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Asian Health Institute Trainees Visit Hiroshima

For the past eight years, ANT-Hiroshima has marked the beginning of autumn with the Asian Health Institute‘s three-day workshop in Hiroshima. This year, 12 trainees from 10 Asian countries participated in the 28-30 October workshop, which is part of a six-week “International Course on Leadership for Community Health and Development” that took place at AHI’s training facility in Aichi Prefecture. The trainees, mainly representing NGOs that work for public health, come together in Japan to share expertise with each other in order to improve their capacity as community leaders and increase local participation in public health initiates across multiple sectors.

The portion of the training coordinated by ANT-Hiroshima began by teaching participants about Hiroshima’s history and then introduced them to a number of social welfare or peace-related initiatives in the city, which function as case studies for the trainees.

The AHI trainees offered 1,000 paper cranes at the Peace Park.

On the first day, ANT-Hiroshima Executive Director Tomoko Watanabe shared with participants how the experiences of Hiroshima inspire her work. After lunch, participants visited Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum and Park to deepen their knowledge of the city’s history. Finally, Tomoko-san’s mother, Teruko Ueno, shared her experience of the atomic bombing with the group. A thorough knowledge of the past is a necessary foundation for understanding how and why many organizations in Hiroshima work, and perhaps trainees reflected on the relationship between their own organizations and the history of their communities.

The next day, the group visited Motomachi Elementary school, then split into two groups to see either the welfare corporation Hagukumi no Sato or Tabete Karō Kai and retired social worker Chikako Nakamoto. Please read last year’s blog post about that portion of the training for more details.

The third day began with a guest lecture from Masae Yuasa, a professor in the Hiroshima City University Faculty of International Studies. Professor Yuasa presented trainees with a critical view of peace and anti-nuclear activism in Hiroshima and included some of her own experiences of intellectually grappling with mass human tragedy.

The group then had lunch at the recently opened Social Book Cafe Hachidori-sha and listened to a talk by owner Erika Abiko. Abiko-san explained that her motivation for opening the cafe was to create a space where people felt comfortable having open, productive discussions about peace and other social issues. She also detailed the practical side of how she gathered funds and volunteers to help build Hachidori-sha.

AHI trainees and staff with Abiko-san at Hachidori-sha

For the final sessions of the workshop, the group adjourned to the ANT-Hiroshima office, where trainees discussed ANT’s work through a question and answer session with ANT staff and three participants in ANT’s Hibaku Taiken Keishō Juku, a class aimed to give participants a thorough knowledge of the atomic bombing and raise their capacity as memory keepers of Hiroshima’s experience. The three Juku participants are also trained by Hiroshima City to work as official memory keepers. The group was particularly interested in the memory keepers’ work, as well as their three-year training process.

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ANT-Hiroshima Contributes to Build up Nepal

ANT-Hiroshima helped sponsor a Build up Nepal project to rebuild a health post and school in Jyamrung, a village in central Nepal. Build up Nepal is an NGO “dedicated to rebuilding villages and fighting poverty in rural areas of Nepal,” according to their website.

ANT-Hiroshima first became involved with Build up Nepal when Hiroshima Jogakuin University student Ajdari Isooda proposed that ANT-Hiroshima support one of the organization’s reconstruction projects. Ajdari raised 70,000 yen selling udon at Jogakuin’s school festival; ANT then donated the money. Tomoko Watanabe, executive director of ANT-Hiroshima, visited Jyamrung during her trip to Nepal in April 2017.

Tomoko-san at the construction site

The partially constructed health post

ANT-Hiroshima recently received word from Andreas Kölling, Build up Nepal’s social business developer and sales manager, that reconstruction work in Jyamrung is speeding along, with the health post and living quarters already built up to roof level. The two buildings are expected to be completed within the next two months. Once completed, Build up Nepal’s partners Tuki Nepal Society and Tukee Nepal Samaj will use the health post to bring healthcare to Jyamrung and the neighboring villages.

The foundation of the other building project in Jyamrung, a school, is under construction. The school is planned to have 11 classrooms, and roughly 150 local students, currently studying in a temporary tin-shed school, will be able to use the new facility once it is completed.

The under-construction school (photo courtesy of Build up Nepal)

“The reconstruction work has created a lot of interest in all of Jyamrung,” Andreas wrote. “Together we are creating change and a better future for the children and youth there.”

Local students (photo courtesy of Build up Nepal)

Build up Nepal uses Earth Bricks to construct earthquake-resistant buildings. The Earth Brick machine doesn’t use electricity, so it can be used even in remote villages. Around 14,000 bricks are necessary to complete the Jyamrung project.

When Build up Nepal began work in Jyamrung, it first trained local community members on how to use the machine and build with the bricks, and training to expand the number of locals with building skills is ongoing. The training begins by covering topics such as safety measures, soil testing, machine operation and maintenance, and quality assurance. Next, trainees learn about the construction of earthquake-resistant foundations and how to cast beams and build walls. Using reinforcing bars and mortar in the walls makes the buildings stronger and more earthquake resistant.

