Omocha Express - Toy Charity for Japan's Children
 
 

Omocha Express's First Toy and Art Supply Delivery!
by Matthew Davis

Editor's note: Omocha Express President Matthew Davis and his wife Stefanie traveled to Iwate last month on vacation to visit friends in the area and participate in the first round of distributions of toys, art supplies and other items from Omocha Express. Matthew and Stefanie lived in Iwate for 2 years in 2007-2009 and developed the sister club relationship between Japan Rail Modelers of Washington DC and the Iwate Rail Modelers' Circle (IRC).

This first distribution was a test to work out the logistics of purchasing and delivering the goods to the schools as well as finding and selecting schools that could use the materials. We hope to replicate this process in over 20 more schools once we have gotten feedback on the materials from the schools. Omocha Express is focusing on the smaller nursery schools and day care centers hard hit by the disaster that don't receive the same government support the public schools do. It's thanks to the support of our donors and H-Art 4 Japan's generous donation that this was possible.

Matthew's correspondence:

  The Omocha Express delivery team poses with the students of Kamaishi Hoikuen.
 

The Omocha Express delivery team poses with the students of Kamaishi Hoikuen. Back row, left to right: Atsushi Tomite, Sanriku Railway employee and IRC member; Stefanie Davis, wife of Matthew Davis; Matthew Davis, president of Omocha Express and JRM; Norishiro Sato, president of IRC; Naoto Kodama, executive officer of IRC. Children in the front row are holding (left to right); gift tag in the form of a large railway ticket; toy trains; bag of crayons, paper, books, and JR Freight's gifts. Image credit: Kyodo news service.

On Monday, February 20th, we met with Naoto Kodama (IRC executive officer), Norishiro Sato (IRC president), and Daiki Nasu (IRC member) to sort and bundle the deliveries to the schools. They had decided to include a fourth school, and since we had only ordered items for three schools, we divided one bundle of items into two schools (the "missing" items for each school will be sent later, after I get back to the US).

On our way to the coast that afternoon, we stopped into the Morioka freight terminal, where JR Freight donated a few additional items (puzzles and tote bags) for our efforts. Then we proceeded to the Sanriku Railway office in Miyako, on the coast, where we met up with Atsushi Tomite (IRC member and Sanriku Railway employee) and Katsuhiro Oikawa (IRC member). Together we visited the Sanriku Railway Miyako Station, which is decorated inside with the many messages of support gathered by IRC.

On Feb 21, we took the Santetsu North Rias Line train as far as we could, then went by car to our first destination, Tanohata Hoikuen in Tanohata Village. They were operating in a temporary building, and most of the kids are living in temporary housing. Kodama-san explained our purpose there, where we were from, and about the auction. The kids were very excited - if smiles were our objective, we sure succeeded! One of the kids had lost his father in the tsunami.

Children assembled to greet us at Tanohata Hoikuen, February 21, 2012.  
Children assembled to greet us at Tanohata Hoikuen, February 21, 2012.  

The next school, Wakagiri Hoikuen in Iwaizumi, was a bit smaller. After they lost their own school building, they were able to move into part of an apparently unused middle school. Many of their students had lost one or both parents in the tsunami. They were a very active group of kids, and they were every bit as excited as the first school's students. One boy was also a complete train maniac, so he really went wild.

Our third school was Omoto Hoikuen in Omoto. On our way, we stopped at the remains of the original school building, then arrived at the school right during nap time. All the sleeping children were so cute! We formally presented the gifts to the staff in the hallway so as not to disturb the children, then visited the different age group rooms to see the sleeping kids. A newspaper reporter-photographer was there, so we posed for some photos with the sleeping children.

Children at Wakagiri Hoikuen look on as their teacher pulls crayons, paper, and picture books from their bag of Omocha Express gifts, February 21, 2012.
 
Children at Wakagiri Hoikuen look on as their teacher pulls crayons, paper, and picture books from their bag of Omocha Express gifts, February 21, 2012.

We then drove down the coast - which was an unbelievable experience - to Kamaishi. The school was in a new building built by volunteers. If I understood the school director properly, this school lost a number of students in the tsunami. A nearby school had lost most of its students, so they took in the remaining students from that school as well. Press from Kyodo news service and a Kamaishi newspaper were there to take photos and interview us.

The gifts given to each school were:

  • 2 large wooden train sets
  • 6 packs of 16 crayons
  • a pack of large drawing paper
  • a pack of medium drawing paper
  • a pack of assorted colors of paper
  • several picture books (donated by the author and illustrator)
  • some items donated by JR Freight

More photos and information coming soon!


Omocha Express - Toy Charity for Japan's Children

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