By Ron Choi
Figure 1. Our volunteers posing in front of the completed playground in Fukushima-shi, Fukushima-ken.
On the 8th of March, 2014, NADIA volunteers, in partnership with the members of Playground of Hope (PoH) and It’s Not Just Mud (INJM), built a beautiful playground in Fukushima city, Fukushima prefecture in Japan. It was 24th build of Playground Of Hope and the third year anniversary of the March 11 triple disaster, which made it even more special. It is well-known Fukushima was devastated by the triple disaster of March 2011. The effects of that disaster were clearly seen even three years since. The Wakaba kindergarten, our job site, had a large electronic display showing the real-time reading of a Geiger counter. It was showing 0.065 μSv, which is around where Tokyo is. The school ground was clearly safe, but the previously installed play equipments had to be taken away from the school grounds in the aftermath of the nuclear incident due the rain that deposited the radiation from the Fukushima nuclear plant. All wooden and metal play sets had to be removed due to contamination. The students didn’t have a play set to play on for three years.
Early march in Fukushima is undoubted cold. It snowed throughout Saturday when volunteers built the play set. Some assemblies had to be done indoors in the school gymnasium to not to expose volunteers to inclement weather. The volunteers however never lost the positive spirit despite the less than ideal working condition. Nishiyama-san, a National Diet member representing Fukushima, stopped by to encourage the volunteers. The school staff was unbelievable hosts. They also participated in the build activities.
There are about 150 schools in Fukushima with the same exact predicament. The play sets were torn down and taken away due to contamination, but even though school grounds are perfectly safe they do not have funding to rebuild the playgrounds. Here’s one area NPOs like NADIA can play a huge role in financing and building the much-needed playgrounds.
It was a great experience seeing the children absolutely loving the play sets we built. Yet another reason to strengthen our belief in humanity and our conviction that we can make a difference in the lives of the victims of the March 11th disaster.
This was a greatly planned and executed bus trip to Tohoku. The Playground Of Hope team is continuously honing their skills in making good things happen in Tohoku region. We show our gratitude to Playground Of Hope and It’s Not Just Mud staffs for their hard work and a great execution. Also to all the volunteers who willingly gave their time and efforts on this project, we sincerely thank you.