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2020/06/08

【COVID-19 Emergency Assistance】 Providing Safe Play Areas for Children - NPO Partner Project

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"It was fun playing outside!"

Surrounded by beautiful nature, Nebama Seaside is a large tourist attraction in Kamaishi, Iwate Prefecture, which was heavily damaged by the Great East Japan Earthquake in 2011. On May 16, over 20 parents and children gathered at Nebama Seaside to jump rope and play frisbee. 

Local elementary school students smiled and exclaimed, "It was fun playing outside!" The parents also said, "We are thankful since we couldn't let our kids play outside. It’s great to have a place like this for them." This outdoor event became popular through word of mouth and over 60 people gather every weekend.

 

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"Things we can do during the pandemic"

On May 25, the government lifted the state of emergency across Japan. However, event gatherings cannot be organized as before. Especially in prefectures with no confirmed cases like Iwate, there is strong social pressure for residents to avoid being the first case and people are wary of criticism from their community. When hosting events, Sanriku Hitotsunagi Nature School tries to keep a good balance between the needs of children and the concerns raised by the community.

"The virus is scary. But it is not the only scary thing. We cannot ignore the children who are forced to feel cramped and stressed," said Mr. Satoshi Ito, Representative Director of Sanriku Hitotsunagi Nature School. Mr. Ito has been providing play spaces for children and community development since the Great East Japan Earthquake. Mr. Ito remembered that children were psychologically and physically affected by the disaster – they felt sick, had outbursts, and became aggressive toward others. To mitigate those risks, Mr. Ito began planning activities for them.

Mr. Ito held a series of discussions with seven businesses and organizations that are a part of community development in Kamaishi. The group placed special emphasis on infection prevention. They visited a local hospital and educational institutions and listed all necessary preventive measures - handwashing, coughing etiquette, checking travel history and health condition, and creating safe play areas. The Nature School promoted safe hygiene habits to prevent infections using a quiz station at the entrance and asked children about hand washing and how to properly wear a mask. 

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Safe Play Areas Opened for Children Every Weekend through August

Despite event cancellations and widely encouraged restraint in going out due to COVID-19, Mr. Ito plans to continue this event through August. The event targets children under 12 and their family members in Kamaishi areas and opens every Saturday and Sunday from 10am to 3pm for free.

Civic- Force's NPO Partner Project supports the Sanriku Hitotsunagi Nature School. In consultation with the Nature School, Civic Force began supporting disaster affected areas experiencing the impact of COVID-19 and is currently supporting three organizations in three prefectures. The activity details of other projects will be available soon.