gifts and commodity contributions reach to the Minato elementary school and therefore the evacuees. Onagawa or Ogatsu city are located 20 km north east of here and they draw a whole different picture. Malnourished evacuees, the sight still covered with heaps of debris and a major lack of future perspective. The natural hazard becomes a logistical challenge. Hindered by a hierarchical society struggle to accept aid from outside the national boundaries.     

What remains are the private initatives. Like the one from the Association des Français du Japon. The group is attended also by Japanese, Russians and Mike from Naumburg/Germany. Finally I am able to talk to somebody in my mother language about the local situation. He concludes after the weekend: I am coming back... There is a lot to do for another five years. He likes to propose further initatives to his company. 

Three more days to go after the weekend. The team is set up new under the leadership of Masumi-san. She coordinates the local enterpreneurs and privates who are asking for concrete help and deliver them with volunter teams. Masumi-san is the boss of Team Kobe. She lost her school in the Kobe earthquake and since then she takes care about the affected people at that time. She knows exactly the problems and sorrows of the people in Tohoku. Everything seems to repeat, she says but this time in another scale. The locals trust her as well as the allocated Peace Boat Team. And so we continue working with a catholic group from Himeji, Kohe-san from Osaka who acts as our team leader assisted by Chun-san from Kyoto. Nearly invisible but diligent Matajoshi-san from Okinawa completes the team. He will stay for another three months.    

The tasks haven’t changed much since my last duty. Removing mud from peoples houses, pile up the washed ashore trash for the dustcarts and cleaning the drains. We are in the middle of the japanese rainy season. The mountains are greened but there is the thread of landslides caused by the tsunami and the daily heavy rain. Every day climbing workers try to brace the slope with cement. My clothes and my cloves hardly dry. On top comes the humidity. Day 5 brings the sun back and Cedric and me the first sun burn.

Slowly more and more digger and debris trucks appear in the city. Most of the inhabitants ask themselves: Shall we rebuild or pull down. Nobody knows if the financial help of the government will reach them and when. Better show self confidence and ask for volunteer help. Like Toiyama-san. All his life he constructed wooden troughs in a variety from a flower pot to a washing trough. With a circular saw he cuts in the ground in the first floor of his house and lifts the floorboards with a chisel. Quickly he crawls to the buildings foundation and removes the mud. Chun-san calls him to have a break. We only hear a muffeld giggeling from under the beams which assure us, he will continue after dusk. He is 87 years old. 

The last day we clean the yard of a weaving mill. The small shrine is moved to the side and the washed ashore trash filled up in bags. Besides we remove old branches from the grapevine. The land lady wasn’t on her property when the tsunami hit. Four of her employees piled up tatami mats to reach the rooftop before the water filled up the workshop. They are all save. The workshop wasn’t affected by floating cars or trucks and so they work in full operation sine half a month. Cedric trys out his first woven planket and squeeze himself behind the weaving loom. We collect our tools and finish work earlier due the humid weather. 

I do have a last duty on this journey. Together with Hiroki-san from Peaceboat we bike in town towards the Sumyoshi school. The Minato elementary school and other from the Tsunami affected institutions relocated their offices temporarily to this facility. We meet Sasaki-san the headteacher of different schools. His team receives 780,000.- YEN approxemately 6,800,- EURO. That is the amount, which was donated to the donation account of my parents from family members, friends, two elementary schools from Saxony and dedicated people from all over germany and the world. Thank you, very very much. From the bottom of my heart I like to thank you all. We never expected this huge willingness to give and therefore we feel more then obliged to use the amount in a meaningfull way. Sasaki-san and his team like to split the money for three school which have lost basically everything like the Minato elementary school. They like to buy projectors, screens, school tables and tool sets as well as a school vacuum cleaners. The new school year will start in fall. Untill then they new equipment will be installed and ready to use for pupils and teachers. 

For the last time I use the public bath before I return to Tokyo by nightbus. It’s evening in Ishinomaki. The Isakayas around the main station are illuminated and laughters get through to the station forecourt. Two skater use the ramp to exercise. I withdraw a green tea from the vending machine. A shimmer of normality. At least in one commune in Tohoku.  

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Three Months Ago

On March 11th 2011 a massive earthquake happened in Japan followed by an destructive tsunami. Until today, not all is recovered and still a lot of clean up work has to be done.
More than 90,000 people are still in shelters 3 months after the massive quake and 40% of clinics and hospitals have still major difficulties to rebuild their facilities. This is the same for the schools & kindergartens. If you look at NHK World News webpage you will see the survey that 77% of the population in Japan is not satisfied with the progress of reconstruction and in my opinion it is connected with the still remaining challenges which we are facing in Japan: political instability, weather conditions (lots of rain), Fukushima is still not under control and the radiation fear did reach an area more in South yesterday: Shizuoka.

