Ochakko closing ceremony – report

by Kaicho

ochakko201601sAfter three and a half years Ochakko is being closed down and the structure is being donated to a local group.  While it is a bit sad perhaps, as we leave behind some good memories, in the end we should realize that it was not the building that made it memorable but the people we met and the things that were done at Ochakko.  We should also be glad that the needs of the community are evolving and moving forward and we can be proud that through Ochakko, we at nadia, were able to be a small part of that process.
ochakko201602sAs I said at the ceremony, the building Ochakko was simply a building, but Ochakko was about the people and the community.  Many thanks to Kayo, Team 3-11, and all others that made it what it was.  We hope that even if the building is gone, we can continue building on the relationships we have created and can continue to help the community going forward.

Many thanks to Air Liquide, and the many other sponsors and volunteers that made this possible.ochakko201605s

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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 !


Volunteering in Joso – Report

On September 10 2015 the Kinugawa River banks bursted in Joso city after the heavy rainfall of Typhoon Etau. It caused massive flooding in the Joso area and other places in Tochigi and Ibaraki.

The weekend after the disaster nadia core member Mamiko was already up in Joso and started connecting and coordinating with local groups, other volunteers and the official volunteer center.

Before and during Silver week nadians gathered and drove up to Joso to help with the cleanup.

There were piles of garbage along the roads and in dedicated waste zones. Water always causes huge damage as we know.

We received work assignments from another volunteer group and the official Joso volunteer center. Work was hard and included removing of wooden flooring, removal of dirt and water underneath floors and various other tasks.

It’s only about an hour drive from central Tokyo to Joso, if you are interested in volunteering in Joso, then you can contact

1) official Joso volunteer center – http://joso.vc

or we also recommend

2) independent volunteer center (Genki Mura – contact person Mr. Hattori).
Mr. Hattori plans to continue helping to at least the end of the year, volunteers are welcome. They will supply basic tools so volunteers just need to bring their own boots, gloves, masks etc.
Please contact nadia for contact info.

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The first assignment of the day, removing flooring, in front of a butsudan

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Team nadia members in action

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Otsukaresama! Mami after a trip underneath the narrow floor

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Combined forces with team Rob

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The hard working nadia crew

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Floor removing for a family with a friendly cat

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This is what we do

by Rolf

Yamathon 2015 – Report

By Ron Choi

yamathon 2015 report 01

Figure 1. 770 Yamathon participants packed the Galleria area in Tokyo building.

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Figure 2. J.P. Morgan Lentos II team had hands down the most interesting station photos.

On 30th of May, 2015, close to 800 people participated in Yamathon, a race around the 29 stations of Yamanote line in Tokyo.   The event is quite familiar to the Tokyo residents as it has been held annually since 2009.   This year International Volunteer Group (IVG), the organizer of Yamathon, decided to support NADIA to help their efforts in Tohoku recovery. Joe Pournovin, Events Director for IVG, noted they became interested helping NADIA after seeing its numerous projects in Tohoku area.   The raised funds from this year’s Yamathon will go towards, among other things, building more playgrounds in Tohoku.

In Yamathon, teams of four are required to walk or run to all 29 stations and take a photo of themselves in front of each station sign to prove they visited all the stations along the Yamanote line.   Most people walk. Some run. It is not only a physical challenge, but is also a navigational challenge as the total distance can be anywhere between 40 to 48 km depending on the paths one takes.   Majority of the participants have difficulty navigating the tracks between Gotanda and Shinagawa where the route from one station to another is far from obvious.

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Figure 3. The funds raised in Yamathon will go towards building more playgrounds like this in Tohoku.

2015 Yamathon was special for a number of reasons.   First, it was the venue.   This year’s event was held in the Galleria area of Tokyo building, quite a departure from Yoyogi Park and Tokyo International Forum.  It’s indoors and a much smaller location, but it provided an opportunity to be much better organized. The post-event fundraiser party was held at P.C.M., the bar on the first floor of the same building, which proved to be a big hit with the participants. The bar provided a great location to raise more funds through holding a raffle. NADIA provided many volunteers who were involved in the organizing with IVG for months leading up to the event and also doing the physical work of putting on the big event itself. The total number of participants was the largest ever –210 teams with 770 walkers and runners, a huge increase from 480 in 2014.

