【December 2015 No.385】Taskforce Visits Children’s Facilities in Tohoku Disaster Area

The March 11, 2011 East Japan Disaster caused much anxiety and hardship to many children and their families, which began, of course, with the damage caused by the earthquake and tsunami to both facilities for young children and the homes of their families. But another cause is the ongoing radioactive contamination from the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. In response to this, the Kyodan’s East Japan Disaster Relief Planning Headquarters has established a taskforce to respond to the difficulties faced by facilities for young children. This taskforce has been providing tuition support for preschoolers and assistance to preschools and daycare institutions that enroll children displaced by the disaster as well as subsidizing the costs of decontaminating the grounds. Additionally, the taskforce has been advising these institutions as to the kinds of public assistance that might be available to them. As a part of these efforts, these institutions have been visited to offer support and to further understand the issues they face.

 

On Sept. 16 and 17, we visited several preschools and daycare facilities in Tohoku District. As a group, this was the first time to visit IZUMI, the Tohoku Districts’ Disaster Relief Task Force, which is responding with support for the needs of those who are impacted by the radiation caused by the Fukushima Daiichi disaster. The problem of radiation is not limited to Fukushima Prefecture. The data is clear that contamination has created hotspots in the prefectures of Miyagi, Ibaraki and Chiba as well. We learned about the varying levels of radiation exposure as well as of the concern that parents show as they choose foods to feed their children.

 

We visited three facilities. One had been damaged by an earlier quake in 2007 and another had sustained damage due to flooding after heavy rains in the area just a week before our visit. Nevertheless, we were encouraged by the cheerful expressions on the children’s faces, particularly as they were engaged in their preparations for the yearly field athletic event. Another facility is located in a well-known tourist area, so efforts to decontaminate the grounds have been kept secret in order not to panic sightseers who might stop coming if they were aware of the levels of radiation in the area. That facility is deeply rooted in the community and is finding a way to continue in a trust relationship with its neighbors as it moves forward.

 

Looking to the future, it is clear that efforts need to be made to coordinate help for young children who are not enrolled in either a preschool or daycare center. Likewise, we need to increase our efforts to encourage facilities for young children that are not taking appropriate measures in response to the dangers of radiation to do so. (Tr. AKO)

 

—Kishi Norihide, pastor

Chiba Honcho Church, Tokyo District

東北教区幼児施設訪問

 

 

東日本大震災は多くの子どもたちとその家族とに不安を与えている。一つは地震と津波とによる幼児施設の建 物被害に始まる困難と子どもたちとその家族の被災である。もう一点は原発事故による今なお続く放射能汚染による不安である。そこで、 教団では、対策本部の下に被災幼児施設担当者会を設置し て、この課題に向き合っている。

同担当者会は今まで、建物のこと、また、避難した園児への保育料補助、一時避難した園児を受け入れた施 設への支援、除染費用の補助、被災職員への見舞金などを応援した。また、幼児施設ゆえに公的援助についての助言も行ってきた。そして また、幾たびとも諸施設を問安し、現状把握に努めてきた。

去る9月16~17日にも東北教区のいくつかの施設を訪問した。担当者会としてはじめて「いずみ」(東北教区放射能問題支援対策室)を訪れ、「いずみ」の取り組みについて 特に子どもたちに関わることについて話しをうかがった。福島のみならず宮城県南地区での甲状腺検査の状況、千葉、茨城のいわゆるホッ トスポットの地域でのデータなどに驚かされ、課題を共有した。また、保護者が食品について注意深く選択して子どもたちに与えている場 合と、そうでない場合との被ばく状況に違いが表れていることなど興味深い成果が表れていることを知らされた。

施設訪問は3つの施設を訪問した。ある施設は東日本大震災以前の2007年の地震でも被災し、また、訪問前の週の大雨でも地域が床上浸水などの被害を受けた地域である。しかし、 明るく子どもたちを見守り、特に運動会に向けて意欲的に取り組んでいる姿に励まされた。また、ある施設は、観光地に位置し、放射能被 害について公にできない痛みを抱えている。しかし、公にしないという約束のもとで、地域全体で園庭の除染作業が行われたことをうか がった。その施設が長い間、地域に根ざし、しっかりとした信頼関係のなかで歩んできた証詞に違いない。痛みの中でも絆が表れる一面で もあった。

今後の課題として、放射能数値の高い地域の子どもたちの「園外保育」のお手伝いを担当者会としてコー ディネートできないかということがあがっている。また、なお放射能被害について適切な対応ができていない幼児施設への意識啓発の使命 も挙げられる。(岸憲秀)