Community Events Bring Hope to Kumamoto Earthquake Victims

Decorating a Christmas tree at a community gathering
“There are still a lot of problems, but because people support us and help us to have a good time I have energy to keep working hard to recover.” –Tsumori township resident at Peace Winds event

 

In December residents of Kumamoto’s temporary housing (now recognized by local governments as townships) gathered together to decorate Christmas trees, make holiday wreaths, and share tea and fresh-baked cookies. Peace Winds held events in three townships, reaching over 650 people.

Peace Winds has been supporting township residents since October. Peace Winds is particularly concerned about the elderly. Our experience in the Tohoku Great Earthquake and Tsunami taught us the disruption of social life and community networks caused by displacement is particularly hard on those over 65 years old. We want to prevent this from happening in Kumamoto.

During interviews Peace Winds conducted in October, many residents said they were eager to forget their troubles and focus on the positive. “I want it to feel like the Christmas season and for children to create fun memories,” said one resident. Another said, “The temporary housing is so dark; I want to brighten things up and make it cheery.”

Because of the overwhelming support of our donors on Giving Tuesday, Peace Winds was able to fulfill these wishes. Event attendees decorated Christmas trees, ate holiday treats, and made wreaths under the tutelage of an artist Peace Winds hired. These activities prompted new connections. “I talked with someone I had never met before when I helped her learn how to make the wreath,” said one participant. These events were the best-attended Peace Winds has hosted. Peace Winds also distributed cookies and tea to all the households in temporary housing.

"It's too cute to eat."
Christmas cookies for distribution

Caring for the Elderly

To combat the social alienation and isolation that occur in temporary housing, Peace Winds is supporting the creation of residents’ associations in each township where Peace Winds is providing training and resources for 128 association leaders to help them support their residents.

In Kumamoto, the toll of stress, isolation, and related illnesses has been toxic, especially among the elderly who accounted for 90 percent of post- earthquake deaths. The temporary housing residents, particularly the elderly, have expressed their strong desire and need for community-building activities to combat isolation and stress. Peace Winds is listening and planning seasonal events such the Doll’s Festival (Hina-Matsuri) in March, memorial events in April, summer festivals and even casual get-togethers. Peace Winds is regularly sponsoring beautification activities, teas and dinner/lunch parties, games and exercises, sing alongs, and more. We hear from all ages the community-building events raise spirits and help residents move forward during this difficult period.

Thank you for partnering with Peace Winds to bring hope and joy into the families, young and old, in temporary housing.

READ MORE > about Peace Winds’ work in Kumamoto, Japan.