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Tohoku: Halley Valley – a place for seniors gather and old neighbors reunite

2015.11.9

Tsunami Torn Community Close community torn apart by temporary housing

The reconstruction of tsunami affected areas in northeastern Japan has been moving along, yet slowly.  In Minamisanriku, Miyagi, some families have started to move out of temporary housing and into new houses, but still about 70 per cent of people are living in temporary housing.  Most of them will be moving into permanent housing by 2017. To accommodate this change, shops and other public utilities are also preparing for the new development.

Before the disaster, Minamisanriku was a very close community where neighbors took care of each other.  However, such environment was forced to change after the disaster.  Neighbors were separated by temporary housing procedures.  They were  scattered all around the area and had to start creating new communities at each temporary housing complex.  There was no place for any seniors to gather freely. In order to fill such a gap, Peace Winds Japan (PWJ) built a community center for seniors and for handicapped persons in Minamisanriku.

Halley Valley Building
Halley Valley Building in Minamisanriku

Halley Valley is operated by Peace Winds’ local partner Viva!! Minamisanriku (Viva!) which manages daily operations, as well as organizes classes and day trips.

Halley Valley Activities: 

Arts, Craft and Cultural Learning Classes–Creating something together

Anyone is welcome at Halley Valley – Just register for the class, pay the small registration fee, just enough to cover materials needed for the class.  Since the official opening on July 1st, more than 400 participated in organized activities in the first two months!

Halley Valley Craft ClassHalley Valley Cooking Class

 Dialogues with other tsunami affected communities

Viva!! Minamisanriku organizes Day trips which includes fun outings as well as visits to other tsunami affected communities. The participants talk to the locals about their reconstruction progress, exchanging tips and information how communities are recovering.  “Learning how other communities are thriving gives me better understanding as well as new ideas how my community can recover,” says Mr. Sato, a frequent Halley Valley patron.

Halley Valley Class Participant
Happy face at Halley Valley

A place where the new and old community meets–Reconnecting old relationships and creating a new community

Sachie Saijyo, Peace Winds staff member from Minamisanriku, and also one of the founders and Director of Viva!! Minamisanriku, said “Though the location of Halley Valley may not be convenient to all people, they come to Halley Valley to enjoy their time with peers.  Recently, we have been seeing participation from non-evacuees.  This is a very good sign as these two groups have not been communicating very well since the disaster. This place is uniting both evacuees from temporary housing and non-evacuees. Old neighbors are getting back together.”

Activities in Halley Valley are bringing people together, helping Minamisanriku become the close community they once were before the disaster tore them apart.


Aspiration: to become a Community Operated Facility

Halley Valley Group Photo
Thank You for YOUR Support!

Peace Winds hopes Halley Valley will help generate new conversations and relationships among all the members, with the aspiration to become a self-sustaining community center in a near future.