Playground of Hope in Shinchi, Fukushima – Report

Shinchi, Fukushima, Sept. 4-5, 2015

A New Playground for the Kids in Shinchi, Fukushima


Event Overview
Late last year, Playground of Hope (PoH) proposed to nadia to work on a joint project for building a playground in Shinchi Machi, Fukushima. The Fukushima prefecture has been greatly affected by the March-11, 2011 disaster, from the earthquake, the tsunami and following radiation. It has also been affected by another disaster: being forgotten and left out of most of the volunteer and rebuilding recovery efforts as often Miyagi prefecture and the city of Ishinomaki have seen more inflows of volunteers. As the situation evolved in Fukushima and the level of radiation receeded to normal and safe levels (even below Tokyo levels in many areas such as Shinchi). nadia decided to work on the deployment of a new Playground of Hope at Komagamine Elementary School.

The fundraising efforts
Such endeavors requires a lot of support, both in terms of volunteers and also financially. nadia approached its partner organizations, Societe Generale and The Lycée Français International de Tokyo (LFIT) to help deliver on this project.

02Societe Generale organized a Bike Ride fundraiser on Oct. 25-26, 2014 to raise funds for this project.  More than 20 staff from it’s Tokyo office volunteered in the fundraiser efforts and committed to raise over 600 euros each in support of nadia.  Many staff, friends and family members supported each of the bike riders fundraisers.

03A few weeks later, the The Lycée Français International de Tokyo also organized the Course de Noël (Christmas Run) where kids from the primary school setup a fundraiser race also in support of nadia. Many kids, their parents, school staff and teachers contributed to the fundraising efforts.  Both events allowed nadia to raise a very large portion of the funds necessary for the project.

The building of the playground and volunteer efforts
In September 2015, 17 Societe Generale employees and family members as well as 11 LFIT students, teachers and parents volunteered to be part of the deployment of the Playground at Komagamine Elementary School.

The volunteers left on the evening of Friday September 4th and travelled by bus to Sendai. The journey by bus went really smoothly and we all went to bed quickly in order to be ready and sharp for the big day the next morning leaving Sendai at 8am to be in Shinchi-Machi at 9am.

04Upon our arrival we were warmly greeted by the Komagamine Elementary school staff along with PoH team.  The representatives of the school explained how the area had been impacted by the March 11 disaster and how the area and school has been recovering and now welcomes displaced kids (14% of the 166 kids) from other affected areas of Fukushima. Although radiation levels in this town is now below Tokyo levels, the city and whole prefecture are now fighting another problem: obesity in kids is on the rise following years of reduced outdoor play, hence the importance of providing this new playground to the community. After this explanation, everyone got to meet each other briefly in order to get to work together as efficiently as possible.

05We were assigned tasks that were super well organised and everything went very smoothly and fast. By noon, 75% of the playground was already set up. We took a welcome lunch break together again, allowing everyone to get to know each other a little bit more.  By 4pm the playground was fully completed and it was time for a big BBQ and fun sharing times, that again, the volunteers teams pulled out beautifully. The local families and friends of the school were amazed and happy how such a jolly fun group of people managed to give their kids the best gifts of all : being able to PLAY MORE !

All in all, this project and adventure was a huge success by telling how louds the laughters were heard and cheers the kids made when they were finally allowed to play with their new playground.

Everyone worked hard and enthusiastically throughout the day, working in groups where one another hardly knew each other but always followed the tasks assigned with smiles and cheers. Everyone got along so well in a very simple and efficient manner, teaching the great values of effort, team spirit, giving and thankfulness.

06A word of thanks
This project would not be possible without the contribution of all the volunteers from and donators who supported it. The smiles on the local kids faces, and on everyone’s faces were priceless.  The memory of happy volunteers that gave their time, support and full enthusiasm on that day and the immediate results of this fantastic project will resonate for many years to come in our minds and hearts. We all wish to be part of more projects like that in the months and years to come!  Thanks for your support.  Best wishes and see you all soon for the next project !


Playground of Hope Repair Trip Report – May 2015

            By Ron Choi

1Figure 1. Our May volunteers in front of the refinished playground at Kaihatsu Koen #599 in Ishinomaki, Miyagi-ken.

