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Participation in Reinvention of Safe and Caring Urakawa Town

A View of Psychiatry Users Group Home "Bethel's House".

Kohei Yamane,
Japan(Urakawa Bethel House)

Urakawa Bethel's House

picture of yamane

1. I am from Urakawa, Hokkaido, located in the north of Japan.
Urakawa is a town of approximately 16,000 residents, including the community of mentally disabled, and this community welcomes about 2,000 visitors annually for a study tour and/or news coverage purposes.
For people with mental disabilities and local residents to cooperate in running a communal business is a rare case, even in the nationwide terms.

2. In 1978, a group of patients who were discharged from psychiatric ward of the Urakawa Red Cross Hospital has established the "Acorn Club" with their wish to create something beneficial for the local community. In 1984, thanks to the great amount of efforts of many volunteers, the "Urakawa Bethel's House" was established. The path was not always smooth, but for 25 years, those starting members have directed themselves under the notion of "Doing what we can for the local community" and have developed business activities such as delivering the Hidaka-dried kelp directly to customers, publishing materials, marketing a video series, selling and renting care-taking goods, to now earning an annual sales of over 100 million yen, which is about 8700 US dollars.

3. In my case, I have a schizophrenia, type of quickening memory of my previous boss' voices, "if you say making safety cars, I'll kill you!!"
When I hear these auditory hallucinations, I ask my friends, " Did you say, "if you mention making safety cars, I'll kill you?"
By sharing each other about our hallucinations with the trusting group members, we are able to have a normal life.

4. There are philosophy statements in the Bethel's House. "Create a working environment where skipping is openly accepted without worrying." "Meeting is more important than eating." "Let's pay more attention to 'talking' rather than 'doing' while we work." These phrases, which guide members to speak-up their health conditions, express precisely the attitude of communicating with others as our prime concern.

5. Let's move on to next subject. There were 11 large earthquakes in Urakawa Town after the WWII. Urakawa is earthquake-prone area.
I remember experiencing the Tokachi offshore earthquake that had happened about two years ago, Sep 26 2003, at 4:50 and 6:08 at local time. At the beginning, I thought it was a gas explosion in my neighborhood, not the earthquake.
The earthquake did not set off a fire in Urakawa Town. We used to have an earthquake , we routinely turn off the gas when the earthquake happened. After the earthquake, my friend from Bethel's House has taught me how to respond when large earthquakes happen in full details.

6. Shown in the slide is the picture of damaged interior of Bethel's House's "welfare: Shop Bethel" right after the earthquake. Most goods have been jumped out of the shelves.
So there you have it, you will understand the power and dangerous of earthquakes.

7-8, Next two slides show the result of questionnaire on how people has reacted right after the earthquake had happened.
A number of answers were gathered at the meeting we had right after the earthquake, and we shared and accepted our fear for the earthquake gradually by doing so.
Although this meeting, sharing the feeling of pain, has gone for long, sharing each other's experiences in this meeting was beneficial for us in order to accept the sudden flashbacks of our terrifying memory from the earthquake. Through the interaction with Bethel's House's members, accepting the terrifying experiences from the earthquakes helps getting back in everyday-life-style.
There's no one who could over-come the pain by trying to forget the frightful experience from the earthquake.

9. I'd like to introduce positive change happened in Bethel's House in four categories:

  1. Changes in morning meetings
  2. Utilization of Internet and DAISY
  3. Changes in relationship with neighbors
  4. Identifying evacuation routes and sites

10-11 First of all, "1. Changes in morning meetings"
Setsu Araya, who lives at group home that's located right in front of the beach with its own private beach called Shi'osai House.
At the time of Tokachi offshore earthquake, she did not listen to the care-giver saying Tsunami will strike here, so we must evacuate, but kept saying, "I won't go until Mr. Hamada comes (Setsu's favorite staff)."
Mr. Hamada came to rescue Setsu this time, but we discussed in what way Setsu would understand the terror of the earthquake. We could not come up with any good answer on this.
Following year's autumn, 2004, when the typhoon struck Urakawa Town, I came to pick Setsu up to evacuate.
On the way to the shelter, Setsu was frightened of big waves. So I said, "the bigger wave would come after the earthquake" to Setsu. She just nodded her head. Next morning after the typhoon, she comes to report sea condition every morning.
Everyone is now looking forward to Setsu's daily report on sea condition.
Daily meetings are heightening everyone's sense of disaster preparedness.

