Japan: “Other children need help more than me”

Despite wearing wet weather gear, layers of warm clothing, thick socks and gloves, today is the coldest I’ve been in years.  To get to children and their families we have traipsed through the thick mud and sludge, climbed over mountains of tsunami debris, and travelled many miles up Japan’s far-north east coast.

Before I am accused of carping on about how cold it is, let me make one thing clear.  I’m drawing attention to the freezing temperatures here to make the point that children with no option but to shelter in schools and hospitals have been forced to seek warmth from tiny kerosene lamps.  I know this because I witnessed it today in Ishinomaki, a city in Miyagi Prefecture, in north-eastern Japan.

A child picks his way across the snow-covered wreckage created by the earthquake and tsunami in Ishinomaki, Japan.

I found Asato, 8, and Karen, 6, as well as parents Koichi and Rumi huddled in a second floor classroom of a primary school with only a few blankets and a stove to keep them warm.  Through the single pane windows I could see thick snow falling.  It was a bitterly cold day, but how cold it got at night in this draughty classroom is anybody’s guess.

In the same classroom I met Riku, 12, a most articulate and confident young man who moved me with his kind words for other children affected by the earthquake and tsunami.  As we sat together in the classroom he began to tell me how important it was that the world did not forget the children of Japan, and that people should send help. But he made a special point of saying and I quote him, “There are children worse off than me. Help them first.  They need the help more than me.”

I had to choke back the tears.

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  • victoria Butler-broad

    Keep up the good work, watching the pictures from the UK the least i can do is donate so that you can help these children, do all you can x

  • Sarah Vallance

    I have been so moved by this disaster – I too have cried at the images on UK TV, perhaps because of the Japanese people’s stoic acceptance and quiet grief. If only I could do more than just donate. Please do all you can for them.

  • thegaul


    I have 5 children and am living on the bread line in the uk and am unable to support the poor familes and children in Japan with a monetary donantion ( Although I wish I could ).

    However having had 5 children I have loads of clothes etc.. which I would like to donate directly.

    Is there anyway I can do this …

  • Ewan Cowie

    Hi Ian,

    I saw you interviewed on Channel 4 News this week and was moved by your interview and general report on the scale of devastation to families throughout the country. I found it particularly interesting what you referred to in relation to children being orphaned in large numbers and the need to do all you can to make sure that extended family can be located in order to give a child the love, support and stability that would be understandably crucial in those times. I found this to be a compelling reason to do all you can to reach this end where possible.

    I urge everyone reading this to spare a thought and donate all they can to help those who in the region who are undergoing immense suffering and emotional turmoil during these times. It makes me ashamed that I have likely moaned about something inconsequential during this week.

    Please keep up your hard and excellent work. It is admirable people such as yourself and all your colleagues who make you proud to be a global citizen. For my small part, I am raising some money for Save The Children through a charity auction.

    It’s the very least I can do.

    All the very best.

  • Ian, I can not stop crying when you see these images, I also saw your
    testimony on youtube. yesterday in church we pray for you and asking God to
    continue to bless you greatly in his work with these children, he
    comes from the people, property and money necessary for you
    work with dignity for them, I lived 14 years in Japan, my sons are there
    in Nagoya, I am divorced, unfortunately … currently living in
    Brazil, I confess that tight with their heart to see it happening with
    japan, I’m a Boy Scout leader, working with 370 children here where I live
    today. I want to help, tell me what can I do? Greetings & God
    bless and protect you and the children of Japan