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Model Toy Libraries as Peace Centers Project Underway in the Philippines

ANT-Hiroshima is partnering with the non-profit organization ABA Trainings Inc. for the latter’s project Model Toy Libraries as Peace Centers, which will set up Toy Libraries in 20 elementary schools in Zamboanga City, Philippines. The project, also supported by the organization Philippine Toy Library, is spearheaded by Aldrin Bucoy Abdurahim, ABA Trainings Inc.’s founder and president.

The Toy Libraries are intended to help children learn about peace and value education through having fun. Educational toys, housed at the libraries and used to teach lessons, include books, stuffed toys, science and musical toys, slides, abacuses, puzzles, and cards.

Students at a local school say thanks

In order to set up the Toy Libraries, ABA Trainings Inc. needed book shelves, flooring linoleum, and posters in addition to the toys themselves. ANT-Hiroshima provided funding support for shelves and also plans to send copies of “Paper Crane Journey” to furnish the Libraries.

Aldrin said he was inspired by ANT-Hiroshima, particularly its commitment to building strong relationships, when he visited Hiroshima in 2010 as part of the Philippine delegation to JICA’s Training Program for Young Leaders on post-war reconstruction and peace-building. After participating in the program, Aldrin wanted to strengthen the relationship between Hiroshima and Zamboanga City.

ABA stands for Action Bridges Aspirations, but the name has further meanings. According to Aldrin, the word “aba” means “awakening to something you are good at” in Chavacano, the creole language used in Zamboanga City. The non-profit also carries the same initials as its founder.

Children at one of ABA Trainings Inc.’s partner schools

After being legally recognized as an NGO in 2015, ABA Trainings Inc. established five Peace Crane Centers across Zamboanga City in 2016. The organization works in local schools and communities and conducts programs on education, youth empowerment, leadership development for students, and team-building for teachers. Aldrin said the Toy Libraries project, ABA’s main focus in 2017, was built on the NGO’s engagement with many schools in the region through their other programs.

Currently, three of ABA Trainings Inc.’s peace centers have been converted to Toy Libraries, and the others are in the process of being set up. Aldrin plans to official launch the 20 Model Toy Libraries as Peace Centers on 6 August 2017.

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Financial Assistance Sent to Marawi during Crisis

Last week, ANT-Hiroshima sent financial assistance, which helped feed evacuees, to Reconciliatory Initiatives for Development Opportunities, Inc. (RIDO) in Marawi after the city was seized by combined militant groups aligned with the Islamic State. Friend of ANT-Hiroshima Abdul Hamidullah Atar, who works for RIDO, helped people evacuate the city, passing militants multiple times per day. On 31 May, he wrote to ANT-Hiroshima, saying, “Right now, we have been continuing various lobbying activities, urging the government to stop bombing the city, pushing to open negotiations, [collecting the bodies of those killed in] the bombardment and crossfire, and finally prioritizing the evacuation of the remaining populace trapped in the confrontation.”

Bags of rice to be given to IDPs and others in need.

On 23 May, Islamic State militants seized Marawi, located in the southern Philippines, with the goal of declaring an IS territory in Lanao del Sur. After roughly 500 militants attacked the Philippine Army stationed there, Marawi was put on lock-down, with roads leading to the city being blocked by both militants and government forces. Ninety percent of Marawi’s population was evacuated by 27 May, and reports differ between authorities and locals as to how many civilians have been killed by both militants and government airstrikes.

In his email, Abdul highlighted various challenges affecting the situation, such as the government only distributing relief assistance to evacuation centers, even though many IDPs are being hosted in people’s houses and lack food. Furthermore, after President Rodrigo Duterte declared martial law on May 23, access to the military became very limited — which proved a problem as government forces sometimes treated innocent civilians as members of the militant groups. Abdul also worried that relationships between Muslims and Christians in the area would worsen after the militants targeted Christians in their attack.

