Mary Atkinson's Blog takes a Holistic Approach to Life

Cocoro’s 9th Visit to Tsunami Area – November 2013

Cocoro Charity continues to offer aromatherapy and positive touch to the victims of the 2011 tsunami in Japan. Indeed, as time progresses the need for help with healing the emotional wounds left by the tragedy becomes even more important. Nearly three years on, local people are still living with desperate loss, unemployment and a lack of any clear vision for the future. We hope that the work of Cocoro and its supporters offers some peace of mind and a ray of hope. Continue reading »

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Cocoro – Training Aroma Care Workers in Rikuzentakata

The latest initiative of Cocoro charity (providing aromatherapy and positive touch for the victims of the tsunami in Japan) is to train local people in basic aromatherapy and massage skills. This successful venture has been planned and organised by Ms Sugawara, Cocoro’s local co-ordinator, and Ms Gill, Principal of Japan Ecole de Aromatherapy in Tokyo, who have worked long hours to design a suitable course for such a remote area, especially one so damaged by the tsunami. Continue reading »

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Cocoro’s 6th Visit to Tsunami Area

Cocoro is a charity set up to provide aromatherapy and positive touch to the adults and children affected by the devastating tsunami on the North East Coast of Japan in March 2011. Immediately after the disaster, many charities visited the area to help the local people cope with the tragedy. However, two years later the local people are still suffering mental health problems in the aftermath of the tsunami, and very few charities are still able to continue offering help due to financial and practical restraints. Continue reading »

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Cocoro’s Visit to Tsunami Area – October 2012

The Cocoro team visited the Tsunami area for the fifth time between October 3rd and 5th 2012. A year and half after the natural disaster that destroyed so many lives, the local people are finding it even harder to cope with the mental trauma. The local people – both adults and children – welcomed the Cocoro team of therapists and said they were so looking forward to an aromatherapy and positive touch because they knew it was only of best ways to help them to find some peace within themselves. Those who had experienced the benefits before, were really keen to queue for their 15 minute session. Continue reading »

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Story Massage for 330 Children in UK School!

Over 300 children took part in a story massage session at Bohunt School, Liphook, on Friday 12th October 2012. And every one of the Year 7 students – boys and girls – behaved beautifully. Continue reading »

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Joining in Story Massage at 90 Years Old!

It was such a delight to share my ‘ Smiling Flowers’ Story Massages with members of the St Peter’s Fellowship in Selsey in August 2012. Although originally written for children as part of the Healing Touch for Tsunami Children project, the audience (several of whom were in the nineties) were keen to give it a try! Continue reading »

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Positive Touch with Chernobyl Children’s Lifeline

A creative story massage session proved a great success with 13 visiting children from Ukraine and their host families.The session was part of a programme of events and activities for children organised by the Portsmouth and Hayling Island link to the Chernobyl Children’s Lifeline. This is a national charity set up in 1992, to raise money and support ill children of Belarus and Ukraine, whose lives will be forever affected by the aftermath of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in 1986. Continue reading »

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Story Massage for Tsunami Children

As part of a project to bring the healing power of touch to the children of Rikuzentakata, the area most devastated by the Tsunami in Japan in March 2011, Takiko Ando, founder of Cocoro Charity invited me to help her create a story massage. We are both instructors on the Story Massage programme which teaches the creative use of story massage within their peer massage programme.

The story was written especially for the children of Rikuzentakata and focuses on the healing power of nature as a way of introducing the benefits of massage for children. It was created with the help of several colleagues, then translated into Japanese and approved by local teachers, parents and social workers in the disaster area before it was finally agreed.

Alice Clarke, a talented 17 years old student from Brighton, illustrated the story with simple and colourful drawings that appealed to all ages. Alice had been taught peer massage at her school by Sandra Hooper, one of the UK’s trainers for the programme. She was keen to be involved as she has strong connections with Japan and could understand how the children would benefit.

The massage story was introduced to three kindergartens with children aged 4-6 years old. The teachers and children were excited by the idea of story massage and were keen to take part. Whilst Takiko and I demonstrated the moves, Keiko, the local social worker and local co-ordinator for the charity, read the story and showed the illustrations to the children.

At one school, my husband, Richard, read the words in English whilst Mary demonstrated on a teacher. The children tried to copy the words and learnt to say ‘flower’, ‘rain’ and ‘sun’.

The teachers were delighted by the response of the children who said that it felt good, and that they felt lovely and warm. Each kindergarten was presented with a laminated story book and DVD of the massage moves in the hope that the benefits would continue for many years to come.

In a recent report, Keiko, the local social worker, said she felt that it had been a healing experience for everyone and that the children and teachers were continuing to enjoy the story massage, making their own creative adaptations, and sharing it with their families.