On 9th and 10th of May, 2015, International Volunteer Group (IVG) and NADIA volunteers, in partnership with the members of Playground of Hope (PoH), conducted maintenance and repair work on the beautiful playgrounds built by NADIA two years ago in Ishinomaki and Minamisanriku, Miyagi prefecture. It was the first playground repair trip for NADIA..

It was also the first time IVG members participated in a NADIA volunteer trip. Starting this year, IVG, the organizer of an endurance race called Yamathon, will donate all funds raised through their event to NADIA. In its seventh year, the Yamathon is a endurance race by teams of three or four navigating all 29 stations of Yamanote Line, which encircles the central area of Tokyo. It is a hugely popular and fun race, but it also raises money for good causes. Joe Pournovin of IVG told how Yamathon was started, “We wanted to do something in Tokyo, some sort of endurance challenge. You look at certain other events … they’re expensive, you need to take time off work, you need to commit to training and practice. Yamathon, you don’t need to do so much training. It’s in the center of Tokyo, and it’s affordable.”

2Figure 2. 2014 Yamathon walkers and runners.

NADIA is extremely grateful for the donation, much of which will help us continue the Playground Of Hope project. NADIA is also helping IVG in organizing, planning, and executing the Yamathon event on May 30th. This year’s event will be the biggest ever. The venue will be in Tokyo Building ( a.k.a. TOKIA building ) in Marunouchi, Tokyo, located next to Tokyo Station. It will also host Tohoku Market. Many vendors, such as Fukushima-kan from Tohoku will bring local crafts, food, sake, juices and sweets,. There will also be a post-event fundraiser party at PCM, a bar next to event venue which will have DJs playing excellent music and IVG will auction off prizes to raise money for NADIA.

3Figure 3. 2014 Yamathon participants are required to take photos at each station to prove they covered the entre distance. Some of the racers are quite creative with photos. Like theis team from J.P. Morgan in 2014.

When we arrived at the job site at Kaihatsu Koen #599 in Watanoha area of Ishinomaki, we found children and parents already at the park. The park has become a focal point for the community. The residents, many of whom still living in temporary housing compounds near the park, meet and gather there each and everyday. The community leaders and towns folks remembered us from our build trip back in August of 2013. They came to thank us and brought food and drinks for us. Many of the children wanted to help with sanding the wood. There were many touching moments throughout the day.

The play set looked worn out. Hundreds of kids must have played there the past two years. Some wooden beams were chipped and much of the waterproof stain was gone. Some nuts and bolts needed tightening. We spent the entire Saturday patching, sanding, and apply wood stain to make sure the play set will last a long time. After a daylong activity, the play set looked absolutely brand new. The town kids who show up on Sunday morning will be pleasantly surprised.

On Sunday, we drove to Minamisanriku to do some repair work on the second playground we built back in September of 2013. It is on a gorgeous park with lots of greenery and grass. When we arrived we found two root sidings on the small tower were missing. We cut down a wood panel to replace the missing pieces on the roof. We did more patching, sanding, and painted on wood stains.

4Figure 4. The playground we built in Minamisanriku back in September of 2013. It is situated in a beautiful park with green grass.









Figure 5. Our volunteers, Joe Pournovin and Tsutomu Horiuchi, test out the playground.

Joe Pounovin said of the trip, “An unbelievable weekend with some wonderful people fixing playgrounds in Ishinomaki and Minamisanriku. Seeing the good in doing good and doing it with a smile – that’s what it’s all about.”

7Figure 6. NADIA and IVG volunteers being supervised by Michael Anop of Playground of Hope.

It was a great trip. Hopefully we can continue to go back to maintain all the playground we built in 2013 and 2014. We will need donations and volunteers. Thanks to all for helping us.

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Figure 7. Koji Oishi and Jennifer Guess of IVG and our hero, Tsutomu Horiuchi-san.

10Figure 8. Uga Kayo of Ishinomaki made this bento for us. Undoubtedly the best bento in Tohoku.

11Figure 9. Sharing the sweets given to us by local residents with a local child.

12Figure 10. Local children wanted to help out with sanding.

13Figure 11. All our volunteers after the repair work was finished..