This all leads to change the mind set, in my opinion the only way forward: "change yourself"

In Shinjuku one - if not the largest - demonstration ever happened today. More than 20,000 people were on the street and protested against nuclear power. It is already a good way as the government is listening and they stopped all future plans on enlarging the number of nuclear power plants. The prime minister Kan will host a meeting about renewable energies and Japanese companies are exploring more than ever before in that area as well.

But honestly, it is only a small step. The more important is that we start acting more responsible and save more energy by ourselves. Japanese people started with it and I hope that it will continue.
You can see these posters of  "please save energy" everywhere at the train stations. You can hear people talking about it as the government asks to cut 15% of electricity usage during the summer months and companies are looking into new ways for daily work life of their employees (super cool business, less overtime, more shift work, etc.).

I think it is a new consciousness which this crisis has created. I really hope that this is only the start point and a double point for other countries. The picture below shows exactly, what is important to understand: "Radioactivity has no Borders"

11 June 2011 - Demonstration at Shinjuku (taken by Stephan Schmidt)

It does not work if only Japan and Germany are changing their policy about nuclear power, and other countries build more nuclear power plants. We all have to change and we all have to start with ourselves: Save the Energy!

Friday, June 10, 2011

It is a long way to go - Help is still needed

Today you can read on the internet page of the news agency Kyodo the following:

"Three months after the March 11 earthquake and tsunami and with a nuclear power plant disaster still unfolding, a great many survivors are still living in shelters as construction of temporary housing for them has made slow progress.

In the worst-affected prefectures of Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima in northeastern Japan, only half of the needed 52,000 temporary homes have been completed.

Even after all evacuees have found temporary abode, however, there will remain the extremely testing issue of how to reconstruct permanent residential areas."

Source: KYODO NEWS (You can see pictures on before/ after at this internet address)

This demonstrates that still a lot of help is needed and many people are still living in shelters. Many schools will only be renovated later this year.

I heard from several Japanese companies that they allow their employees to go to Tohoku to help with the clean up, etc. A friend of mine wrote me this week: "And nicely enough my company sent a mail, asking if employees would be interested to go to Touhoku for volunteering. I'll be going this week Thu-Sat, mostly to shovel mud and to carry broken furniture... Smooth option for company employee, as company is organizing the transportation & accommodation."

It is nice to hear this because "it is a long way to go - Help is still needed"

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Support from all over the World

During the last two weeks we have received a many emails from schools and private persons who like to help, and we just like to give a short update about it.

Let us start with the Community Dinner Group in Shanghai. Dominik Villaret and Nora Sun have contacted us, and together with the help of Britta Lemke they organized a charity dinner in Shanghai. Britta was in Tokyo during the Earthquake and she could report about her experiences and of course our project. Thanks to all of you, we have received 220,- EUR. Arigato Gozaimasu.

Then there was Odette Vella, who lives in Malta and was as well with the student organization AIESEC. She heard about our project and immediately contacted her local school, Kullegg Maria Regina Primery School in Mellieha. Together with the headmistress Mrs. M.R. Leone and the two teachers Mrs. Emilia Fenech and Mr. S. Chetcuti they have organized a drawing activity with their pupils and collected around 100 pictures.
Charles Schiavone of DHL supported the transportation to Japan. This shows heart and a great caring attitude of Malta! Arigato Gozaimasu!

In France, we have Cathrine Pichot who liked our project idea very much as well and she contacted schools in France, Arc-en-ciel St. Sauveur de Pandemont & École Sainte Jeanne d'Arc - Nord Sur Erdr. At the end she wrote to us: “It is a real pleasure to join your wonderful idea and to ask French school kids to draw these pictures. It was a way for teachers to explain what happened in Japan and I have seen that kids were very touched as you told in your below message. My son, Axel, who is 4 years old, was very touched when he understood that many Japanese kids have lost their house, their toys, etc... and he was very happy to send these pictures from his school to give some smiles!”
At the end they collected more than 200 drawings, which are on the way to Japan now – thanks to her and DHL in France, who subsidized this activity. Merci & Arigato to France!

Vivian Lie lives in Chicago and Carlie Nelson stays in Arizona. Both of them heard about our school cones project and started to talk to schools.
Carlie already collected many drawings at her own school and they will send these soon. See below the nice pictures of the school kids in Carden Traditional School, Surprise in Arizona. You can see the joy and caring spirit in their eyes. 
Vivian opened an online shop in USA a few years ago, which is called “Kindercone”. Because of this, she has many contacts at schools. She is discussing with the schools at the moment and will send us children journals for our cones. Thanks a lot! Arigato Gozaimasu to both of you!

