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Initiative and Possibility

There is a question that has been bothering me for a long time since being involved with activities in Iketani:

“Why do so many people continue to visit Iketani?”

100325_cid_image003_2 Every year, 200 volunteers visit Iketani through JEN. If we include people who visit privately, nearly 300 people continue to visit Iketani, a small village that consists of seven households and sixteen people.

Without a doubt, the primary reason why the people continue to frequent the village is the villagers’ hospitality and easygoingness. Another reason is gigantic, strict, and formidable nature, which profoundly impresses us into realizing that we are also part of it. There is also the modest but delicious foods that fully exploit the original flavors of all the ingredients. And the tradition and customs that make us proud of being Japanese… the list could go on forever.
However, these traits are not unique to Iketani , nor have they entirely disappeared from this country...

So then, why Iketani?

Hiroshi Yamamoto, the chief representative of Tokamachi Regional Development Planning Committee, says he is trying to encourage visitors to take initiatives. We feel that taking initiative means seeking our possibilities on our own. 100325_s_2  

At the village get-together on March 20th, this year’s agenda regarding events in the Iketani Village was decided. JEN plans for this year’s village revitalization volunteer program according to the village’s agenda and needs. We are looking for and welcome volunteers who are willing to revitalize Iketani with the villagers again this year.

March 25, 2010 in Niigata |

Will the long standing water need to come to an end?

Water need in the resettled villages in Batticaloa was a long-standing problem. Many attempts in the past two decades by various organizations were taken to solve the water shortage problem; however, we can say that none of them was ever successful. War is over, peace is restored, and many other livelihood supports is provided, but provision of the very basic need: water source is still to be found.

The main cause of the water source is rock. Even if you dig 20 feet in the ground, you will run into a rock that prevents further digging.

At this point, JEN, with the support of people in Japan has taken up this very difficult task of finding water from 30 feet below ground level. Out of 10 points that were dug initially, at 8 points, we hit the rocks. We first use drill to break them, and if this does not work, we must either change the digging point or use a small amount of dynamite to explode the rocks.


The above photograph shows the construction of an agro well in the village called Vahanery in Batticaloa. In Batticaloa, JEN plans to dig 40 agro-wells.


By JEN- Battialoa team

March 25, 2010 in Sri Lanka |

Suggestion from a Child

At last the workshops finished for 69 schools. That was the report from the JEN staff who has been organizing the disaster risk reduction workshops for the school children and teachers in the disaster affected areas of Padang Pariaman.

Organizing of 17 workshops of full day continuously in 1 month, handling school children in the 17 different venues is not an easy task. And we know that some children are very naughty and difficult to handle, but sometimes that naughty behavior and gesture discover a new thing to study and it also refresh the serious atmosphere in the workshop hall and people cannot stop to laugh of loud. JEN observed this kind of occasions many times during the workshops. Sometimes those innocent children make us think about something that we have never thought of.

There is one part of the workshop where each group creates a map of the school and its evacuation route. After they complete the mapping, one of the teachers or students explains the map to all the participants.
Once a teacher was explaining about the Drop Cover and Hold method, a student raised a question. 

“If we hide under the table and the table is not strong enough, the debris from the roof will destroy the table, so we will all die”.

No one had answer for that question or query of the child. But the teacher told the child that they will ask the department to make the tables stronger.

Education department has the solution of this issue. They should make the furniture strong enough and they should keep in mind that the area is vulnerable and it is possible that disaster can come anytime in the future. JEN included this point as a suggestion to education department in the report.

March 25, 2010 in Indonesia |

Community’s Real Strength

One of JEN’s principles is “assistance to assist, not assistance to provide”. What is important in order to realize this principle is the ‘process’ by which we communicate with the local people. Today, we would like to share with you an episode from last December during reparation of agro wells.

Reparation of wells is one of the most prioritized issues in the water hygiene sector of South Sudan. In particular, it is of utmost importance for the communities themselves to learn and acquire the skills to repair the agro wells themselves.

The community that JEN was assisting in building schools originally had 4 wells, of which 3 were already broken. JEN had a meeting with the people from the community about these broken wells. It seems that the community had somewhat expected that JEN would repair the wells for them.

