After the earthquake, Nijiiro Crayons started children’s mental care activities through plays and games at an evacuation center. We interviewed the representative, Mr. Shigeki Shibata, who says: “Because I’m in high-spirits, it’s so natural for me to support those who are low-spirited.”
Amount of Funding:
JPY 1,320,000 (JPY 990,000 for the 1st grant + JPY 330,000 for complementary grant)
Interviewer: What made you start the activity?
Shibata: At Ishinomaki High School where I had been evacuating, children were very quiet and I didn’t see them make any noise. But I got a feeling they were restraining themselves and I felt I had to do something for them.
I started out by playing with the children at the evacuation center about an hour or so. They get bored quickly if they aren’t feeling fun. So at first I prepared a lot, but soon this became unnecessary as I built a trusting relationship with them. Then I started to visit other evacuation centers to play with children there.
Interviewer: Did you see any changes in children through the activities?
Shibata: This is my personal opinion, but I think children started to calm down. I can sense that. For example, when I asked them to tidy up the space, they ran away and paid no attention to what I said. But gradually they started to tidy up the space.
When parents start to pull themselves together, surprisingly enough their children also start to calm down. That’s when I realized that adults also need mental care and we now we’re much conscious about that in our activities.
Interviewer: How did you use the NPO Support Fund?
Shibata: When I launched this organization, I wanted this organization to be sustainable even without me. We are working with several evacuation centers and there’s a limit to what I can do by myself. I was thinking that we need paid staff.
So we’re using the fund for personnel expenses of staff members including myself. By receiving salary our activity has changed from charitable “volunteer activity” to responsible “work”, which is getting closer to my goal. Of course our responsibility has become bigger, but I’d like those who join our activity to experience the feeling of happiness that I was given from the children at evacuation centers.
Interviewer: Could you tell me your future goals and challenges?
Shibata: As people are moving out from evacuation centers to temporary houses, I’d also want to work on building child-centered community. I’d like create a model case where communities are being connected with children.
Our challenge is of course how to raise fund. I’d like more people support our activity by becoming our members. And by stay connected as our members, I’d want them not to forget Ishinomaki and other affected areas .
Interviewed by Yasushi Okamoto in Ishinomaki City, Miyagi on October 6, 2011