A very big compliment goes to Jana Heibrok. She is a teacher at the Gesamtschule in Porta Westfalica (Germany) and together with Lars Backhaus she organized a presentation at the school, organized drawing sessions and collected more than 100 pictures. On top of that she motivated a colleague of her at the Städtisches Gymnasium Sedanstraße Wuppertal, Tobias Westermann, who also organized drawings of his pupils. You can see on the photo that many students were engaged and were happy to do something nice to the kids in Japan. The Freiherr-von-Vincke-Realschule in Minden followed the example of Jana as well and also contributed postcards and angel paintings. A big thank you goes to Jana, Lars & Tobias. Dankeschoen!

Of course we cannot forget the Heinrich Boell Schule in Goettingen. They were the first school, which joined. They are the school which inspired us and kicked off this entire project. 
The Class 9 organized the "Cafe Heinrich" and collected more than 400 EUR - thank you so much for your support and especially to Andrea Boesch, who is a teacher at the school and Lucas. He is the young student on our webpage. He is the one who pushed Andrea and now many more people.

This is already a lot of support, but many more schools are involved and more schools in Germany, Singapore, India, Vietnam, and Egypt also showed their intention of organizing activities. We will collect drawings, donations and postcards until the end of July - please help us to spread even more the word.

For us it is nice to see that children all over the world are engaged to help. At the same time they learn something about Japan and about social responsibility. This motivates us to do even more here and at the moment we try to find one or two schools in Tokyo, which can put together all the pictures, drawings and postcards to colorful photo books.  

We thank everyone for their support and we can only repeat that we do not have words which could show our appreciation enough. Just a big ARIGATO!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Disaster victims angry at power struggles in Tokyo

Survivors of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami expressed their anger Thursday at politicians they said were wasting their time in a power struggle over a no-confidence motion against Prime Minister Naoto Kan's Cabinet.
''If politicians have time to get in each other's way, they should come to Fukushima and help settle the accidents'' at the radiation-leaking Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, a 25-year-old corporate employee in Tamura, Fukushima Prefecture, said.
The man also said he does not expect anything from such politicians but that Kan should stay in power until the nuclear crisis is resolved.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Tokyo is ok - Japan not (yet)

This morning we experienced a small earthquake again nearby Tokyo (5.7 magnitude). It was only a very soft shaking in our office. Many colleagues only looked up shortly and then continued with their discussions or work.

Life in Tokyo and the metropolitan area of Tokyo is back to normal since a few weeks ago already. It was very surprising for me how fast the Japanese people went back to their normal life style.

Of course we had the fear of radiation in tap water and many bought water, or all necessary other items like bread, milk products, etc. But this situation is stable and completely back to normal now. I talked to my friend Oskari a few days ago and he mentioned “it is normal, but still you have this strange feeling that it is not the same as before”. I can agree to this, as we all know that the affected areas of the earthquake still need much more time for recovery and we also know that the nuclear power plant is not fully under control yet. Many people (including myself) have the opinion, that the nuclear situation is not getting worse or better, it needs much more time to be completely solved.
But what do you want to do? Worry the entire day? Leave?

There is no increased radiation level in Tokyo and nothing detected in the tap water anymore (source) – therefore we do what we can do best: continue with our life and help Japan and the entire world with it.

Kaori on her way to Tohoku to help
On Tuesday evening we met Kaori Doi, who is volunteering for the NGO日本ユニバ震災対策チーム” (NUC - Nihon Univa Counter Crisis Team). She was already active as a supporter in an evacuation center during the big Kobe Earthquake (16 years ago) and now she is engaged again, “but the situation is completely different”.

I personally have the feeling (like Stephan explained in his last blog entry) that many people do not fully understand the reality and underestimate the need of support. 

Kaori explained during our discussion that “the tsunami washed away many kilometers of houses and cities, where people lived. This area will be difficult to re-construct in a short time and therefore many people need to continue to live in the evacuation camps with very limited privacy and difficult circumstances. This will be much longer than 16 years ago (in Kobe, there was neither Tsunami nor Nuclear catastrophe).

Just imagine that you have to live in a gym or school with many other people for more than 2 months and you do not know how much longer…

There is a high emotional stress level in these evacuations camps now.

