Consumer co-operatives in Japan are leading a summer vacation programme for children and parents from the Fukushima region. More than 100,000 Japanese residents were displaced from their homes following the 2011 earthquake and subsequent tsunami. Co-operatives were among the first to respond to the disaster, supplying emergency relief items to the affected areas. They played an important role in the reconstruction process as well.
The Fukushima Children’s Recreation Project started in 2012 as a joint programme led by the Fukushima Consumers’ Co-operative Union, the Fukushima Committee for UNICEF, and the Disaster Recovery Research Institute of Fukushima University.
The project provides weekend activities for children up to preschool age, a long holiday programme for school-aged children, special weekend courses for school aged children and a nursery and kindergarten programmes.
Due to potential exposure to radiation, many children are forced to stay indoors or wear protective clothing when they travel outside. The Fukushima Children’s Recreation Programme gives these children the chance to play outdoors, in a safe environment.
Through the programme they get to spend weekends with their parents in hotels in hot spring areas in Fukushima, Yamagata and Miyagi prefectures. Participants can also share their experiences in the aftermath of the 2012 catastrophe.
More than 70,000 children and their parents have participated in the Fukushima Children’s Recreation Programme so far. The project is funded through donation from support groups, including the Japanese Consumers’ Co-operative Union and the Japan Committee for UNICEF.
Moreover, to respond to fears of food contamination, the Fukushima prefectural union of agricultural co-operatives has been working on a soil screening project with the University of Fukushima.The initiative has helped farmers check the levels of radioactive contamination on their land and produce.
Japanese co-ops have also run various events, including disaster prevention and disaster risk reduction workshops to prepare the community for future disasters. They have distributed handbooks for both adults and children with recommendations on what to do in case of natural disasters.