Summer Camp for Disaster Prevention in Akita Prefecture

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“You’ll be volunteers at shelters when a disaster happens. Let’s think about how we can make life easier for evacuees!” On July 25 and 26, 2015, a summer camp focusing on disaster training was held on the premises of the Japanese Red Cross Akita College of Nursing and the Junior College of Akita. The program was geared toward 55 upper grade elementary school children who took part in various disaster-related training programs.

Despite the rain due to a typhoon, they learned various skills that can be useful at the time of disaster, such as how to make an outdoor shelter and how to live rough. They also participated in a disaster training program facilitated by the Junior Red Cross. The children’s remarks were assuring. One said, “I think we’ll be able to make use of the skills and experience in various situations to protect our lives.” Another said, “I want to lead everyone when an earthquake happens.”

Nature toughens children up!

The Summer Camp for disaster prevention was first held in 2011, the year of the Great Eastern Japan Earthquake. It was started by Shinichi Oikawa, an associate professor at the Japanese Red Cross Junior College of Akita.

Mr. Oikawa lived in Sendai and was a victim of the disaster. In the aftermath of the earthquake, he realized that “children in Tohoku have been deprived of opportunities to play freely in nature.” When he was transferred to Akita in April that year, he called for an event for children who had come to the prefecture as evacuees and had already been living in the prefecture to play together at the beach and swim in the ocean.

“I would like children to play together in nature and to cultivate their sensitivity. I hope they realize that nature can be terrifying but it can also be gentle and warm.” His passion resonated with many companies, organizations, and individuals. A bureau was organized in the university, and a circle of volunteers centered upon university students steadily grew. This year’s camp, the 5th time it has been held, was co-hosted by many organizations such as universities, companies, and NPOs. 150 volunteers, including university students, participated as instructors and organizers. They had preparatory training in June. Ms. Momoka Ito, the leader of the student volunteers, enthusiastically stated, “We had learned how to survive using only personal belongings. I would like to help children learn not only about natural disasters but also how important it is to be proactive in order to protect their lives.”