Friday, July 11, 2008

Students who lost parents in the Great Hanshin Earthquake that leveled much of Kobe in 1995 will visit China on Sunday to lend their support to children orphaned in the May 12 Sichuan temblor. They will carry messages of encouragement from Kobe area residents to the quake victims.

The trip is organized by Ashinaga, a nonprofit group providing scholarships to children who have lost parents to illness, natural disaster or suicide.

Seven scholarship recipients, five of them affected by the Kobe quake, will take part in the five-day visit. "There are things we can talk about because we are in the same situation," said Yuri Fukui, a high school senior who lost her mother in the 1995 quake. "I would like to tell them they are not alone."

I read the story above about Ashinaga in the Asahi today, and did a search to find out more about this interesting NGO that provides support to orphans:

We have two main jobs. One is to provide financial support to children who have lost either one or both of their parents. The other is to provide emotional support. We hold summer camps for ASHINAGA scholars every summer, where children can express their sorrow and share feelings together. We also provide constant emotional care programs at Kobe Rainbow House, which was built in 1999 as the first day care center for orphans in Japan.

Their history is quite fascinating too, in this country that is so dominated by its world-famous car-makers:

18-year old boy Okajima lost his sister to a traffic accident. He sent a letter expressing his anger and his emotion to a reader's opinion page in a newspaper. That letter was titled "My sister was killed by a weapon on wheels". He received 131 letters of encouragement from all over Japan. Two years later, Tamai (ASHINAGA's co-founder) lost his mother in a traffic-accident. He also felt that his mother was killed by a weapon on wheels. He was then an economic critic, but started writing on the problems of traffic accidents in Japan. He wrote a book called "Victims of Traffic Accidents"...

The boy read the book and wrote a letter to Tamai. They talked about how to support traffic-orphans emotionally and financially. In 1967 they started a group called "Association for Orphans of Traffic Accidents". Tamai was then a TV personality in a program about traffic accidents. He asked the director to invite a boy who lost hif father to an accident to his TV program. The boy read a short essay titled as "To My Dad in Heaven" on the air. Many Japanese were shocked how strongly orphans needed financial and emotional support.
In 1969, an incorporated foundation for traffic orphans was established.

1 comment:

steveb said...

Very nice post, Martin. Thank you for making more people (including me) aware of the compassion and the courage to take action that exists in Japan.