HOTLINE - week of April 11, 2011

Cold weather adds to Japanese evacuees' plight; Education and awareness transform Kenyan community; From violence to suffering to hope in Georgia.

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Japan – Yoshiaki Shoji is leader of an evacuation site helping people affected by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.
Photo: CWS

Cold weather adds to Japanese evacuees' plight

At Yamato Elementary School in Ishinomaki, Miyagi Prefecture, the temperature falls below zero at night. This evacuation site serves not only the 500 people staying there, but another 1,800 affected individuals that visit the site daily and depend on it for survival.  

“We wake up not only from this coldness, but it gets to the point that the body starts to ache so much and we cannot bear the pain,” says Yoshiaki Shoji. When CWS team members visited the site in late March, volunteers had located stoves to provide heat only a day earlier.

Chosen as leader of this site, Shoji was a tax accountant working with a client when the earthquake struck on March 11. They felt the quake and two aftershocks, and turned on the radio in time to learn of the tsunami. When it hit, he ran into the school. “If I was five seconds later, I think I was dead,” he says.

Now, Shoji is tasked with addressing the needs of evacuees instead of clients, matching those needs with whatever supplies they can find. He told the CWS team that all sorts of relief goods are needed including food, water, undergarments, medical service and elder-care. Among the basic supplies CWS is helping provide evacuation sites is fuel for stoves.

Contributions to support CWS emergency response efforts in Japan may be made online, sent to your denomination or to CWS.  Or, text CWS to 50555 to give $10.

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From violence to suffering to hope

Thousands of families have fled their homes since the 2008 conflict and violence erupted in Georgia, formerly a part of the Soviet Union. Manana Chigladze’s family is among them. They lived in Avnevi village, west of South Ossetia’s capital city, Tskhinvali, until three years ago, when she and her husband and three children fled their house at night in pajamas and slippers. “We left behind everything,” says Manana, “like ghosts, heading into the unknown.”

For the first several weeks, they slept on the concrete floor of an abandoned school building in Tbilisi. No blankets. No food. No water or medicines. Later, they were moved into two tiny rooms in a former dormitory building of a technical school.

“Before the war, I worked as an accountant and my husband was a veterinarian,” says Manana. Today, they depend on state assistance of less than $30 per month. They are jobless, says Manana, but not hopeless.

Through the CWS-supported Tbilisi Youth House Foundation, she learned of a community project assisting displaced families with workforce development and employment opportunities.

Participating in leadership and small business development courses, Manana says she is learning about her rights, seeing possibilities and realizing she can change her life for the better.

“These are not just trainings; these are experiences, knowledge sharing, consultations and everyday support for our lives.” Now, she says, “We feel like we’re floating not sinking.”

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Kenya -- These students are learning the importance of living in balance with nature as they plant trees to stop erosion and improve the environment in which they live.
Photo: CWS

Education and awareness transform Kenyan community

Kumpa School in Kajiado County, Kenya, is addressing the underlying issues that can keep students out of school. During the recent drought, entire families were forced to migrate in search of food and water for themselves and their livestock. As part of its School Safe Zone program, CWS-East Africa has led the Kumpa School committee through training on Climate Change Adaptation.

Now, the school has been transformed into a self-sustaining community – and serving as a resource center teaching the whole community how to feed their families while reducing stress on an already-vulnerable environment.

Keeping 300 chickens, the school demonstrates an alternative protein source that requires less food and water than cows. Three modern dairy cows, which produce more milk than traditional cows, also reside on site. In the school’s garden, students grow vegetables suitable for the dry climate, and families learn how to start their own gardens, producing food with less water required.

The school has also planted 150 trees, which help retain water in the area and reduce the erosion of nutrient-rich soil during flooding. In addition, the school is collaborating with the Kenya Forestry Department to grow tree seedlings to sell to the community at low cost. By teaching new climate-friendly strategies, Kumpa School is improving the lives of students and their families.

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