2011.06.15 Wednesday 12:58

This is how we are working.

 June 14, 2011

Here you can see how we are working : unpacking and sorting.
We, 3.11 Ehon Project Iawte, sort out all the books sent to us into
four age groups. And we also sort out into other categories like pop-upbooks, English books, reading books for older children, and paper back picture books.
And we also have other special categories like basic books, popular books,
And different genre like science, histories and others. Very popular writers and artist have their own section.

We have brief meeting every day before start working so that all the volunteers have very up-to-date information.

Unpacking group open the boxes and check how many books are there and take the slip off the box and keep all the slips. And when we find some letters are in it, we keep them, too.

Sometimes the flaps of the box is filled with letters like this.

Bulletin board has many newspapers featured on us.

The other side of the board also has full of information and letters.

Here in this room sorting out group is working.

Sorting is also made according to the categories not only the age groups.

Sometimes it is sorted out according to the writers and artists.

When sorting is done, the books are put into the containers.

Some containers are placed on the special shelves like this.

All the sorted out books are ready to be delivered to the places where children are waiting.

187,153 copies of the books are already unpacked and finished sorting out.

It is 50eth day today since we start working this way.
And the total number of the volunteers are 1,443 until today.

Needless to say, but we could never do all the work without these volunteers.

When we deliver the books we know that we carry the warm friendship of those who sent us the books and also who did all these hard work.

The office of 3.11 Ehon Project Iwate

2011.06.10 Friday 16:57

Dear Friends,

Dear Friends,

Now we have more than 200,000 copies of picture books and more will be coming although we have
notified on web  that we have too many now, and please do not send more. But not all the people
check our web all the time.
We have already delivered more than 50,000 copies of them to 55 places, like kindergarten, nurseries,
schools,  and temporary dwelling for the refugees. And we offer picture books to children themselves,
for their private use, not only to kindergarten so on because children can bring them back home where
they live now like refugee dwellings.

I came to know recently that only in Iwate-prefecture where I live, more than 89 children lost their parents.

I have joined myself twice to deliver books, and of course it was the time I took the picture of the Buddhist monk you introduced in web during  the first visit on April 4th.

And that time we visited a nursery which is just newly built and they were just about to move to this new building in a week, but the tsunami came to the one which they were still using that they lost everything as the former building which was still in use was washed away.
But the luckiest thing was that the children were having nap and the workers of the nearby factory took all the children on their back to climb up the hill the road  was so narrow and steep that without their help they could not save the children.  All the children remained two nights on the top of the hill in cold weather until they were rescued.
And the head master of the nusry was so pleased when we delivered the books that he had tears in his eyes telling us all about their stories. Most of the children were so pleased to listen to the picture book reading,
but little girl next to me was so still and she did not say a word but just looked so sad.  This girl was waiting for her mother to come back to her, perhaps she was washed away to the sea.
And the children come and go back to nursery or kindergarten through the huge and tall debris of the remainders of the broken buildings everyday.
Some kindergarten is built on the higher places that they are remaining, but when the tsunami came to the foot of them, some children saw their own houses are being washed away.  

I did not realize but the kindergarten and nursery teachers read picture books to children three or hour times
a day everyday that the picture books are necessary things for them that the teachers were so happy to have the picture books. And some mothers were very happy too, that they wanted to bring them back to their present home, for children and also for themselves. I was moved to see them.

We have already got one picture book car which we bought with donations from St. Ignatius Church in Tokyo and it started to deliver the books and children are enjoying selecting books from it.
And all the towns want  books carried on this special car. We need to have five or six cars more at least as all
the towns are in similar situation now.
The car cost about ¥2,650,000- including tax for the car and insurance. But we will need winter tyres on top of that as this area gets really cold in winter.

I am now very pleased to tell you that our near-by prefectures like Miyagi or Aomori are approaching us as
they learnt about our project and came to know that they need picture books and asking our  support which is very good. And on coming Sunday some member will go to the Miyagi prefecture to deliver books and also to research their present situation.

love to all,


2011.05.03 Tuesday 21:43

Report from Rikuzentakata

 This is the report my friend Minchie Huggler wrote after she visited us. She came all the way from Switzerland with her daughter and she joined my son and other members when they went to the city Rikuzentakata which was most severely destroyed by tsunami in our area.

Chieko Suemori


Dear Donors, Dear Friends
I am so grateful to all of you who donated some money through me, big or small, with your kind and concerned heart for the victims of the Great Northeastern Earthquake.