Free copy of Cocoro story massage

If you’d like a copy of the creative story massage ‘Smiling Flowers’ please contact me  (Mary Atkinson)

Sharing our experiences of working with victims of the Tsunami

In April 2012, my husband and I travelled to Rikuzentakata to work with Cocoro Charity bringing healing touch to the victims of the tsunami through a Positive Touch for Children programme. You can read more on the blog feature Our Experiences of Volunteering in a Tsunami Disaster Area.

We are also happy to share our experiences and photographs with local groups. All proceeds will be donated to Cocoro Charity to help maintain their important work. We are already booked at several events including local holistic therapy support groups, W.I. groups, St Wilfrid’s Hospice, Chichester, and the Japan Society in Petersfield. Please contact Mary Atkinson if you would like to arrange this.

 

 

 

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The Benefits of Massage for Tsunami Victims

Cocoro (the Japanese word for mind) is a Japanese Charity set up by Takiko Ando to offer mental health care and support to the victims of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan (March 2011) by providing 15 minute aromatherapy and massage treatments. In a previous blog feature on the psychological impact of the disaster we highlighted the deep need for people to find a way of healing emotional wounds.

Here, we are look at some of the ways in which a 15 minute aromatherapy massage helped the local people – and the many different benefits they experienced from gentle and caring touch.

Opportunity to talk

Japanese people do not tend to talk about how they are feeling. However, this habit of bottling up feelings behind a brave face means they have no outlet for their emotions. During a massage treatment, the victims begin to talk, which leads to a torrent of emotional outpouring. Talking to someone who is on the ‘outside’ or somehow detached from the situation can be healing.

Most talked about how the tsunami swept away their town, or they talk of the incredible noise, others describe how they ran away and of course, so many talked of how many people they lost. Simply asking the question ‘are you sleeping well?’ was enough to give them the opportunity to talk. This is indicative of how deeply they need to talk to someone who is not a ‘victim’.

Males reacted differently to women. They are shouldering more worries and fear for the future as they think about how to provide for their families. For some men, a massage was the first time they had ever thought about themselves and their own feelings. Some men started to talk, while others even cried.

Release of tension

At the beginning of massage, the tension was evident in their faces, but at the end of the treatment their tension was visibly reduced in just 15 minutes. The massage provided the opportunity to talk, but also the smell of essential oils was relaxing.  Many victims told us even though it was only the hand massage, it helped to ease stiffness in their shoulders and improve their circulation. It helped them to feel better and more positive in themselves.

Power of touch

For most people, this was their first experience of aromatherapy and massage. Some were quite sceptical at first as they were not used to been touched at all. However, as soon as they relaxed with massage they could sense the healing power of touch. They explained that it was an amazing experience that they never felt before. There was soon a queue for massage.

Improved sleep patterns

When Takiko visited the disaster area in May 2001, a lot of victims reported that after massage, they were able to sleep through the night for the first time since the disaster. Many were surprised and delighted that it worked so well.

Therapeutic power of essential oils

All oils used by COCORO are organic high standard oils which have been kindly donated by companies including Insole Ltd from Germany, and Materia Aromatica in the UK, distributed by Jasmin Aromatique Organics in Japan. Cocoro is very grateful for their support.

For massage, there is a choice of macerated oil: Lavender, Rose, Chamomile, Arnica, St John’s Wort, and Calendula. Shea butter is also very popular for children and especially for people with dry skin.

People benefited from being given tissues and felt hearts with a few drops of essential oil chosen to help them sleep at night or to have their rooms to give an uplifting aroma. The choice of oils included: Vanilla, Rosemary, Pine, Eucalyptus, Lavender, Juniper, Peppermint, Orange, Grapefruit and Neroli. Lavender and Orange were very popular.

Pine has a special resonance for the local people in Rikuzentakata. Before the tsunami there was a forest of 70,000 pine trees where the people loved to visit and gained great comfort at times of sorrow. After the tsunami, only one tree remained. This has become a symbol of hope and resilience. A few drops of pine essential oil on a tissue helped remind the people of their forest and enabled them to talk more freely about their worries.

Sharing our experiences of working with victims of the Tsunami

In April 2012, my husband and I travelled to Rikuzentakata to work with Cocoro Charity bringing healing touch to the victims of the tsunami through a Positive Touch for Children programme. You can read more on the blog feature Our Experiences of Volunteering in a Tsunami Disaster Area.

We are also happy to share our experiences and photographs with local groups. All proceeds will be donated to Cocoro Charity to help maintain their important work. We are already booked at several events including local holistic therapy support groups, W.I. groups, St Wilfrid’s Hospice, Chichester, and the Japan Society in Petersfield. Please contact Mary Atkinson if you would like to arrange this.

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Our Experiences of Volunteering in the Tsunami Disaster Area

My husband, Richard, and I have spent the past week, starting on April 21st 2102, in Rikuzentakata on the North East coast of Japan working in a team of eight volunteers organised by Cocoro, a Japanese charity set up to bring aromatherapy and positive touch to the victims of the tsunami. It was an emotional and exhausting trip but amazingly rewarding and positive.As a taster of our experiences, here are just a few of our most powerful memories. Continue reading »

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