Oshika update July 2017

Since my last update in January I am thrilled to announce that an additional ¥1,458,500 (just over £10,100 or almost $13,200) has been pledged to support a number of projects on Oshika. This brings the total now to over ¥23 million (that’s more than £150,000 or almost $222,000).

One million yen of that has come in from an individual, and that money will be divided between three projects … firstly to create the orchard on Ajishima, so that the islanders can grow fruits, vegetables, and nuts to be sold or used to make pickles to sell and therefore encourage small business opportunities, something very dear to my heart! Secondly to pay for the school uniforms for all of the students entering Oshika Junior High School in 2018. This will be the fifth consecutive year that together we have supported the parents on Oshika by assisting them with purchasing school uniforms. And thirdly to pay for the repair of the Ohara “tetsubachi” … the hand-washing area at the top of the shrine steps, an area that always fascinates me in every shrine I go to.

During my last visit, I had asked Kucho-san to obtain an estimate for the complete repair of all the different areas of the shrine … I had already found sponsors for the building of a new kanetsukido, and for the rebuilding of the shinden, but there are other areas of this 400-year-old shrine that needed repairing. What we have done so far in the rebuilding of this shrine, along with the estimate, has inspired the village to also seek sponsorship themselves, and they have found a sponsor for another part of the shrine, which is really encouraging. Sometimes the act of providing sponsorship can also provide a lot of hope and motivation. Thank you so much to everyone. If you are interested in sponsoring any particular elements of this shrine, which was created by Sendai founder Date, please let me know. Current needs range from ¥375,000 to ¥6 million.

Back to the donations that have been pledged since my last update in January … the Japanese community in Oxford are donating £1000 from this year’s fundraiser toward the creation of a performance space on Ajishima. There are a number of young musicians that have moved to the island and this performance space will allow them to organize events to bring people together, as well as share the healing power of music. Thank you very much to the Oxford Japanese community.

The Ajishima dog run will soon become a reality, thanks to a ¥200,000 donation from a Tokyo-based individual. The island has dreams of rivaling the nearby “Cat Island” in becoming THE place for dogs to have fun! This will provide a safe place for dogs and their owners, both residents and tourists. I am very excited about visiting this when it is completed.

And the lovely Mariko Yasuda is hosting her annual summer fundraiser again this year, and has asked me to find yet another project for her funds to support. Thank you Mariko!

And good news for projects that have already received their funding and are in the process of being constructed … The Ajishima playground, sponsored by the Ohana International School community in Tokyo, is pretty much finished! Just in time for the summer. AND the islanders were inspired by the support they had received and decided to apply to Ishinomaki City Hall to gain additional funding so that they could further develop the playground, and they were successful! Again, another example of motivating the local people to gain further support for rebuilding their communities. Thank you to everyone that supported this wonderful project to give the children of Ajishima a safe and fun place to play, and to encourage more young families to move to or visit the island. I’d like to share a little note from the islanders that shows just how much this space means to them: “Yesterday at the small post office on the island, I met the mother of one of the island children. She said her daughter and another island friend have played at the playground every day after school since we opened it up. The mother is so happy and relieved that her daughter has a safe and fun place to be a kid along with other kids. For that, she, we, all of us, are thankful for your kindness.”

Finally, the Ajishima Farmers’ Market and Shared Kitchen space, sponsored by a number of Tokyo-based entrepreneurs and philanthropists via HOPE International, is well underway. This is a huge project, involving the renovation of a very old building, and bringing together so many people from the island and beyond. Former residents and closing businesses have heard about this project and jumped in to offer support too, with five truck-loads of equipment, furniture, and materials being donated, and also inspiring the islanders to create a café as part of the market and kitchen.

Disaster recovery is so much more than clearing debris. It is so much more than building homes, and repairing old buildings. It is about giving survivors the time to process their shock, to reconnect with each other, to adjust to a new norm, to grieve, and to know that there ARE people out there who want to gently hold their hands along the way. To show them what IS possible. To show them that people care. And at some point … maybe YEARS after the initial impact, they can feel motivated, inspired, and strong enough to take the initiative in new ways to move forward with their lives and communities. Thank you so much to everyone that has been a part of that during the past six years.

And if you’d like to be part of the rebuilding of the Oshika community, there are still plenty of ways to help … there are a few projects on Ajishima (ranging from ¥200,000 to ¥1.5 million) as well as the Ohara shrine projects I mentioned above. The 2019 school uniforms will require ¥329,000, and of course, there are always the Pink Ladies fishing outfits! Just ¥20,000. My next trip will probably be in December so please get in touch if you’d like to know more. And thank you again.

With love and appreciation

Caroline

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