Quake orphan support begins (Apr.1)The Yomiuri Shimbun

The government, schools and other organizations have started working on systems to provide support for children orphaned by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.

At Isobe Middle School in Soma, Fukushima Prefecture, at least five of the school’s about 70 students are believed to have lost one or both parents. Some are currently living with their grandparents.

Even under such circumstances, however, school officials said the children have been active at such pursuits as making and decorating a shelter’s entrance with 1,000 origami cranes, and chatting and playing with their friends.

“The children look even more cheerful and upbeat than before. It’s like they’re trying to forget about their hardships,” said the vice principal of the municipal school.

The children are scheduled to move to temporary housing or other available living quarters.

“When the kids are separated from their friends, they could become more worried about the future,” the vice principal said. “They need expert counseling and financial assistance.”

In disaster-hit areas, some people are calling for the construction of facilities akin to boarding schools for disaster orphans.

“Schools will need to be built–from the kindergarten level on up–that offer food, clothing and housing,” Hirofumi Ryu, parliamentary secretary of the Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry, said at a press conference.

To construct these facilities, some ministry officials are reportedly considering using money from a system that subsidizes dormitories for students in remote areas who have difficulty commuting to school. Under the system, the state shoulders half the construction costs.

Ashinaga, a Tokyo-based nonprofit organization that supports orphans, has decided to give special lump-sum payments to children who lost their parents in the March 11 disaster. The organization said it had received inquiries concerning more than 60 disaster orphans. It also plans to set up centers to provide mental health services for children in disaster-hit areas.

“A large number of people will have to contribute to support these kids until they’re grown,” Ashinaga director Koji Ogawa said.

(Apr. 1, 2011)