12. Secondly, "2. Utilization of Internet"
Make Internet accessible to everyone
Satoshi Taki'i: He loves baseball team, Yomiuri Giants, and Monta Mino in quiz programs. He always imitates broadcast coverage by announcer on TV, and imitates Monta, the host of TV show, so everyone often said "stop it!".
However, when created the internet accessible environment for everyone, he began to find a web site not only on Yomiuri Giants and Monta Mino, but also on disaster preparedness-related web pages and came to report today's earthquake information
Good reputation for "Satoshi knows important weather information that staff even don't know" had been spread out throughout the Bethel's House, Satoshi became a hero though he used to be denounced "noisy".
Many Bethel members began to search for disaster preparedness info.

13. 2. Next, Utilization of DAISY
DTB "Guidance for Disaster Prevention" by NRCD was installed to a desktop computer with a touch panel, has made it accessible to DAISY for everyone.
"Easier than reading a book", "I can understand better".
It was highly rated, so now it has become a hot topic among the Bethel's House members to find the possibilities in DAISY.
It was easy to understand
Bethel members are talking about the next step for utilizing DAISY

14. Thirdly, "Identifying evacuation routes and sites".
NRCD staffs came to Urakawa in winter, with no hat and in light attire all day under the cold winter weather, had researched the evacuation sites around group homes. The Bethel's House members had all said, "there are many guests coming to Urakawa, but those guests from NRCD is very weird. They will die in cold if they spend all day in that light attire. What are they researching on?" When we found out that they are researching on the evacuation sites, we said, "Is it that hard to know about the rescue sites by risking their lives? If it's that hard, we will run the research on our own too." So that we started to learn about the evacuation site of our local area.

15. Fourthly, Changes in relationship with neighbors ver.1"
Shun Kawabata has never talked with neighbors before the earthquake had happened, but after the earthquake, he rend a towel to his neighbor living next door, who was suffering, relation with his neighbors has started, such as greeting each other.

16. Next, "3. Changes in relationship with neighbors ver.2".
Kiyoshi, myself and 2 others from the Bethel's House participated in the disaster drill at Urakawa Town.
"This is the time to introduce ourselves to our neighbors. I'll show you how, so you go ahead and introduce yourself to neighbors too." Said Kiyoshi. By seeing Kiyoshi getting along with neighbors quickly, I took courage in to introduce myself to neighbors although I heard the voice saying "If you mention making a safe car, I'll kill you!"
We also practiced a bucket-relay and how to use a fire-extinguisher with neighbors.
We then joined a drill for rescue breathing; a fireman said to Kiyoshi, "You have an aptitude!".
After the drill, Kiyoshi went to New Bethel's House. To his favorite staff, Ms. Etsuko Mukaiyasu, he said, "I just learned how to do the rescue breathing. I can try it with you". So I pointed out to Kiyoshi that, "but the fireman said 'when you do the rescue breathing, make sure that the person is not breathing'." Then Kiyoshi said "Yamane, you talk too much!" so we got into a fight.

17. For the future
As I have talked on many stories, Urakawa, including the earthquake, tsunami, people with disabilities, and elderly people, has various resources in one place.
We are now in the process of advancing the formulation of GIS for persons with disabilities to decide our intention.
This utilizes GIS system that is international standards compliant, accessible for people with disabilities and/or elderly people. Moreover, user-interface is also planned to be build utilizing SMIL 2.1.

18. Conclusion: Through practical use of ICT, persons with disabilities should also attend disaster preparedness planning and community activities so that we can make a safe town, like Urakawa.