Supporting Children Survivors of Natural Disaster
In March 2011, one of the most powerful earthquakes in recorded history hit the coast of Japan, triggering a tsunami with waves reaching over 100 feet high and traveling as far as 6 miles inland.
Nearly 19,000 people died, with many more seriously injured or missing. Over 2,500 children had one or both of their parents die in the disaster, leading to a national effort to create support systems to help the grieving families left behind.
At the invitation of Japan’s Miyagi prefecture (the area hardest hit), Donna Smith Sharff, TCR’s Executive Director, traveled to Japan in December to train mental health professionals and caregivers on how to support grieving children and teens.
The disaster relief committee in Miyagi covered all expenses and made arrangements for Donna to present at several conferences across the affected region – including Miyagi’s capital of Sendai and the Ishinomaki and Kessennuma prefectures – training a total of 230 professionals.
During her travels, Donna also visited one of Japan’s grief centers for families, the Rainbow House in Sendai.
While touring the center, she asked Director Yoshiji Hayashida what children say their favorite thing is about coming to Rainbow House.
He said what he hears the most is that children no longer feel alone. This powerful statement is the same thing that TCR volunteer facilitators and staff hear most often from the grieving children, teens, and families we serve.
A group of medical and mental health professionals from Japan also had the opportunity to tour The Children’s Room (pictured below).
A social worker at Boston Children’s Hospital, Shuei Kozu, arranged for Japanese professionals to visit Boston for a week-long training in October 2012, including a day at The Children’s Room.
During their visit, they heard directly from TCR staff how we support grieving children, teens, and families in our free peer support groups.
The Children’s Room is honored to be able to share knowledge, strategies, and encouragement with professionals in Japan who are helping to support the children who survived this tragic natural disaster.