Abdul asked for assistance to provide necessities such as hygiene kits, food, and water for both displaced people and those working to help them. He also emphasized the necessity of documentation of the damage and people’s stories, support for people who lost their homes, and care and school supplies for children.

Workers portion relief assistance.

RIDO used the funds donated by ANT-Hiroshima and other organizations to provide rice and other assistance to over 1,000 families in Lanao del Norte. However, the total assistance RIDO has received is still not enough to provide for everyone who needs help.

People wait for relief assistance to be distributed.

Relief assistance is handed out from a van.

Abdul said he has been “involved not only in humanitarian assistance but also in dialogue with the government to stop airstrikes and bombardment and to observe the rule of law and international human rights.”

We at ANT-Hiroshima would like to express our sympathy for the people of Marawi. Ordinary people are always hurt in war and conflict, and we hope that the current situation can be resolved through nonviolent means so that the people there can live in peace.

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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, Ninomiya Takashi, 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 a-bombed Enoki (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 Nakamoto Chikako, 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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Sultan of Marawi Presides Over 5th Youth Congress Peace Summit

MarawilocationMarawi City is the capital city of the province of Lanao del Sur on the island of Mindanao in the Philippines.

It was here that the Fifth Youth Congress Peace Summit was held by The Royal Sultanate of Madaya Youth Organization with the support of ANT-Hiroshima and some local organizations, under the auspices of our friend, the Sultan of Marawi, Abdul Hamidullah Atar, who we know as Pogie-san. 🙂

Pogie-san was enthroned as Sultan of Marawi in December 2013. Here is a video compilation of some photos taken at his enthronement…

Here is the official banner of the Peace Summit, acknowledging ANT-Hiroshima’s contribution:

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And here are some photos of some of the activities that took place at the summit…

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The Sultan of Marawi (Pogie-san, right) at the awards ceremony…

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The young people attended in traditional costume.

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… and performed traditional local dances…

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During the summit, a presentation about Hiroshima was shown…

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Pogie-san talks about the atom-bombing of Hiroshima.

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The young people read a peace pledge.

We would like to take this opportunity publicly to thank the Sultan of Marawi, Pogie-san, for his sincere efforts in building peace on Mindano Island and for his tireless co-operation with ANT-Hiroshima.

Thank you Pogie-san!

ANT-Hiroshima

 

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Preparing For A New Potable Water System In Barangay Puned

On May 18, 2013, our representative in Mindanao, Pogie-san, attended the first Partners’ meeting along with the Barangay Puned council chairman and other 8 council members to discuss the mechanics for the implementation of the potable water project.

Three days later, the first inspection of the water source took place with the Municipal Engineer and other selected community members. The inspection team was transported to within walking distance of the site by motorcycle and then hiked for three kilometers before arriving at the source of  the water.

 

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The partners’ meeting convenes… Pogie-san is wearing the purple T-shirt.

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The inspection team poses with the motorcyclists before setting off…

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They approach the water source on foot…

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At the water source.

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Back at the village…

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Ground Breaking Ceremony

Over one hundred villagers attended the ground breaking ceremony, which was held on 25th May. Community leaders extended their heartfelt thanks and gratitude to the chief donor, Mr. Doi and his family, and also to the organizations behind the realization of the project, RIDO (Reconciliatory Initiatives for Development Opportunities) Inc. and ANT-Hiroshima.

During the ceremony, local and Barangay government officials also expressed their willingness to contribute to the costs of labour and haulage.

Different committees were created to deal with various aspects of project management such as man-power, inventory, security, hauling, legal documents, food and so on. All sectors of the community have been consulted and included in the running of the project, such as traditional groups, religious organizations, youth and women’s movements, local government, Barangay government, police and clan elders.

The community members started digging on 20th May and pledge to finish the project on or before June 20, 2013.

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The project banner acknowledges the donors and their roles in the implementation of the project.

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Pogie-san addresses the audience.

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Questions were asked and answered.

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The ceremonial ground-breaking is about to begin…

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Green Legacy Hiroshima