Summer Camp for Disaster Prevension in Akita


“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 upper grade elementary school children, and 55 children 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 that we’ll be able to make use of the skills and experience in various situations to protect our lives.” Another said, “I want to become a leader when an earthquake happens.”

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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.

Dr. 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 in which children who had come to the prefecture as evacuees and children already living in the prefecture could play together at the beach and swim in the ocean.

“I would like children to play together in nature and to cultivate their sensitivity through living together. I hope they’ll realize that, while nature can be terrifying, 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 students at the university 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. One hundred and fifty 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 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.”