Japanese Disaster Survivors Bond at Child Friendly Space

Learning how to cope after the Sendai Earthquake and Tsunami and the Fukushima nuclear disaster 

Kazuki makes paper airplanes with his friend, Yasu, and a Save the Children relief worker. Photo credit: Jensen Walker, Getty Images 2011

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Yasu Haro, 10, and Kazuki Seto, 8, forged a friendship out of tragedy. They lived miles apart along different parts of Japan's northeast coast. That is until the tsunami destroyed their homes. They both sought shelter in an evacuation center - once an elementary school in Miyagi Prefecture near Sendai.

In the first frightening days after the disaster, the boys had little to occupy their minds at the evacuation center. They felt alone and forgotten.

"I would just walk up and down the corridors, and try to do something like run about, but mostly it was not interesting," says Kazuki.

That changed when Save the Children opened a Child Friendly Space. Child Friendly Spaces give children a sense of stability as well as an opportunity to play with other children. The spaces also provide respite for families under stress, so parents can focus on re-establishing their livelihoods knowing their children are in safe hands.

"At first when we saw it open we thought it was a bit boring because there was no activity. The place was not lively, but now it is and we like. It seems really good to be here because there is a lot going on, and I am happy about it," says Yasu.

Yasu and Katuzi especially enjoy making paper airplanes and launching them down the corridor with their friends. "I have lots of friends here. I have a good feeling and feel comfortable," says Katuzi.

According to Yasu the Child Friendly Space is "cool". "It's a great place where we feel safe. We have no concerns of being on our own. We don't want to be alone."

Apart from playing together the two boys have plucked up the courage to tell each what's really on their minds. Yasu and Katuzi have been extremely anxious and afraid of what is happening at the Fukushima nuclear reactor, where the authorities are struggling to contain a series of fires and explosions.

"We are really worried about the nuclear power plants," says Yasu looking at Katzui for reassurance. "We are very afraid of nuclear radiation. It makes us really worry. If it explodes it is going to be a tremendous ordeal."

Yasu and Katuzi are relieved they have each other to share their anxieties, and happy they can also play together at the Child Friendly Space. "We don't want to be alone because there is not a lot we can achieve on our own. Being together gives us strength," says Katuzi.

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