Japanese Tsunami... nearly 4 years on | Mary Atkinson

The Japanese Tsunami – nearly 4 years on…

On March 11th 2015, it will be four years since the devastating tsunami swept across the North East Coast of Japan leaving a trail of destruction and desperation. Since 2012, it has been my privilege to work as UK representative for Cocoro, a charity providing aromatherapy and positive touch for the victims of the tsunami. Many of you will have read my regular blogs and updates about the work of the charity in offering on-going support to meet the changing needs for mental health care among the local people.

You may have met Takiko Ando, inspirational founder of the charity (far left in photo below), or attended one of my talks or events to raise funds and awareness of the vital work of the charity.

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The question most often asked is: ‘What is the situation now?’.  There is no simple answer. However, one thing is certain and that is that there is still a vital need for the comfort of touch and the healing power of aromatherapy. Many of the elderly people report that the visits from Aroma Care Workers (local people trained by the charity in aromatherapy skills) are the joy of their life, and offer hope for the future.

The Aroma Care Workers are an important link between the charity and the local people, and enable us to make plans that are most suitable for their needs at the present time. The team is led by Nobuko Yoshikawa (far right in photo below) who trained as an Aroma Care Worker in 2013 and was quick to gain new skills, knowledge and many new friends.

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Nobuko lives in Ofunato City but was not in the area when the tsunami hit. She returned to find the whole place destroyed and felt determined to do something positive to help the community. “I feel a sense of guilt,” she says, “Working with Cocoro charity has helped me to overcome these feelings and to spend precious time with people living in the temporary homes.”

Moving on from Temporary Homes

Last month, one of the temporary homes was closed, the first in the area.  And Nobuko arranged a party for the residents who were going their separate ways to different houses. There were many mixed emotions with people feeling the loss of a sense of community but happy to be moving to a permanent new home and the chance to begin re-building their lives.

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The party was a opportunity for people to share their feelings and enjoy each other’s company. They could also tuck into a delicious lunch organised by Nobuko!

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Over the coming months, as more temporary homes are closed, it this will mean a lot of emotional demands on Nobuko and the team of around 20 Aroma Care Workers. We will do all that we can to offer our support for them, and to encourage them to take care of themselves.

How can you help?

One of the most important messages for the Aroma Care Workers and the local people is that they are remembered all over the world. We have developed the Heartfelt Project as a simple way of showing that you care. Simply email us a photo of yourself holding a red felt heart to Mary Atkinson and we will forward this. We have recently made a photo book which was greeted with great enthusiasm and gratitude.’It makes a real difference to everyone to know that people around the world are thinking of us all,” says Nobuko.

Mary and Rhoda

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