However, JEN’s mission is not only to assist people, but to ensure that they can learn to look after themselves in a sustainable way. JEN asked the community how they intended to cover the cost of the necessary reparations. This was something that they had not thought about. In appreciation of JEN they managed to raise enough money for half of the cost, so JEN provided the balance. Even though this was a new attempt for the people, they bought the idea.


It is this decision, “we can repair the wells ourselves, in fact it is us who has the responsibility in repairing our wells” that marks self-reliance. It is not the details- taking on half of the expenses etc- but it is the fact that they can deal with the problem independently.

So following the successful reparation of the boreholes, the whole community had a big meeting and decided to start a borehole management fund. From now on, the community members will contribute a small amount of money every week to the treasurer who will keep it for use in case where maintenance is required.

March 25, 2010 in South Sudan |


Precisely, Efficiently, Delivering assistance to those that really need it.

20100324_jpf220100318photo_of_vieux We have distributed, on March 11th, shelter kits for shelter reconstruction to 73 households in a small locality called Vieux Caille, in mountains above Grand Goave. This time, the kit includes wood materials in addition to the previous contents; corrugated iron sheets, hammer, nails, saw and gloves, to prepare for the approaching harsh rainy season. However, with lack of various materials, we asked 3 households to share 1 saw.

In order to deliver assistance to those that truly need it, and in order to do it precisely and efficiently, community’s cooperation is indispensable.

That is because, needless to say, the local people are the ones that know the community.
So at this time, along with the community leader, Nader, many volunteers from the community supported the distribution.

20100324_jpf2_20100318assessment__2 During the preliminary assessment, we have selected the targeted households by visiting each and every household to verify the degree of destruction of each house.


Then the distribution day, Berlande, our national project officer, calls beneficiaries one by one, relayed by Nader with the megaphone. When the beneficiary comes, Nader confirms whether that he’s the right person. This is done to make sure that double distribution or distribution for non-targeted households does not occur.

Finally, the staff and volunteers distribute the prepared kits.

20100324_jpf2_20100318beneficiary_2 20100324_jpf2_20100318tool_distribu 

Without the support of volunteers, JEN’s activities cannot be implemented.
With the motto “together with the local people” we realize “self-reliance assistance” we will continue our activities.
Donation for JEN Haiti Earthquake Emergency Assistance.

By credit card via homepage (in Japanese)

By postal transfer (available within Japan)

⇒00170-2-538657. Account name: JEN

We appreciate your cooperation.

March 24, 2010 in Haiti |


Battle against water

100318_gcg_2065s Although Myanmar is currently in dry season and doesn’t see even a drop of rain, water keeps springing as we dig further and further in the ground. If we draw the water out with a pump, water would spring out again before we even notice. Also during transportation of construction materials, their arrival can sometimes be delayed due to the tide of water.

100318_gcg_1947s JEN’s engineer gives instructions so that we can simultaneously work on different tasks and thereby smoothly carry out the construction procedure.

During the dry season, however, the temperature rises up to 40 degree Celsius during the day that it is too hot to carry out the project the in way we would like to.

The rainy season starts sometime in May or June, so we must finish the groundwork by then. Adjustments made according to the engineer’s opinions become very crucial here.

Water, therefore, is both precious and troublesome in the Burmese delta area.

March 18, 2010 in Myanmar |

Aiming the gold medal again

There is a friend from Kabul, Fahima, who lives near the Islamabad office. She is a Hazara, who had been on exile in Pakistan with her parents, brothers, and sisters during the Taliban regime. After the collapse of the regime, she returned to Kabul and spent her time there until high school. Her father is running a catering business in Kabul.

Though Fahima looks slim and graceful, she’s actually a black belt Judo athlete. Four years ago, having won a gold medal at an international championship, she was told by President Karzai that he would grant her one of her wishes. She requested for a gym where she could practice Judo, and he promised to have it realized in four months. However, four years have passed, and there is still no Judo gym.

I met Fahima at a special muscle training class where a lot of humanitarian workers in Islamabad attend. Since women are not allowed to go outside due to security reasons, many women come to the gym two to three times a week to maintain their physical strength. Among them, Fahima comes in almost everyday since 2009 to build her stamina. She regularly goes to a gym in Lahore and receives guidance from a Judo expert who was trained in Japan.

Fahima continues to dedicate herself to her daily trainings with a goal to enter and win the gold metal at the Judo championship in the near future as an Afghan national player.

