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Small business helps the youngest survivors

Japan, February 8, 2012

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  • Small business helps the youngest survivors

Today my heart sang. After days of seeing destruction and rubble, I got to visit the tiniest tsunami survivors at a day care in Kesennuma, Japan. After it was destroyed in the tsunami, the day care was recently restarted with Mercy Corps' help .

I walked into a sun-filled, colorful room and right away felt like I could stay there all day. Eleven adorable babies, from five months to three years old, were happily playing and coloring, as they sat in their tiny chairs, their chubby fingers swirling crayons on paper. Missing my own (similarly-aged) kids so much, I just wanted to sit there and soak in the cuteness.

Today, most of these children live in temporary housing, and some lost a parent in the tsunami; the owner of the original day care is still missing. Determined to bring back this invaluable service for the working parents in Kesennuma, seven of the original 15 employees pooled their money and received a start-up grant from Mercy Corps, through its partner organization Planet Finance.

They reopened the day care in a different location and hope to expand into an even larger space so they can accept more children and employ more women as caretakers.

This day care is one of dozens of small enterprises that are restarting or just opening up as part of a small business recovery program provided by Mercy Corps, thanks to the support of thousands of Mercy Corps donors along with a generous contribution from tech firm NVIDIA.

There is a lot of sadness to be seen here, but the Japanese people don't talk about it. They want to move on, rebuild and resume life as it was prior to the tsunami. Today I didn't see sadness; I saw happiness and hope.