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Employees from Japan and Asia combine to build second playground in Tohoku

November 2013 │ Japan

Volunteers from Japan and Asia joined hands again between November 7 to 9 to build a playground for an elementary school in Ishinomaki, a coastal town that was struck heavily by both the earthquake and subsequent tsunami of March 11, 2011. The event is one of a number in recent months to commemorate the tenth anniversary of the Deutsche Bank Asia Foundation, the first and a significant contributor to the funds for relief efforts in Tohoku.

The installation was the first to be built for a public school by non-profit partner Playground of Hope, and was initiated by the principal of Teizan Elementary School shortly after seeing the playground constructed by 32 Deutsche Bank volunteers at a day care centre nearby in June.  Teizan had lost its original climbing frame in the earthquake and the school's gym and other playground equipment were deemed unsafe because of corrosion since the tsunami, leaving the more than 250 students at Teizan Elementary school with no play equipment.

Building hope

The team of 11 Japan employees and eight employees from Hong Kong, Philippines and Singapore began their work with a breakfast briefing by Playground of Hope (PoH) founder Michael Anop before heading to see the site of the June playground build that had inspired Teizan. As soon as the volunteers reached the day care centre, they saw the playset in full use. They were greeted by the students with a taiko drum and dance performance following a meeting with the principal where they were told how the playground has helped the staff and children.

On arrival at Teizan, the volunteers immediately set to work. With PoH supervisors overseeing the preparations, volunteers split into small teams to prepare components of the playset and prepare the ground.

As students looked-on from their classrooms, the volunteers made rapid progress, and would have completed the playset on the first day if it was not for strong winds that prevented the last and heaviest pieces being lifted into place.

At the end of the first day, the volunteers visited Second Harvest Japan (2HJ), a food bank that operates in Ishinomaki with support from Deutsche Bank Group. There, they heard from Yuji Shibata, head of the 2HJ office on the growing difficulties of families impacted by the disaster and how the organisation provides food security to over 800 families a month with delivery of food packages to help them make ends meet while helping them to become independent. Shibata was presented with donations collected by the volunteers and matching funds to provide food packages for those still facing uncertainty.
The next day, the volunteers quickly finished the playset and began preparations for a festival in the school grounds to officially hand the playset to the children. The volunteers split into teams and helped prepare a barbeque for 250 students, parents and neighbours plant tulips in the school grounds and prepare the opening ceremony, arrange games for the children and help Ishinomaki Revival Support Network (IRSN) set-up its mobile health-check unit sponsored by Deutsche Bank. As children, parents and neighbours gathered, the school principal and student representative joined Michael Anop from PoH and Deutsche Bank volunteers, alongside charity representatives from partners Charity Japan and IRSN to officially open the playset.

As soon as the balloons were released, there was a wave of children running straight for the playground. For some of the volunteers, it was the most memorable moment. The long-term value of the playset to the community was also defined in that moment.

Alongside the celebration for the opening of the playset, the neighbourhood association hosted performances of traditional Japanese music and tea ceremony for the volunteer visitors, to express their gratitude for the hope the day had brought the community.

Deutsche Bank volunteers expressed a sense of satisfaction helping to build hope by means of putting the playset together. The lives of many in the community were also touched through the food delivery, which gave many families the certainty of their next meal, indirectly giving them the confidence to tackle difficult issues ahead.

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Last Update: December 3, 2013
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