Locals constructing Earth Bricks (photo courtesy of Build up Nepal)

Even after the health post and school are built, the community can continue rebuilding other parts of the village. Build up Nepal makes sure to train locals in the whole production process to make sure they can function independently.

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AHI: One Day’s Training in Hiroshima

On September 30, members and trainees of the Asian Health Institute and ANT-Hiroshima participated in a training on social engagement that mainly took place in the Motomachi neighborhood of Hiroshima. Along with the more serious parts of the training, focused on immigration and integration, social work, and disaster relief, the day also involved playing games with students at Motomachi Elementary School and watching them perform a violin recital and a Chinese dragon dance.

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AHI participants try their hand at the Chinese dragon dance.

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AHI participants introduce themselves to Motomachi Elementary School students using a mix of Japanese and their native languages.

Toward the beginning of the day, the principal of Motomachi Elementary, Takashi Ninomiya, gave a lecture on the neighborhood’s and the school’s history, a history deeply intertwined with that of the city.

The Motomachi Apartments, originally built to house people who had lost their homes in the atomic bombing, are now home to a number of immigrants. In particular, some residents are Japanese “war orphans,” people who were forced to be left behind as babies in Japan’s colony in Manchuria at the end of World War II. Raised Chinese and unable to return to Japan until 1981, when Japan and China agreed to allow war orphans to return home, the returnees generally were left feeling rootless rather than receiving a warm welcome in their native land. Unable to speak Japanese and forced to work low-paying jobs, many returnees who settled in Hiroshima had to live in the publicly funded Motomachi Apartments. The move to Japan was hard on their children and grandchildren too, who also often questioned their identity. Many of these third-generation war orphans now attend Motomachi Elementary.

Principal Ninomiya shared that, when he first began working as a teacher at Motomachi Elementary 15 years ago, often the final insult hurled in a fight would be “Go back to China!” Chinese students don’t make up the only immigrant group at Motomachi Elementary; many of the AHI participants (and myself, the lone American) met students from their country of origin. In the past, the school rarely produced students who went on university, or even sometimes high school.

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Principal Ninomiya explains Motomachi Elementary’s educational philosophy.

However, times are changing. Principal Ninomiya said that because Hiroshima was often the port of departure for colonists heading to Manchuria, it is now Hiroshima’s duty to take care of the returnees and their families. The same spirit extents to all students at Motomachi Elementary. In recent years Motomachi Elementary’s dropout rate has dramatically improved, and the atmosphere is much more inclusive. The school makes sure students learning Japanese as a second language are brought up to speed through small-group tutoring and are integrated into the normal classroom environment. The teachers take care to communicate with one another about how their students are doing so that no one falls through the cracks. One AHI participant remarked that he was moved to see the inclusion of students with disabilities, along with students from all backgrounds.

Students and teachers also guided AHI participants through the school’s exhibit on an atomic-bombed hackberry tree that used to grow in the school grounds. The exhibit chronicled how students from Motomachi Elementary cared for the ailing tree, and, although it eventually died, the school later planted and cared for saplings from other A-bombed trees.

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AHI participants, Motomachi Elementary School staff, and ANT-Hiroshima staff in front of Motomachi Elementary.

In the afternoon, the AHI participants split into three groups. One group went to the Chūō Community Center to meet retired social worker Chikako Nakamoto, who is generally referred to simply as Bacchan (Granny), and her group of volunteers. Nakamoto-san and the other volunteers run Tabete Katarō Kai, a community meal that takes place every two weeks. The dinner has two goals: One, to feed local youths who don’t get enough to eat at home due to domestic violence or loss of amenities, and two, to introduce said youths to other members of the community, including people who have similarly troubled pasts. Nakamoto-san, who, during her tenure as a social worker, welcomed her cases and their friends into her Motomachi apartment and fed them at any time, still has a 24-hour-a-day open-door policy. Her philosophy is that someone is more likely to open up and less likely to resort to crime when well fed, and 30 years of experience have proved her right.

The AHI participants watched a short documentary, Granny Loves You: The Probation Officer’s Tale, that chronicled the last few years leading up to Nakamoto-san’s retirement. The film explored Nakamoto-san’s simple and effective way of relating to the boys assigned to her — feed them, don’t scold them. There was time for a question and answer session after watching the film, where participants expressed their gratitude to Nakamoto-san for sharing her story and asked her further questions about her activities.

Afterward, everyone headed to another room in the Community Center, where dinner preparations were already in progress. Participants spent time chatting while assisting Nakamoto-san and the other volunteers in making yakisoba, vegetable tempura, and oyakodon.