I came back from Iwate prefecture yesterday with a big shock and sadness seeing the disaster, meeting people who lost their loved ones, their houses and their homeland. As a matter of fact, the impression I had was so heavy  I can hardly write now. To tell you the truth, every time I think of it, I am on the verge of crying. But, instead of my mission to encourage the survivors, I was encouraged by the very survivors, friends, volunteers, neighbors, strangers, and even people from other countries like all of you, who tried to help as much as they can, with all their sincere heart and effort. The message from the local people who worked with me was this: Try to transmit honestly what you have seen here to your friends. So this is what I am trying to do.

My daughter U-chan (Yoshi) and I met Chieko Suemori°«s second son and his friend at the Tokyo Station and left for MORIOKA-city in IWATE prefecture at midnight in a bus, because SHINKANSEN (bullet train) has not been revived yet. The bus was full of people who wanted to visit their families and friends in the area. It was a weekend. We arrived MORIOKA station after 7 hours, rented a van and drove to Chieko°«s house in HACHIMANTAI. Her beautiful   house was damaged by the earthquake leaving a lot of cracks on walls, pillars and on a chimney. Chieko said it damaged also earthenware and porcelains from shelves. An old antique clock stopped at 2:40 o°«clock pm sharp when the earthquake erupted. She lives with her husband and her elder son who are both on wheelchairs since many years, not an easy life to start with. She gave us breakfast and soon we pushed off to MORIOKA Public Hall which accepted help for the „ehon(picture book) project°» immediately after the earthquake and since then, received 1500 carton boxes, each of which contains some 50 books for children from all over Japan. (www.ehonproject.org/iwate)  They had to stop people from further sending books for a while, as there was no more space left in the Public Hall.  Our work was to open all the carton boxes and sort the books according to ages from 0 to 12, choosing fine and worthy books which are in good condition. Not so easy as you think. It was a concentrated work for 2-3 hours. Among the volunteers, there are some story-tellers who can go and read the books for the children. After the work, we delivered our Swiss chocolates to all of the volunteers and later further to the victims. They were so happy to find chocolate bunnies from SprŹęšngli and Migros Tafel chocolates. They were so tired both physically as well as mentally. They all recovered like Swiss military soldiers on training!
Next day, we left MORIOKA in 3 cars for RIKUZEN-TAKATA city 2-3 hours away to deliver the books. The books are put into 30 plastic boxes divided into 3 cars. My daughter and I sat in a car Mrs. Sakata, wife of the Public Hall Director, drove all the way. RIKUZEN-TAKATA was a city of 30,000  inhabitants from which 2000 people died and many are still missing. When we came into the city along the river KESEN, we recognized already some remnants of destroyed houses and cars floating in the river. We went to meet Mr. Kanno who is one of the surviving directors and works in a provisional municipal office at the moment. The City Hall of RIKUZEN-TAKATA is completely destroyed and 7 staff members died including the mayor. It is impossible to work in this condition but they are so brave. Mr. Kanno drove himself to take us to our destination.
It is so hard to find the way in such chaos, as some part is blocked, some part is covered with water, there was no traffic lights,  we had to go around in detour. It made us realize the total annihilation of the city and it was heart breaking. There is nothing left, it is completely wiped out, what we saw was just mud and remnants of wood, plastic and broken cars.  I send you herewith some photographs which we took. Literally speaking, I was petrified and could not do anything but just sit in the car. Photographs were therefore mostly taken by my daughter.

Mr. Kanno and Mr. Sakata went through telling us horrifying stories what had happened, like: look there, that was our city hall, my friend was surviving at the top floor but the water came up until the ceiling, his head was still sticking out when a helicopter found him. But eventually he did not survive.  The hollow object next to it was our railway station, and the railroad is bent like a melted candy. There you can still see the steel base of our bridge. Under the remnants, you see black mud. TSUNAMI is not just sea-water, it brings sand and mud from the ocean and pushes the broken houses and cars and everything together. There must be still a lot of the dead buried under the mud.

We delivered our books to a kindergarten. The teacher told us stories how she took her small ones in her arms, nudging the bigger ones to go up the hill higher and higher, as they saw the water coming closer. She said it was like running a race with water. They all survived. But at another school  it was disastrous. When the earthquake came, some mothers ran to the school to see their children. People tried to stop them but they did not listen. 20 min. later, the Tsunami came and they all died. And a school bus was taking children back home when the Tsunami hit. Later, they were found dead in the bus in each other°«s arms. 

 On the way back, we were caught in a traffic jam because workers were already installing new electric poles along the road.

It was a short trip but mentally a heavy one. The strongest impression for me was how people are basically so good in such a disaster, trying to help anonymously, forgetting themselves and help others, trying to be positive and constructive for the future. However, many problems like leakage of  radioactivity,  too long a period of evacuation, inefficiency of the government to build temporary housing for the victims, unsold vegetables and milk products of the farmers, etc. etc. are not yet solved.

One says Iwate will recover in 5 to 10 years.

Minchie Huggler, Tokyo, April 28, 2011.

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