By Ron Choi
Figure 1. Our September volunteers in front of the completed playground in Kesennuma, Miyagi-ken.
On 27th and 28th of September, 2014, J.P. Morgan and NADIA volunteers, in partnership with the members of Playground of Hope (PoH) and It’s Not Just Mud (INJM), built a beautiful playground in Karakua area in Kesennuma, Miyagi prefecture in Japan. It was 33rd build for Playground Of Hope project.
It was a departure from a typical PoH build. This was a national park surrounded by stunning scenery that reminds one of Big Sur in California, not a temporary housing or a kindergarten. A hike around the park left our volunteers in awe. The adjoining town, Kesennuma, was devastated by the tsunami of 2011. Hundreds of townspeople rolled up their sleeves and enthusiastically supported and participated in the event. They believed building a playground would bring back young family with children many of whom left the area after the disaster. They organized a festival to mark the opening of the playground. They spent weeks practicing the region’s traditional songs and dances. Nearly 600 people including many of the luminaries in the area came for what many of them considered the event of the year.
Figure 2. The national park was surrounded by stunning scenery.
When the townspeople showed up to help us with the build, it was pretty obvious the predominance of the aging population of the surrounding area. Places like these need to be attractive to young families. They indeed needed a playground for children to play to lure back the younger generations. All the more reasons they desperately wanted the playground to be built.
Figure 3. The entire town of Karakua spent weeks preparing for the opening ceremony where they performed the region’s traditional songs and dances.
Figure 4. The obligatory release of the balloons to mark the opening of the playground.
JPMorgan Chase Foundation, through its Tohoku Fund, provided funding for the build. This was 6th playground or park to be built by J.P. Morgan. J.P. Morgan’s impact in the region has been felt by many in Iwate, Miyagi, and Fukushima prefectures through its numerous volunteer trips and philanthropic activities. NADIA continues to organize events in partnership with socially conscious corporate donors like J.P. Morgan. These events are by far the best evidence of how corporations and non-profits can work together to make social impact.
Figure 5. J.P. Morgan volunteers participated in the traditional singing and dancing performances.
It was an incredible experience to meet the beautiful people of Karakua whose hospitality and enthusiasm was unparalleled. They have welcomed us into their town, embraced us, and showed us their heart-felt gratitude. It was merely a weekend volunteer trip for us, but for them it meant much more. They thanked us for not forgetting that they have a long road to recovery even after more than three years since the disaster. Each of our visit and volunteer activity means so much to the courageous survivors in the region.
Figure 6. This is why we do it.
This was yet another well-executed event. We show our deepest appreciation to Playground Of Hope and It’s Not Just Mud staff for their hard work and a great execution. And to all the volunteers from NADIA and J.P. Morgan who willingly gave their time and efforts on this project, we sincerely thank you.
Figure 7. It’s not all backbreaking work. Our volunteers enjoying the building process.
Figure 8. Building picnic bench for the park.
Figure 9. Michael Anop of Playground Of Hope showing the volunteers the surrounding area.
Figure 10. Building a playground means lots of lifting assembling.
Figure 11. This is why we do it.
Figure 12. This is why we do it.