Wednesday, August 26, 2015

2015 SWTJ Summer Camp

August 2015: 4th SWTJ Summer Camp for Tohoku Kids in Senmaya

Thanks to the generous support of SWTJ supporters from home and abroad, this year again, the SWTJ summer camp for Tohoku kids could take place and was a great success! 
Ten volunteer youth leaders from all over the country came together to spend some exciting days in the comfortable Senmaya community center with elementary and junior high school-age kids from the Tohoku region. Some of the kids had already taken part last year, while others joined for the first time. Everybody had a great time, and even the rain couldn’t dampen our good mood.  

SWTJ youth leaders in their last meeting before the camp
In the photo above, some of the youth leaders make preparations for the camp on the day before the arrival of the children.

August 12:
This year again, we were able to rent the comfortable Senmaya Community Center (Senmaya Minami Koryu Center), a former elementary school in a village not far from Ichinoseki in Iwate Prefecture, right next to the border with Miyagi Prefecture.

Starting point: Kesennuma Station

Day 1: August 13:
Everybody gathered at Kesennuma Station, and soon it was time to say goodbye to the parents, and to get on the train with the cool volunteer camp leaders! Some of the children had participated last year alreadz, and were excited to reunite, while some others took part for the first time, and, while a little apprehensive, were full of anticipation.

Learning to play cup and ball.

Once we arrived in Senmaya, we made teams. There was a ‘play cup and ball’ workshop, and a handbell workshop, and the kids quickly became really good at their new craft! We aimed at organizing a handbell and a cup and ball performance at the end of the camp, and at obtaining the cup and ball player certificate of the Japan Cup and Ball Association! 

Each child paints his own cup and ball tool!

Curry rice, salad and fried chicken enjoyed by all! Everybody helped prepare the delicious dinner!

At night...the much anticipated ghost walk! After all, we stayed overnight in an abandoned former elementary school...

Even after seeing some scary things, the kids went ahead courageously. Some kids did start to cry...
All the volunteer leaders changed into ghosts and other scary beings. The kids sure screamed! And later beamed in excitement. A night of success.

Day 1: August 14:

Today, river play was on the schedule, but unfortunately, it was raining. So instead, we stayed inside and made colorful bags with the help of rubber eraser stamps. Look at these nice outcomes!

We made a map with the kids so that they could see from where in Japan all the goodies and camp supplies came from, and where the sponsors lived. Thank you to all the sponsors from all over Japan! 

Finally the rain stopped for some time and we could have a delicious BBQ outside! And we even had time in the afternoon to play outdoors. Yeah!

The blindfolded kid has to try to hit the water melon so that we can all enjoy it. Go go!!
Really looks like he's going to hit it in the right place!
At night we all participated in the local Bon-Festival Summer event of Senmaya village, a great opportunity to socialize with the local people. Many stalls were established in the school courtyard, and everybody enjoyed the music, the traditional dance, and the delicous food from the stalls. SWTJ's cotton candy machine worked full time too!

Some of our kids became really good at making cotton candy themselves!
Our last camp evening of course ended with the much loved fireworks.

Day 1: August 15:

On our last day, the sun finally came through!! Off we were to the river!

Big smiles!

A local resident lent us this marvelous raft- so much fun!

Back home there was only little time left- but we had some important projects to complete, most of all, show off what we had learned in the workshops!
The handbell performance.
Getting the cup and ball certificate from the licensed teacher!

There was one more ritual to be accomplished...every year we would mark the kids’height on a big poster. Some had grown over 10cm in just one year, and others had surpassed the camp leaders!
Soon, we had to say good bye... everyone was a bit sad...
But hopefully, we can meet again next year!

SWTJ would like to say big thanks to everybody who made this camp possible- to our generous sponsors, to the people who sent food or camp utensils, to our great camp leaders who donated their time and skills, to the wonderful people of Senmaya village who already welcomed us for the third time this year, and to the families who entrusted their children to us and allowed us to build strong bonds with these future leaders of northern Japan whose residents are so courageously rebuilding their lives after the tremendous tsunami damage of the year 2011.