“Find the butterflies!” a teacher tells a class of young students at Sumiyoshi Kindergarten in Japan. The children quickly spread throughout the playground. One month earlier, teachers wouldn’t have allowed such a search: The area had been exposed to polluted water from the tsunami wave. But with new flowerbeds and trees funded by AmeriCares, the youngsters can freely explore the restored landscape.
This playground replanting is one of more than one hundred large and small garden projects AmeriCares has funded for more than 5,000 earthquake and tsunami survivors in Japan.
Other gardens give elderly survivors a place to be physically active and meet and work with others. All are part of the $1.5 million in aid we’ve provided to improve survivors’ mental well-being. “Any way you can get people out of their temporary homes reduces the risk of depression and suicide,” says Peace Boat program coordinator Maho Takahashi.
After his home and business were destroyed in the disaster, Shinji Akifuji was in a deep depression. Now Mr. Akifuji rises early each day to water his vegetables in the Hope World Wide Japan community plot. Growing vegetables, he says, has changed his life and given him motivation.
According to the World Health Organization, the most burdensome disease in the world today is not AIDS, heart disease or cancer. It is depression—especially in areas affected by disaster, poverty or conflict. That's why programs that improve the mental well-being of survivors in post-earthquake Japan are so important.