The feedback from the participants was resoundingly positive.   Yamathon is, more than anything, a fun event.   One doesn’t have to be super fit athlete to participate.   Some families with children completed the entire course.   Also, given that teams are required to take photos at each station, this provides many opportunities to be creative. In fact, some of the photos taken are quite amazing in their inventiveness.   Many teams take long breaks during the race – stopping in cafes and restaurants for food and drinks, etc. are all par for the course.   There were a large number of teams wearing costumes, making it a much livelier event.

Given the success of this year, the organizers are quite optimistic they may be able to break the 1000 participants figure next year. It only means more funds raised for worthy Tohoku for more years to  come.

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Figure 4. More playgrounds like these will be built thanks to Yamathon.

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Figure 5. J.P. Morgan Lentos II team had hands down the most interesting station photos.

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..

Ochakko Mochitsuki Taikai

By Joji

Date: January 17, 2015
Location: Minato-ku, Ishinomaki (Ochakko)
Attendees: Maya, Rolf, Joji

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The event was attended by approximately 30 people mostly elderly (2 children). It has been an annual event by the community since the building of the Ochakko community center and every year we have attended as participants.

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The event itself was simply an omochi making event but was a great opportunity to talk to locals about their experiences over the past 4 years. It was good to sit down and talk and get a frank, realistic picture of life post-tsunami. In the words of one elderly gentleman, “Nobody is ever ready for something like that to happen in their lifetime, and I was alive during the War”.

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It was quite encouraging that these people were in high spirits despite what hardships they had gone through. It was clear that they appreciated that we still took the time to visit even four years after the event where a lot of Japan has forgotten about them. It was a rewarding day and I look forward to going up again when I can.

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Kamome Gakuen Playground Build

By Gentaro Tajima and Ron Choi

kgp 01Figure 1. Michael Anop of Playground of Hope enjoys watching the children play on the completed play set.

Kamome Gakuen is a school for the disabled children in Ishinomaki, Miyagi prefecture, in Japan. The school served as a shelter during the 3.11 triple disasters back in 2011. NADIA has a long history with the school, having had many volunteer events for the school in the past. On December 13th and 14th, 2014, NADIA volunteers, in partnership with the members of Playground of Hope (PoH) and It’s Not Just Mud (INJM), built a beautiful playground for the children of this school. It was the 7th playground build for NADIA.

It was by far the most emotional of all the builds. Watching the children and the parents left many of the volunteers heart-broken. Many of the children had mental disabilities, and some of them are very severe cases. It was plain to all they had tough lives ahead of them. We were so touched by the dedication of the school staff that always kept it positive and never forgetting to smile. These children require extraordinary patience to look after them. We were glad to see the staff was more than up for the task. Some of our volunteers shed tears upon watching the children with the most severe mental disabilities, rendering them unable to move. Watching the dignity and positive attitude of the parents of the children left them inspired.

kgp 02Figure 2. One of the school children and his teachers.

O.G.A. for AID, another Tohoku volunteer group, sent a Santa and presents for the children. All the children were very excited to see Santa, but patiently waited for their turn to receive their gifts. It was one of the highlights of the weekend. Both the children and the parents really enjoyed activities and food that were provided for the opening ceremony.

kgp 03Figure 3. One of the school students enjoy making bubbles.

kgp 04Figure 4. The children enjoy one of the games that were set up during the opening festivities.

JPMorgan Chase Foundation, through its Tohoku Fund, provided funding for the build. 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.

kgp 05Figure 5.  Joji Hiratsuka, NADIA chairman, and Eriko Fukutani hard at work.

kgp 06Figure 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 who willingly gave their time and efforts on this project, we sincerely thank you.

kgp 07Figure 7.  Some people actually cried watching this. One cannot think of a gentler, kinder father than this gentleman. The three year old has the most severe mental retardation in the school. The father was about as pleasant as one can ever be. He had smiles throughout the entire day he was there. He is a better man than I am. Everyone was touched.

kgp 08Figure 8.  O.G.A. for AID, another Tohoku NPO, sent a Santa with presents for the disabled children.

kgp 09Figure 9. Our volunteers hard at work.

kgp 10Figure 10. Building a playground means lots of lifting assembling.

kgp 11Figure 11.  This is why we do it.

kgp 12Figure 12.   This is why we do it.