Kaori explained to us based on her experience in Kobe that during the first 2 weeks many people just want to survive and try to contact family members, etc. But then they start to live in the camps and you need more privacy. People “discover” behaviors on others (with whom they live together in the camp or even sleep next to them night by night) which are “annoying” to them. Therefore Kaori and other volunteers tried 16 years ago in Kobe to create separations. They organized mats for more comfort, etc.  All this is needed in order to calm people down and to let them “relax” a little bit.

I also read in some articles on the internet that NGOs started to give foot massages to these “refugees”, as these moments of relaxations are very important (especially if you still feel the aftershocks). It is important to work on the mental balance.

And all this will take much longer this time, because a tsunami hit and destroyed their houses and lands. The radiation problem is an additional problem which worsens the situation even more and makes it impossible for some people to come back to their houses (maybe ever).

Some people tell me sometimes in emails or discussion forums:
Japan is a rich country and we better donate & help countries in Africa or somewhere else

Well, yes. Japan is a rich country, but many people died and left sad people behind. Many people lost everything and cannot even return to the area where they spent their entire life. Many people are and will suffer from the mental stress and traumatic experiences for months. It is a long dragging process, but the willingness of help is decreasing.

In my opinion, Japan is in need for help. It is a different help. It is called (International) Solidarity and Caring. The longer the situation is continuing, the more of this kind of support is needed... especially for children!

(Pictures are taken from other Internet Pages: CTV, Kyodo News)

Monday, May 16, 2011

...experience as a volunteer in Japan...

A few days ago, I wrote already about a friend of mine, Stephan, who went together with an organization called Peaceboat to Ishinomaki. He helped to clean up the streets, talked to the kids and supported the locals. He is very much involved in helping the community here and I asked him to write a short article about his view on the things now.

Please read below and share with us your opinion or experience. What do you think about his view? Did you experience something similar or do you have a complete different opinion about the situation?

Now, we ask Stephan to speak up and share his experience:

"After five weeks going to Ishinomaki and coming back, live and work shifts into a blurry zone of meaningless considering the relief effort in need caused by the devastated tsunami from mid march. Speaking with a lot of volunteers, they seem to have difficulties to concentrate in the first week after the returned to their "normal" work. Useless, minor, narrowed down to be back in their offices.

What we experienced in terms of solidarity and teamwork seems to be unrepeatable in the daily labor. So the all over tone of everybody is. "I wanna go back, I felt so useful in this week, they need more help then my boss." Are we caught in chains, why is it so easy to evolve mutual international respect and togetherness in a situation where are you sticking to basic of living? Is it maybe the common sense to help those in need with the necessary supplies of food and human motivation saying, you are not alone, we think of you?

This is not an empiric study; I only encounter what I experienced. Though I get in line with these volunteers. At the end of June, I will go again to Ishinomaki and will definitely release my second promise.

Soon after the quake my parents in Germany set up a donation account for my family and friends. The account will be closed at the end of May. My mother called me this week and said that about 3.500, Euros already has been raised. I didn't expect this. I was amazed. The money will go towards the Minato Elementary School in Ishinomaki to keep up running the daily school duties and may provide pupils with materials. So I will go again to Ishinomaki, I will do the regular volunteer work and visit the Elementary School to supply the donation by myself.

It's probably trust what makes the difference. There are people in Germany, knowing that I do live in Japan and will find an appropriate occasion to donate the collected money. No question, the bigger organizations like Red Cross as well as Peaceboat do an amazing job and help the people where they can. Though a lot of people who would love to donate searching for a private initiative and somebody they can trust.

Therefore I emphasize everybody who wants to contribute to find a person of trust and then provide donations directly to a local school, private person or cooperate. And build up trust over a longer period then just couple of months.

What is obvious now is that the catastrophe from two months ago is more and more out of the media and only the reactor is worth some news. The amount of volunteers at Peaceboat decreased after the Golden Week. This is a long term project. And it may take two or three times to provide your duty in this exceptional situation.

I was also curious about the Japanese behaviors. Yesterday I witnessed a scene with a French guy who nearly screamed at two Japanese that they shall go to Tohoku and help. The two Japanese bowed fast and whispered “hai hai” as an acknowledgment that they heard what was said without agreeing. Then they said they would love to go but they do not get free from work and if they do on their own, they might lose their job.

So maybe it would be a good thing to doctrine the Japanese people, in an authority society like the Japanese one, from above. Emphasize management's to form teams for volunteer work and take this as an act of corporate social responsibility. It pushes the morality of employees and gives the company a good reputation. And it might help in an authoritarian society.

The volunteers already went can act as a multiplier, as facilitators and presenters about the experienced work in Tohouku hat everybody who goes is highly appreciated and act in the name of humanity and understanding among nations for Japan. This can be a chance."