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How Tokyo Satogaeri Project was born.

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Tokyo Satogaeri Project

How Tokyo Satogaeri Project was born.
” I want to help the pregnant women and the mothers in the disaster!”

Tokyo Satogaeri Project

1. The beginning.

That day, when the ground shook so much even in Tokyo, the huge tsunami that was beyond anyone’s imagination following the earthquake destroyed the entire costal towns of Tohoku (North east) area.
As the images of devastation were shown on the TV next day, what our director So had thought as a midwife was “There must be pregnant women out there, there must be mothers with small babies. Pregnant women must be getting cold and maybe the milk will stop with the shock. I want to at least bring them to a warm place. What can I do?”
So on the night of 12th of March, she emailed the president of Tokyo Midwives Association in order to start this project, to ask for support from other midwives in Tokyo operating birth centers from the association.
This was how the project started, on the next day of the disaster.
When the action arises from such feeling of wanting to help people it also helps to connect the people who are feeling the same, as she had experienced many times while working to put this project together.
It was through the help of Ms U that she learned (on the day of disaster, she was meeting him for other reasons) how to make her ideas a real project that is able to continue in real terms. She did not want to end this idea as volunteer work for self-satisfaction. So she had put realistic aims and directions and also needed to think about what is necessary to actually support the pregnant women and mothers as well as in order to develop this project further.
Together with the ideas that Ms U has put forward, they held a special directors meeting on 23rd of March 2011 with the Midwives Association. Prior to this meeting, she had asked support from other birth centers and already 15 birth centers (currently 25) had offered their help by the time they held the meeting. This was when the project was formally acknowledged as a sister project of Tokyo Midwives Association.

2. Action

However, the beginning was not easy and they were faced with monumental tasks.
How could we deliver the information to the disaster zone? Do we “advertise’ and solicit people? How do we bring them to Tokyo? What should we do with them once they leave the birth centers or where should they stay until their due-date if it is still some time away? How about funds to continue the project? We can’t carry on if we don’t charge but. . .
Here again, many people who also wanted to give some help to the people in disaster area helped to solve these problems.
First, they contacted Midwives Association in Miyagi prefecture, where the damage by the tsunami was huge, and asked them to pass on the information. They were really happy to hear about our project and were very supportive.
We also had a request from a doctor of the Japan Gynaecology and Obstetric Association as to whether we were able to offer places to postnatal mothers from the disaster zone and we were able to offer right away that we had 50 spaces available that we were ready to accept (though at this point, this did not materialise as the transport was so obstructed).
Also, as for the issues on the what to do with pregnant women who were still far from their due-date and where the mothers and babies would go after staying at the birth center, a person who is a representative of a volunteer group suggested the idea of hosting those women with ordinarily families who were registered at this volunteer group to accept people. These people were still giving the project a lot of help and support through a wide network of people who were able to deal with many aspects of “Home stay” ideas. This included advertising for recipient families, “matching” the family and the person who is staying, resolving troubles that may arise from home stay, organising hospital appointments as well as arranging someone to accompany hospital visits if necessary, and asking for volunteers in other areas etc.
By April 2011, we were also able to put our home page owing to the hard work of our administrator.
To raise funds, we were also able to obtain help from “canpan” which is the community site of Japan Foundation, which made an online donation through our website possible.
Further more, the Japan Foundation granted us with such a large fund that it became possible to pay the cooperating birth centers and midwives properly. This meant that we could keep the money that the victims had to pay to a minimum (or free of charge if they were unable to pay).
Now, many people know about the project, thanks to the power of internet, and we also receive many volunteers including families who are willing to accept them and offers of free accommodation, housing assistance from government administrations, donations on goods from individuals as well as enterprises etc.
The project also received many donations from everyone including from abroad, heart warming letters, and we even received Senba Zuru (One thousand Origami cranes that we make to make a very special wish) from Taiwan, US, France and England.
We feel that this project has also been very meaningful as it is able to connect people’s feelings directly to the victims and also turn into something that they can actually benefit from in the hard life that they are facing right now.

Please have a look at the Tokyo Satogaeri Project website for more detailed information on our work and report.