March 18, 2010 in Afghanistan |

How to Vote in an Election in Iraq

Iraqi parliamentary election was held on last 7th March. The polling stations were placed not only in Iraq but also in 16 foreign countries. One of them is here in Jordan. Today I am going to introduce the election notice paper that was distributed  to every family, which shows how to vote for a party and a candidate. 


A: Every party has its own number.
B: To identify a candidate, every candidate also has his or her own number.
Candidate’s name is shown by the photograph.

100318_s Now, how to vote? First of all everyone inks their forefinger as they visit a polling station. This ink seems to stay and difficult to remove and we see people with ink on their finger everywhere on the street!

123 First, you receive a voting paper and mark following three questions.
1) The voter’s registered address in Iraq
2) Party that you vote for
3) Candidate that you vote for
Once the three sections are marked, voting is completed!

It was another interesting finding of different voting systems in Iraq and Japan.

March 18, 2010 in Iraq |



~Just pack it and send it!
Old books turn into new schools!~

This is how JEN’s BOOK MAGIC works.
Old books, old CDs, DVDs and videos lying around in your house, school, or office… never to be read again… Pack these in a card box, and NIPPON EXPRESS (Pelican-bin) will come pick it up anywhere in Japan, free of charge. Used-book store BookOff will then buy these items, and a part of it will be used in JEN’s “School Support Program” in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Sudan.

You can tidy up your room, recycle books and CDs, and at the same time contribute for a good cause! Your participation helps make children’s dream come true…

How to participate in BOOK MAGIC?


02_3 By telephone: 03-5225-9352
Online (Available in Japanese only):

www.jen-npo.org -> Look for the yellow BOOK MAGIC banner, and follow instructions on the pop-up window.


Simply pack your items in a box (supplied at you local convenience store or post office). Please note that the box must not weigh more than 30 kg per box. Just use more boxes if this is a problem.

04_5 The pick up date can be reserved (the earliest date is 7 days after the application date).
Items listed below are available for pickup. Items can be in any language. (“Not for sale”items, encyclopedia, catalogues are not accepted.)
•Paperbacks, hard cover books
•Dictionaries (within 3 years of publication)
•Study guides, reference books
•Children’s books, comic books
•Photography collections
•CD albums (no singles), DVD, VHS videos, video games
Pick up is available from minimum 30 items. Please use card board boxes, not bags when packing the items.

05_4 All the profits from YOUR recycled books/CDs/DVDs go to the construction of destroyed schools in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Sudan...

Thank you so much, and we hope that you will participate in BOOK MAGIC!
If you have any questions, please contact JEN at 03-5225-9352. English-speaking staff will assist you.


March 16, 2010 in BOOK MAGIC |


Discussing the Future of Iketani

On March 6th and 7th, JEN held an Iktani General Assembly Meeting, during which the locals and volunteers discussed Iketani’s future.

In addition to the villagers and the members of the Tokamachi Regional Development Planning Committee, volunteers and personnel from affiliated organizations participated, making it a great success.100311_9  

On the first day, participants were divided into groups of five or six people, and after having reviewed what had been going on in Iketani since the Chuetsu Earthquake, each group discussed what they wanted for Iketani’s future. On the second day, they created a map of Iketani in five years using illustrations and characters based on the outcomes of the first day’s session. As we carried out the meeting to incorporate many different opinions, we were able to share our perception of the village’s future,. 100311_5 


At the end of the meeting, when each participant shared their final thoughts, one villager confessed that he was not so sure if he would make it in five years as his conditions had gotten worse. The meeting came to a close as we continued thinking about our task as villagers and volunteers coming from outside the Iketani village.

“Where will Iketani be in five years?”
Now may be the crucial time for Iketani’s revitalization.

100311_8  100311_7 100311_5vision

March 11, 2010 in Niigata |

The Footstep of my Father and my Uncle (Part 2)


People in Eritrea nowadays are surviving with the financial remittance from relatives in the Diaspora. Like the rest, I also shared my small income with my relatives and finally, since it was not enough, I asked my brother (third follower), 48, to come all the way over to Juba. He accepted it, risked himself to cross the border illegally, but thanks God; he was safe and is now employed by one of the biggest hotels of Juba. Now the whole Meles family is able to live much better economically than ever, putting behind the curtains, how difficult it is to live in different countries, especially when one is not able to visit his/her country, because of illegal immigration.