Another third of the participants spent the afternoon visiting Hagukumi no Sato, a welfare center that provides people with mental disabilities support and training to help them lead an independent life, find their place in the community, and raise their self-esteem and self-worth. The organization bases its activities on respect for individuals and a desire to nurture their abilities. The participants listened to an explanation of Hagukumi no Sato’s vision and activities and talked with members of the community about their lives, feelings, how Hagukumi no Sato has affected them, and the organization’s history and how it functions financially. Hagukumi no Sato members and AHI trainees compared perspectives on living with mental disabilities from their various countries.

The final group of AHI participants went to Asaminami-ku, the location of the worst of the August 20, 2014 landslides. Participants listened to a presentation by Matsubara Hiroki, who works at the Hiroshima NPO Center; they also visited the site of the landslides and observed the reconstruction efforts currently taking place. The main focus of Matsubara-san’s presentation was how, immediately after the disaster, the NPO network coordinated with the local government to remove debris, distribute supplies and hot meals, maintain evacuation centers, and care for children and the elderly. Trauma counseling is currently the primary volunteer activity.

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AHI participants at Asakita-ku, site of some of the 2014 landslides.

Overall, the day was a welcome opportunity to learn about some of the more recent challenges the people of Hiroshima have faced and how they are being addressed. I believe participants finished the training moved, thinking of connections to their own communities, and inspired to put what they learned into action.

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Relief Efforts in the Aftermath of Nepal’s Earthquake

On the 25th of April 2015, central Nepal was struck by a magnitude 7.8 earthquake. Eight hundred people lost their lives, and hundreds of thousands more were left homeless by the disaster.

Nepali medical students studying in Hiroshima joined forces with Hiroshima citizens’ groups to create the Hiroshima-Nepal Earthquake Relief Team, which began relief efforts as quickly as possible. The Relief Team gathered donations to purchase medical supplies to send to Nepali hospitals, and volunteers traveled to the capital city of Kathmandu and the surrounding area to give free medical care, gather information on conditions, and find housing for displaced people, among other activities.

Nepal medical supplies

Nepal post-earthquake

ANT-Hiroshima also participated in the relief effort. Tomoko-san, Professor of Neurosurgery Kazunori Arita, and Doctor of Neurosurgery Masayuki Sumida traveled to Nepal to distribute donations to various medical teams. The two doctors also performed many surgeries free of charge at Annapurna Neurological Institute, as well as taking part in a meeting on medical relief efforts. At the meeting, they gave words of support and presented the donations, intended for temporary housing, a rehabilitation hospital, and other facilities, along with three suitcases worth of medical supplies. Using the donations, the Relief Team was able to build many temporary houses for displaced people.

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Nepal temporary housing

On her first trip to Nepal, Tomoko-san gave the newly-elected mayor of Kathmandu copies of the picture book “Paper Crane Journey,” to be distributed to public schools, along with a letter of encouragement and support from the mayor of Hiroshima. On her second trip, Tomoko-san directly gave many copies of “Paper Crane Journey,” translated into Nepali and English, to public elementary schools, in order to teach children about the story of Hiroshima — the bad and the good — and bring smiles to their faces. Hopefully, Nepal, like Hiroshima, will be able to recover quickly from the disaster that occurred there. After a bilingual reading of the story, Tomoko-san taught the students how to fold paper cranes. The ANT Hiroshima representatives also returned to Annapurna Neurological Institute to support the surgery department and give copies of “Paper Crane Journey” to the young patients.

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Nepal giving books

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Even after Tomoko-san the majority of the Earthquake Relief Team representatives returned to Japan, they maintained the important ties between Hiroshima and Nepal and continued to support the establishment of a rehabilitation hospital for children in Nepal, as well as other long-term recovery efforts.

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Nepal Academy of Science & Technology Commemorates Hiroshima Day

We received a report from Dr Basant Pant about a seminar which he organized with the Nepal Academy of Science and Technology (NAST) to study the effects of radiation on human health. The seminar was held in commemoration of the 69th anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima on August 6th 1945.

Writing on his Facebook Page, Dr Pant explained,

Today at 8:15 am Aug 6th 1945, first atom bomb was dropped in Hiroshima leading to 80,000 deaths, thousands of injury, great destruction, and long term effect of radiation.

We all should learn a lesson from Hiroshima, risk of Nuclear war & accident incorporate all human beings, nobody is immune from it so, we should continue to show our concern against its development, proliferation and use.

Today NAST is organizing a special event in this regards and here are some of the slides from my presentation. 
“War is Evil; not the countries who fight it”

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Hiroshima from a Doctor’s Eye… Part of the presentation, “Effects of Radiation on Human Health” for the 69th anniversary of Hiroshima Day.

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The seminar was well attended by doctors and scientists.

We would like to extend our thanks to Dr Pant and NAST for organizing this event.

ANT-Hiroshima

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Green Legacy Hiroshima