Societe Generale brings 130 riders to Japan for charity

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Tokyo, October 27, 2014 – More than 130 Societe Generale employees from the Asia Pacific region cycled through Japan’s mountainous Yamanashi prefecture and the metropolis of Tokyo to raise over 110,000 Euro (approximately ¥ 15,400,000) for charity.

The 5th Asia Pacific Bike Ride took place on October 25 and 26 as part of Societe Generale’s Citizen Commitment Games. This solidarity-based challenge is open to employees worldwide and emphasizes commitment and team spirit.

All money raised will go to charity partners which each country had chosen. Money raised by the 20 employees based in Japan will be donated to NPO Nadia, which supports victims of the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in the Tohoku region.

Riders spent one day cycling through the Fujigoko region in Yamanashi prefecture at the base of Mount Fuji, with the most skilled participants completing 104km in a day. The second day of riding took place in Tokyo alongside Edogawa River.

Societe Generale Chief Country Officer for Japan, Guillaume Burtschell, said: “We are proud to host the annual Asia Pacific Bike Ride in Japan especially this year which is the 150th anniversary of Societe Generale while helping our charity partners in Asia.”

“The Asia Pacific Bike Ride 2014 was part of the Citizen Commitment Games, in which over 20,000 colleagues across the globe have participated so far. Together, we have achieved a record level of fund-raising for our local charity partners.”sg bike ride 2014 02

Karakua Playground Build in Kesennuma

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.

Matsunami Park Build in Ishinomaki

By Khilan Shah and Ron Choi


Figure 1. The completed playground in Ishinomaki, Miyagi-ken.

On 24th and 25th of May, 2014, J.P. Morgan and NADIA volunteers, in partnership with the members of Playground of Hope (PoH) and It’s Not Just Mud (INJM), rebuilt a beautiful park in Matsunami area in Ishinomaki, Miyagi prefecture in Japan. It was 29th build for Playground Of Hope project. This area was devastated by the tsunami of March 2011. Some of the 450 residents who attended the opening ceremony stated that it was the first time they came back to the area since the disaster. They had avoided area because of the painful memory of what had occurred on March 11th of 2011, not wishing to relive the experience. Many of those who came back for the first time were delighted what had happened to what was an abandoned park. Overgrown weeds were removed, bright green grass was laid and a large colorful play set for children was built for the eager kids from the surrounding area. The festive mood was palpable. A BBQ party to celebrate the re-opening of the park was held. Eric Jacobsen, a children’s TV program host, performed his popular tunes for those in attendance. After a short opening ceremony, hundreds of kids ran to the play set. The park was filled with laughter and joy.


Figure 2. Eric Jacobsen from NHK morning children’s TV program, Eigode Asobo, performed a concert for the children of Matsunami, Ishinomaki.

The funding for the event was provided by JPMorgan Chase Foundation, a Japanese-American performance group called Grateful Crane, and a remarkable ten-year-old from Ohio named Miya Moore who managed to raise $30,000 at her church with the help of her mom. She and her family joined the opening ceremony. It was a heart-warming occasion for everyone involved.


Figure 3. Miya and Emiko Moore from Ohio joined the opening ceremony.


Figure 4. J.P. Morgan volunteers who rebuilt the park.

Another team of J.P. Morgan volunteers who were also in Ishinomaki the same weekend to participate in a rice planting event for a social farm for the elderly graciously joined in on Saturday to check out the park. They all posed in front of the play set for the photo op. That was probably the largest group of J.P. Morgan volunteers in Tohoku area ever.


Figure 5. J.P. Morgan volunteers building the play set.

It was another touching experience to see the children playing on the playground we built. It validated our belief that we can still make a difference in the area and continue to touch lives. If our efforts can help the people of Tohoku area in their courageous road back to recovery in even a small way we are deeply grateful.


Figure 6. There was lots of weeding and laying down of fresh natural turf.

This was by far the largest build event out of the 29 Playground Of Hope projects to date and yet another well-planned and executed volunteer event in Tohoku. The Playground Of Hope team is perfecting their skills in putting on events and making good things happen in Tohoku region. 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 J.P. Morgan who willingly gave their time and efforts on this project, we sincerely thank you.


Figure 7. Putting in the slide is always tricky.


Figure 8. Building the base of a slide.


Figure 9. Michael Anop of Playground Of Hope giving the volunteers the morning orientation.


Figure 10. Rebuilding a park means lots of digging and other back-breaking work.


Figure 11. This is why we do it.


Figure 12. This is why we do it.