My brother, Berhane, in Star Hotel, Juba

Now, this reminds me the way my father and his brother (my uncle) migrated to Ethiopia. They were suffering of severe poverty at home. The only good asset they had, which their villagers still witness was strong love and cooperation of each other. But because of the poverty my father went to Ethiopia; started helping both families; but was very difficult for him and finally he found it better to call his brother and both families all over to Ethiopia where they lived conveniently for more than 40 years until they were deported after the independence of Eritrea.

So far, as far is my father’s and his brother’s history is concerned, I can say history is repeating itself but I hope and pray the repatriation to be sooner and with our own consent.

March 11, 2010 in South Sudan |


Together with the local Haitian staffs

On March 11‘th Wednesday, we will start distributing shelter kits to 4,000 households, which we have been preparing for some time now.

20100309p1000993_3 Based on the name list created by the community, JEN’s staffs have been visiting each and every single household to study the degree of destruction and their daily lives as evacuees.

The local Haitian staff contributed greatly to this process by creating the research documents, designing database, and conducting numerous research simulations.

This Haitian local staffs are an essential part of our team, in achieving projects, but also in helping our understanding of the local culture and lives.

March 9, 2010 in Haiti |


Cooperating with the construction company

Our cyclone shelter-type elementary school project is proceeded by cooperation of JEN’s engineer and the construction company.

100304_img_1838s JEN’s engineer is 53 years old. He has supervised many different sites up to now. During the initial stage of construction, the construction company staff were a bit overwhelmed by our engineer’s many orders, but gradually they seem to have come to understand his orders. They understood that by following close to his advices, the progress of the construction advances smoothly, and this has allowed for a building trust relationship.

The site is a swampland area close to sea, so if we dig even just a meter in, water would spring out. In order to establish a firm groundwork, we would have to dig about two meters in the ground while pumping out the water. Because of this, water pump maintenance is also an important task, and if not done properly beforehand, it would prolong our construction period.

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100304_img_1851s 100304_img_1867s   

Furthermore, in order to raise our overall efficiency, while we do our excavation work, we simultaneously prepare metal reinforcing rods for the foundation and check detailed upcoming construction plans. Our work goes more smoothly by having daily meetings and instructions beforehand.

100304_img_1855s Little by little, we’re in the process of creating teamwork with the construction company. We would like to continue cooperating with them until we’re able to work as a team to the end.

March 4, 2010 in Myanmar |

Humanitarian Assistance in Afghanistan

My name is Sultan M. Khamoush, and I am pleased to join JEN-Afghanistan since January 19th, 2010 as a field officer at  the Charikar office. 100304

During the past three decades of war in Afghanistan, various problems plagued the country in many areas – humanitarian, political, economical, cultural and so on. It has been eight years since the overthrow of the Taliban regime, and despite the billions of dollars the international community spend on aid, Afghanistan still remains in poverty and political instability. Women and children are seen in the streets of Kabul and other provinces begging for survival.
It is therefore evident that the Afghan government is yet to develop adequate strategies to bring changes in the lives of their citizens; there are problems of corruption, slow development, and the general perception that some government officials lack clear work plans or have policies that overlap or are incomprehensive.
Humanitarian assistance exists to alleviate this problem. When people are displaced from their homes, we investigate their situation and provide assistance and protection. For instance, we speak to those who instigated the conflicts so that people may return to their homes in peace.

There is, however, lack of understanding in Afghanistan about the problem of refugees and internal displacement; no one fully understands how these people become displaced on a short-or long-term basis. There is lack of information on the current situation including how many people have been displaced and how many have already made their ways home.
A rigorous program is called for to assist poverty reduction and deliver humanitarian assistance through NGOs, international community, and the Afghan government to the poor in urban and rural areas. It is, furthermore, imperative that NGOs ensure that funds flow in from governments and international communities in a fair and effective route. It is extremely important that funds are not politically charged and assistance delivered fairly, regardless of the backgrounds of its beneficiaries.

I hope for the better future to all Afghan citizens, and will continue working hard until efforts of humanitarian organizations that assist Afghan people even at difficult times to stand on their own feet, bear fruit.

March 4, 2010 in Afghanistan |