【December 2020 No.408】Horikawa Aiseien Group Home for Children

Horikawa Aiseien, incorporated as a social welfare group home for children, was founded in 1945. Pastor Yamakita Takihiko of Misakicho Church, together with Kagawa Toyohiko, had procured land in Hokkawa, a forested mountain area in the town of Tanagura, Higashishirakawa district in southern Fukushima, to provide a safe and peaceful living space for children who had lost their parents and homes during the air raid of Tokyo in March of that year. Kobe Shuhei, who was introduced through the Kyodan and would become the first director, began living there with the children from October 1945, together with his family and young adult women from Misakicho Church. But even saying that, it is recorded that life in the wood cabin built in one section of the mountain forest was continually difficult. Mr. Tani Masatsune, who also worked at Hokkaido Family School, joined the staff several years after Horikawa Aiseien was established, and in 1948 the home was approved as a welfare institution for children based on the Child Welfare Act. It moved to its present location in Maruuchi in 1951. From the time it was founded, the town of Tanagura has promoted Aiseien’s work by not only providing land, food, and materials but also to the point of becoming like a relative of the children through its support and cooperation.

Following Mr. Tani, Iida Susumu became the director in 1965 and continued in this position for 46 years, establishing the theoretical basis of the work that Aiseien continues today. From the beginning, Aiseien adopted a type of cottage-style format, in which a guardian lives with a small number of children (6-7) in each group home. It is not an overstatement to say that Mr. Iida established the foundation of cottage-style childrearing. Times have changed from that of  economic recovery to a period of fast economic growth, and the situation of the children coming to the facility has also changed greatly. Beginning with the so-called “bubble” period from the year 2000, the greater number of cases of children entering the facility involve protection against child abuse. Actually, from the start of the 21st Century until now, the number of cases of child abuse counseling in the more than 200 child counseling offices throughout the nation has reached 200,000 annually.

Aiseien experienced double hardships resulting from the Great East Japan Disaster on March 2011 in Fukushima and the accompanying radiation pollution due to the accident at the Fukushima Nuclear energy plant. The building was damaged by the earthquake, and due to anxiety about the aging of the over 40-year-old structure, it was completely rebuilt in 2012. For this undertaking, we received the kind support of the Berliner Missionwerk through the Kyodan. And in 2013, representatives from Germany came to visit, saw the facility after its reconstruction, and also had fellowship with the staff. Since then, we have been receiving support from Berliner Missionwerk every year to pay off the loan for the reconstruction. We are also receiving help through funding from many Kyodan churches.

My staff and I are grateful for the support from many places and grateful that the work begun in a corner of northwestern Japan has been continued for over 75 years due to that support. (Tr. RT)

by Ito Nobuhiko, director, Horikawa Aiseien Children’s Home, Higashi Shirakawa, Fukushima Prefecture

児童養護施設堀川愛生園

社会福祉法人 堀川愛生園, 施設長 伊藤信彦

堀川愛生園の創立は1945年に遡る。三崎町教会の牧師であった山北多喜彦先生が3月の東京大空襲により親を失い、住む家を失った子どもたちが安心、安全に暮らせるようにと、賀川豊彦先生と共に福島県の県南地域東白川郡棚倉町堀川(ほっかわ)の山林に東京で保護した子どもたちと生活するための場所を得る。そこに、教団を通して紹介された初代園長となる神戸周平氏とそのご家族、三崎町教会の女子青年有志が参加し、同年10月より子どもたちとの生活が始まった。と言っても、材木を切り出す山林の一角に掘立小屋を建てての生活は苦難の連続であったと記録されている。創立から数年後に、後に北海道家庭学校の働きもされた谷昌恒氏も加わり、1948年に児童福祉法に基づく児童養護施設として国の認可を受け、1951年に現在の丸内(Maruuchi)に移転する。愛生園は創立以来、棚倉町(Tanagura machi)がこの働きを理解し、土地、食料や物資だけでなく労働力の提供に至るまで親身になって協力してくれている。

1965年より谷先生の後を受け飯田進氏が園長となり、2011年までの46年間園長として今日の愛生園の働きを理論的に構築した。愛生園は当初から小舎制養育という少人数(子ども6~7名)の子どもたちと主たる養育者が共に生活するグループホームという形態をとってきた。飯田先生は愛生園における小舎制養育の基盤を確立されたと言って過言ではない。時代は戦後の経済復興期から高度経済成長期へと推移し、施設に来る子どもたちも大きく変容している。所謂バブル期から始まり2000年以降は児童虐待による保護のケースが入所児童の大半を占めている。実際に21世紀に入り今日に至るまで、全国200か所を超える児童相談所に寄せられた児童虐待相談件数は、今や年間20万件に届かんとしている。

2011年3月の東日本大震災での被災に加えて福島県は、福島原子力発電所の事故により放射能汚染災害という二重の苦しみを経験してきた。震災後の2012年に震災によるダメージもあり、それ以上に築40年強という老朽化の不安により、園舎の全面改築を行った。事業に当たっては、教団を通してドイツのBerliner Missionswerk より厚い支援をいただいている。また、2013年にはドイツより園を訪問していただき、改築後の園の様子を見ていただき、職員とも交流することができた。その後も、改築事業による借入金返済のため毎年ご支援をいただいている。多くの教団の諸教会からも募金にご協力をいただいている。

東北の片隅で始まった働きが、75年支えられてきたのも、こうして多くの方々のお支えによるものと職員ともども感謝している。