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An exchange event between wheelchair tennis gold medalist Shingo Kunieda and the children of Ishinomaki

An exchange event between wheelchair tennis gold medalist Shingo Kunieda and the children of Ishinomaki

JEN is working on rehabilitation and reconstruction assistance projects in cooperation with UNIQLO CO., LTD in Ishinomaki. As part of the projects, an exchange event between the children of Ishinomaki and the London Paralympics gold medalist in the men's wheelchair singles tennis Mr. Kunieda who honorably captured two consecutive gold medals was held in Ishinomaki.

【Mr. Kunieda and the children of a tennis club】

As we had a request from Mr. Kunieda to see how areas were damaged by the disaster, we showed him "Rehabilitation Fureai March---a temporary shopping arcade to enhance opportunities for regional rehabilitation", where he had a friendly talk with people there, taking a photo together.

【A visit to "Rehabilitation Fureai March" opened near the Ishinomaki comic museum this June】

Looking at "the Ishinomori comic museum" which is scheduled to reopen in the end of November, we crossed the Utsumi Bridge to go to Kawaguchi town where we saw how debris has been temporary accumulated. He seemed surprised to see an overwhelming amount of debris and dozens of ventilation stacks to avoid spontaneous fire.
He witnessed the situation of subsidence near the Ishinomaki fish market and was stunned by the destructive power of the earthquake that had sunk the ground level over one meter.

【Mr.Kunieda sees subsidence areas.】

After he crossed the Hiyori Bridge down to the Minamihama town, he saw how cars and a city hospital were destroyed by the tsunami and the Kadowaki primary school were struck by fire and then went to the Ishinomaki loan tennis club's tennis court---the representative of which club is Mr. Eiichi Honma. Children of local elementary schools and students of local high schools got a chance to question Mr. Kunieda like "How many times have you took part in the Olympics?","How many medals do you have?" Mr. Kunieda answered those questions respectfully and with an occasional touch of humor.

【Mr.Kunieda answers questions from high school students.】

Mr. Kunieda opened a tennis school for children where he demonstrated his world's best tennis skills that gave him two gold medals, and gave them lessons. They seriously took a lesson from him.

【Mr. Kunieda gives children a lesson.】

After he let children to touch and to wear the gold medal around their necks, the exchange event at Ishinomaki loan tennis club ended and Mr. Kunieda and JEN members move to another exchange event venue, the Kama elementary school. Mr. Doi, the Headmaster of the Kama elementary school, greeted us at the entrance of the school's gymnasium. After exchanging courtesies, they entered the gym where 487 children of the school were waiting for them. On their entrance, the whole gym burst into applause and Mr. Kunieda proceeded on to the bottom of stage showing fancy footwork and then the exchange event began.

【Children greet Mr. Kunieda.】

When the facilitator of the event, Ms. Nao Hasumi, invited children saying "Raise your hands if you have any questions to Mr. Kunieda", almost all of them raised their hands saying "I'll!","Me!" This surprised Mr. Doi because most of the children are so shy that he at first thought that very few of them would raise their hands even if they could question Mr. Kunieda.

【Opposite to what Mr. Doi expected, children shoot questions at Mr. kunieda.】

A child: "How old are you?"
Mr. Kunieda: "Guess how old I am?"
The other children: "Forty?", "Fifty?"...
Mr. Kunieda: "That's too much. You cut me."
Mr. Kunieda: "I'm twenty-eight."

Children: "No way!" The gym resounded with an exclamation of surprise they gave. After Mr. Kunieda also demonstrated his world's best tennis skills there, he ran a race with the children and took a commemorative photo. In his message to the children, he emphasized the importance of holding a dream, having a mental image of realizing the dream and never giving up.

【Mr. Kunieda tells his message to the children.】

Finally, the children representative thanked Mr. Kunieda saying "I was learning tennis. But I haven't been able to practice for a year since the disaster, so I have had a tough time. But now I find pleasure in being able to play tennis. I was more inspired than ever by Mr. Kunieda's talk to become a professional tennis player. "
Within the Kama elementary school zone where this event was held, there are quite a few residents and pupils who were beaten to death by the disaster. The headmaster said that he wants to watch his pupils grow up through actively implementing lessons and events that can encourage them.

JEN is committed to watching the growth of pupils in corporation with schools and such through providing psychological support to pupils affected by the disaster.

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October 25, 2012 in Tohoku earthquake |