“This summer, we have lost a lot, including all our family photos of our memories. I am very thankful that my child now has such a lovely new memory.”– One YMCA camper’s mom.
Forty elementary school children from Mabi, a town hard hit in July’s torrential rains in western Japan, just got a respite from their ongoing displacement at a camp outing organized by the Setouchi YMCA. The children’s town in Okayama Prefecture lost 2,000+ houses, including these children’s. Now, two months after the storm’s worst days, Mabi’s streets are no longer streams of mud; but, flooded buildings remain empty. Mabi is a ghost town.
Outside Mabi, the children who joined the camp, which was generously supported through CWS Japan by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, are now living in government-supported temporary housing. So, one reason for the camping trip was to help relieve the children’s anxiety about their family’s stressful living situation, and to help heal their hearts, which CWS Japan’s team learned a lot about while working with families after Japan’s 2011 Eastern Japan Earthquake and Tsunami, and again after the 2016 Kumamoto earthquake.
The outing was to the YMCA camp on uninhabited Yoshima Island which is small and rich in nature, especially sea life. It was established by Kobe’s YMCA in 1950 to offer children and youth a chance to learn and grow – and, for Mabi’s children, to refresh and renew – through the interdependence required in camping. Through the decades, as now, reflection time at the end of each day has been valuable for each child. The activities the children joined each day were typical: playing sports, including kayaking and fishing … and, of course: singing! Learning to cook fresh octopus was a new and special experience for most, to be sure!
The night before they left camp, children had the opportunity to share their feelings and thoughts with fellow campers and camp leaders around the campfire – and this was important for everyone. Most children talked about three days of carefree fun, and some mentioned how they wished the camp would not end. But, in fact, they returned to their parents and lives in Mabi a bit refreshed and happier, to continue helping their families recover and regain their balance.
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