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HOME NEWS 【COVID-19】 Resident-centered Community Building - POSKO (Part 1)

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2021/05/25

【COVID-19】 Resident-centered Community Building - POSKO (Part 1)

"I've been thinking about what we can do for the [disaster-affected] community, especially in the midst of the pandemic," said Ms. Tomiko Sonoda, head of Cocochaya in Hitoyoshi, Kumamoto Prefecture. Cocochaya has been operating since the heavy rains in July 2020 and is one of the organizations the NGO Collaboration Center supports as a "POSKO." The Center has been deployed to emergency assistance sites across Japan. "POSKO" is the term used for an assistance center that pops up during disasters, and the word originated from Indonesia, a disaster-prone country. POSKOs are normally born organically from the affected population and they become the backbone of community recovery and reconstruction. Civic Force and the NGO Collaboration Center together have supported six organizations including community-based DRR groups (details on the POSKO activities in Japan).

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In July 2020, heavy rains struck Hitoyoshi and flooded houses across the region. The pandemic prevented outside volunteers from assisting in recovery efforts - many families are still cleaning up and fixing their homes months after the disaster. Residents rarely have opportunities to exchange information with others and local economies are hit hard by the disaster and pandemic. People-centered community revitalization is essential to energize the town and promote socialization. Ms. Sonoda was also affected by the disaster, however, she quickly began helping to clean flooded homes and providing relief items. She now organizes various activities with like-minded friends to revitalize the town and promote socialization including crafts, bread-making, providing community space, and visiting senior residents.

(Pictured above: (from left) Mr. Murai from the NGO Collaboration Center, Civic Force staff, and Ms. Sonoda)

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One of the Cocochaya members renovated her house and opened a bakery on May 2, 2021. The bakery offers German breads, rarely available in the town, and a cafe space is attached as well. Before the disaster, she was planning on starting a food processing shop at her parents' farm. With support from other Cocochaya members, she decided to open a bakery using wheat from the farm. The bakery is currently open only on weekends (Friday to Sunday) but has plans to expand the operation with assistance from Civic Force and the NGO Collaboration Center. Cocochaya is dreaming big - the team is hoping to hire Ms. Sonoda's former students who have disabilities.

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Another gathering spot, "Our Home," was once flooded but was renovated by Cocochaya members and volunteers. The first floor is used for a monthly gathering and the second floor is used as a living space by a local resident who lost his home to the disaster. A carpenter joined as a volunteer to fix the plumbing and furniture were donated by the community. The garden is maintained by the resident - he met Cocochaya after visiting a relief item distribution point. He regained his strength through working with Cocochaya and started taking an active role in the community.

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Part 2 will feature more stories about Cocochaya.

More information about the bakery:

"Pan-Kobo Mugi"

Address: 〒868-0052 1 Shinmachi Hitosyohi, Kumamoto Prefecture

Phone: 090-5474-3078

Open: Friday, Saturday, Sunday 10AM-5PM