Story: Renewal for Persons with Disabilities in Japan

Submitted by Natsuho Shoji, Program Coordinator for AAR JAPAN

“Before the Great East Japan Earthquake, 22 employees, including 6 persons with mental disorder and 5 persons with intellectual disabilities, had been working at “Nakata Sun Farm,” growing various kinds of herbs, making marketable products from the herbs, and selling them. The persons with disabilities (PWDs) were able to foster a sense of self-agency and independence through their work.

The earthquake destroyed the vinyl tarp of the greenhouse, the ceiling, and the curtains that blocked out the sunlight and maintained heat inside the greenhouse. As a result, some of the employers were given less time to work while others could not work at all. This led to the decrease of their earnings and also began to affect their confidence and emotional well-being.

Fortunately, Nakata Sun Farm was granted the support from Direct Relief/JACL to reconstruct the vinyl greenhouse and to repair the curtains. Since the original curtains were too fragile for the PWDs to carefully handle, installment of automatic curtains was requested. The repair and reconstruction process started on October 28 and completed on November 10, 2011. The result of the reconstruction has been positive; the temperature has been stabilized in order to cultivate herbs, and the curtains are now easy to handle. Most importantly, the PWDs were able to return to their previous work and engage in their activities with much less frustration.

The products at Nakata Sun Farm have received attention from Tome City, which asked Nakata Sun Farm to increase their production of an herb called shisomaki. Before the earthquake, shisomaki was made only once a week, but now the production has increased to daily. Due to the boost in motivation among the PWDs to work harder and their development of a sense of independence, Mr. Sakai is considering employing more PWDs in the future. In addition, the family members of PWDs, approximately 70, benefitted from this scheme because they had more time to go out and find jobs. They are also happy to see that their PWDs regained confidence from working and earning their living. We hope that this positive circulation will be maintained.”

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