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Filipino Community Energizing Disaster Affected City Kesennuma in Japan2013.10.16 | 

GPFF Japan highlights good cases of foreign residents supporting local communities in Japan.
Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami on March 11, 2011 robbed more than 1,000 people’s lives in Kesennuma city, Miyagi, Japan. Even though many people who had lost houses and jobs moved to other places, some Filipino Community members decided to stay in their towns. They became certified caretakers to take care of local senior citizens there. Called “Bayanihan Kesennuma Filipino Community” has receives attentions from local government, media and NPOs. The members practicing “Bayanihan” (helping each other) spirit to energize the local communities. They started a radio program in June after the disaster in March, 2011. They have continued the radio program 4th Friday of every month to help each other in the city as well as other parts of Japan.
On Aug. 4 Mr. Aya Goto, Chairman of GPFF Japan visited Kesennuma City to interview with members of “Bayanihan Kesennuma Filipino Community”.


Left:Stranded Fishing Boat by Tsunami decided to be taken down
Right:Makeshift Market in Kesennuma

Members of Bayanihan Kesennuma Filipino Community right after practicing a dance for senior citizens (from right:  Ms. Michel Takahashi, Ms. Jeanne Oikawa, Ms. Marivel Gunshi, Ms. Christina Konno, Ms.Charito Ito)

Interview with Ms. Michel Takahashi, President of “Bayanihan Kesennuma Filipino Community”

President of Bayanihan Kesennuma, Ms. Rachel Takahashi said, “Bayanihan Kesennuma Filipino community has 74 members in Kesennuma city. The community started about 17 years ago before the disaster in 2011. After the disaster, some of our members got certificates of caretakers supported by NPO Japan Association for Refugees. Even though at the beginning we felt uneasy about Japanese skills and other issues, 24 Filipinos became the certified caretakers eventually. Currently 9 of them are working at the senior citizen centers and others”.

Secretary Ms. Charito Ito explained about the FM Radio program. The program shares the community’s activities, announces the local events and teaching Japanese language. She received encouraging feedback from a listener: “We are making efforts here and please do your best there”.
Rachel continued, “Before I questioned why I am here to myself. After I got my children, I got more interested in my daily life here. Even some people moved to other places after the disaster, I never thought of moving out. I have my family and good friends here. I would feel sad if I leave my town. I have my family in the Philippines too. But I will stay in this town. Right after the disaster, seeing painful and dark faces of my friends, I wanted them to go out not just staying at their own houses. We ate together 3 times a week with fun talks. Every day we helped each other”.
Ms. Jeanne Oikawa explained a situation right after the disaster, “At evacuation center we supported ach other regardless Japanese and Filipinos. I thought that we need to take a step forward. I intended to join local events to communicate with Japanese. Through those efforts, the relationship between Japanese and Filipinos became very close.”
Their bright spirits have brought a big hope in affected area in Japan.

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Ms. Marivel Gunshi works at senior citizen home

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Ms. Christina Konno works at day care center


Ms. Charito Ito works at a facility for social welfare


Left:Recording FM radio program at Ms. Charito Ito’s house
Right:Interview with Ms. Charito Ito, Secretary of “Bayanihan Kesennuma Filipino Community”


Left:Bamboo dance in restoration event
Right:Planting flowers to make a beautiful city


March in Kesennuma Port Festival (Aug. 10, 2013)


Bamboo dance at a senior citizen home