By Ron Choi
Figure 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.”
Figure 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.
Figure 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.
Figure 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.”
Figure 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.
Figure 7. Koji Oishi and Jennifer Guess of IVG and our hero, Tsutomu Horiuchi-san.
Figure 8. Uga Kayo of Ishinomaki made this bento for us. Undoubtedly the best bento in Tohoku.
Figure 9. Sharing the sweets given to us by local residents with a local child.
Figure 10. Local children wanted to help out with sanding.
Figure 11. All our volunteers after the repair work was finished..