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Images: From ruin to renewal

Japan, March 9, 2012

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  <span class="field-credit">
    Sylvia Ross/Mercy Corps  </span>
    Minamisanriku's Elementary School, which stood directly in the floodplain where the tsunami wave hit, is now an empty shell, with water-damaged relics like photo albums and stuffed animals strewn about in classrooms. All but one of the children were safely evacuated right after the earthquake. Photo: Sylvia Ross/Mercy Corps
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  <span class="field-credit">
    Sylvia Ross/Mercy Corps  </span>
    Piles of rubble, some over 50 yards across, still dot towns all along the coast a year later. It's unclear when the "tsunami junk," as it's called, will be removed since many towns have not yet identified where to dispose of the wreckage. Photo: Sylvia Ross/Mercy Corps
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  <span class="field-credit">
    Sylvia Ross/Mercy Corps  </span>
    Debris piles contain not only pieces of homes and personal possessions, but train locomotives, hospital beds and the fishing boats that were key to the seafood-based economies here. Photo: Sylvia Ross/Mercy Corps
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  <span class="field-credit">
    Sylvia Ross/Mercy Corps  </span>
    A brief ray of winter sun shines through the steel skeleton of Minamisanriku's Emergency Preparedness building. One woman who stayed to broadcast the tsunami warning message lost her life when the water rushed in. Other city officials clung to railings on the roof, but 38 of the 50 were swept away by the 100-foot-plus wave. The mayor survived by climbing up the radio tower. Photo: Sylvia Ross/Mercy Corps
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  <span class="field-credit">
    Chris Cabatbat/Mercy Corps  </span>
    Mercy Corps quickly adapted its Comfort for Kids program for Japan, bringing art and play to temporary shelters so children could get help processing their reactions and fears. Today, we are training local facilitators to continue the program for the longer term. Photo: Chris Cabatbat/Mercy Corps
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  <span class="field-credit">
    Sylvia Ross/Mercy Corps  </span>
    We also brought Moving Forward to Japan, in partnership with Nike, to help young people recover physically and emotionally through sports like volleyball and soccer. This group of 35 boys and girls meets every Sunday morning for practice. Photo: Sylvia Ross/Mercy Corps
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  <span class="field-credit">
    Sylvia Ross/Mercy Corps  </span>
    As the government transitioned survivors into temporary homes, Mercy Corps donated 20 trucks like this one to shop owners who lost their brick-and-mortar businesses. These mobile shops dot the town of Minamisanriku; here, Sachie Saijo from our partner Peace Winds Japan checks out the fish cakes and seaweed snacks for sale. Owner Hiroaki Miura drives to different neighborhoods to reach those without transportation and says he'll continue the work "until the truck dies." Photo: Sylvia Ross/Mercy Corps
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  <span class="field-credit">
    Sylvia Ross/Mercy Corps  </span>
    Hiroko Mirura lost her business, her home, and her husband in the tsunami. Today, she's organized 400 women to return to work processing the wakame seaweed that Minamisanriku is known for. Read more about how Mercy Corps helped restart the industry. Photo: Sylvia Ross/Mercy Corps
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  <span class="field-credit">
    Sylvia Ross/Mercy Corps  </span>
    Offloading the day's salmon catch at the Ofunato fish market, which was reopened with equipment from Mercy Corps. We also invested in rebuilding Minamisanriku's key salmon hatchery in time to raise and release a new generation of fish this spring. Read more about how the fishing industry is coming back along Japan's coast. Photo: Sylvia Ross/Mercy Corps
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  <span class="field-credit">
    Sylvia Ross/Mercy Corps  </span>
    The owners of Pastry Oourava received a business grant from Mercy Corps and partner PlaNet Finance to reopen their bakery in a new location after the previous business was destroyed in Kesennuma. Photo: Sylvia Ross/Mercy Corps
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  <span class="field-credit">
    Sylvia Ross/Mercy Corps  </span>
    Mercy Corps' loans also help new small businesses employ local residents. The young mothers who work at Peace Jam making preserves from local fruits bring their babies to work, allowing them to earn an income for their family. Watch a video about Peace Jam and other small businesses giving back to their community. Photo: Sylvia Ross/Mercy Corps
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  <span class="field-credit">
    Sylvia Ross/Mercy Corps  </span>
    The littlest tsunami survivors at Tsubomi Nursery are also the happiest. The daycare is back up and running in Kesennuma thanks to a Mercy Corps grant. Japan's hopeful future lies with this next generation who are watching their world be rebuilt. Photo: Sylvia Ross/Mercy Corps

After the March 11, 2011, earthquake rocked Japan and the subsequent tsunami wiped out entire towns along the country's northeast coast, Mercy Corps responded immediately by providing emergency supplies, transportation to essential services, and vouches for survivors to take care of their needs.

Along with partner Peace Winds Japan, our work quickly transitioned to psychosocial supports for children and adults, as well as longterm economic recovery projects that will continue for years to come. Twelve months later, reminders of the tragedy are everywhere — but so is an incredible resilience and hope to rebuild the future.