Guest contributor, Sara Ai Coe, writes,
These days having a lot of things on my hands, visual reminders have been a life saver (thank you daily organizer iphone apps). I think even with the best intentions, it’s easy to forget about things when there’s no constant reminder integrated into our daily lives. When the earthquake shook Tohoku, watching the news stories everyday, I was hit with so many different emotions. Fear, anger, uncertainty and of course extreme sadness. I donated money and clothes, and volunteered at events raising funds for the victims. Now, nearly 16 months have passed and with less visual reminders, I am guilty of thinking that somehow things up in northern Japan are getting back to normal.
But as many already know, just because the story disappears from the news, doesn’t mean it’s been blessed with a fairy tale ending. For most, the true battle has only begun. Knowing this, one group of young people here in Kansai decided to go and see how things have changed in the Tohoku area, and ended up starting their own charity project. Takumi Ake, who had just returned from living in London, was absent from Japan when the disaster hit. So together with his friends Taji Yasutaka and Kenshiro Haneda they visited the area in May this year. As well as visiting Miyagi, they visited Kenshiro’s hometown Korimachi in Fukushima. Witnessing the aftermath was mind-blowing, but what got to them the most was hearing how the disaster was affecting how children played outside. ‘These kids aren’t allowed to play more than an hour outside because of the radiation. Playing outside and having fun is a big part of childhood’, says Takumi. Wanting to cheer up these kids, they came up with the TA project.
The TA charity project invites children from the Tohuku area to a 3 day camp in Osaka. The camp is designed for the kids to have fun, go crazy, forget about their worries and basically let the kids be kids again. And to make sure these kids overload on fun, the camp covers 5 different concepts of ‘playing’
1) Playing in nature.
2) Playing together.
3) Playing with sports
4) Playing with music
5) Taking all the playing back to your hometown.
The word ‘play’ has been a big part of the project. They believe even something simple, like letting the children play, will have a wider effect on the community. ‘If the children are happy, their parents are happy. If the parents are happy, then the community is happy. This will make Fukushima happy’.
Together with Takumi, Taji and Kenshiro, the project is led by a team of young professionals. These guys have no experience with charity, but are united with the passion of wanting to do something to help. ‘We wanted to show that anyone can do this, like you and me: everyday people’. While holding on to their day jobs, the team is constantly organizing things to raise money for the project. So far they have organized events, stalls at flea markets, made TA badges, and have planted donation boxes around the city. Having lived in London for 6 years and seeing there a lot of people involved in charitable activities, Takumi wanted to bring ‘charity culture’ back to Japan.
The project has met with a lot of positive feedback, but not everyone has been so receptive. Takumi says, as it is the first time that he and his friends have done this, they haven’t any proof that what they are doing is possible. People have often been skeptical and think they are not being realistic. ‘We haven’t done this before. People question us on why we are doing this. Charities are not very common here, so it’s tough’.
Despite the negative feedback, the TA team are confident that they can make their project work. This charity project is not just a one off, but an ongoing endeavor. Takumi says that the project is about the future as well. “We hope to keep on inviting these kids back every year. Japan always has big earthquakes. Who knows? In ten years time, there might be a big earthquake in Osaka. Then hopefully these kids will be like, “Ok, now it’s our turn. It’s our turn to help”.
What got me so interested in the TA project was the fact that young people like me with zero charity experience were coming together to make a difference. It gives me hope that our generation is still alive. Of course there are many people out there who are wanting to make a difference. But ‘thought’ sometimes isn’t merely enough. The Dalai Lama once said ‘You can’t just sit there praying for peace. Peace won’t come. You have to take inspired action’. I hope this project will also inspire other young Japanese to go out, start up their own charity project, and make a difference.
You can follow these guys on:
If you have any questions or want to help in someway, please contact Takumi at email@example.com
If you want to make a contribution to the group you can make a donation to the account below.
Sara Ai Coe:
Product of a crazy Japanese mother and Kiwi father, Sara moved to Japan in 2009 after leaving her job at a television network in little ol’ New Zealand. Having a serious case of FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out), she juggles 3 jobs, but her main job is being a promoter and booking manager at an independent record label in Osaka. Sara enjoys telling stories and she tells them through photography, audio documentaries and writing. Her guilty pleasures include: procrastinating, wearing socks to bed, Kanye West and drinking copious amounts of coffee.
Read her blog at http://ai-fulog.blogspot.jp/
See also Sara’s last post on Deep Kyoto: Let’s Dance!