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On March 7, 2013, six residents of the Group Home Momiji and their family members gathered to celebrate the opening of their new Ofunato home, made possible with funding from AmeriCares. For the Momiji residents, five adult men with intellectual disabilities, the celebration marks the beginning of a new chapter in their lives. They have been living with elderly parents and other relatives ill-equipped to serve as caretakers, or in cramped temporary housing waiting to return home since their group home was washed away.
Flowers decorated the entranceway to the building. AmeriCares Japan team member asked the group’s director whether there would be a sign above the door. He answered, “No. This is a home — not a facility. Each member’s name will be on the door as in any other home.”
Before the tape-cutting ceremony, Momiji and Taiyoukai staff, journalists, residents and their families toured each room. Some residents had already piled in their new bedding and furniture.
Momiji resident, Mr. N., invited me into his new room and asked me to try out his reading chair. His invitation was somewhat formal: “Ramona san, will you please do me the honor of visiting my room? Please sit down and make yourself comfortable.” As the first guest of honor in his room, I was touched.
Mr. N. suffers from a painful leg injury, so his room is located on the first floor, with a restroom is nearby. AAR Japan’s staff members had told the team that Mr. N’s 80-year old mother had troubles with her son’s mobility in the temporary facility where they had been living. When a petite, elegant lady with a face exactly like her son’s entered the room, I remembered that the family members were benefitting as much as the residents, knowing that they were in a home that suited their needs.
After the tape-cutting ceremony, everyone drove up the hill to the social welfare facilities, where Taiyoukai is located and where residents work. After many sincerely appreciative and congratulatory speeches were made, everyone feasted on delicious locally made food. The restaurant owner who donated the sushi, tempura, roast beef, and fruit was on-hand to hear how much his food was appreciated.
It was clear that the family members who were present to support the residents moving into their new homes wanted the best possible life for them. They were overjoyed that they could live quality, independent lives.
I brought hats for all of the residents to wear, but they insisted on making me sign them! It was a touching experience and a clear reminder that AmeriCares team members are embraced as family.