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Aichi students develop disaster recovery project

Chunichi Shimbun

Students at Aichi Gakuin University in Nisshin, Aichi Prefecture, have been striving to launch a business project that would support post-March 11 reconstruction efforts.

Asking for cooperation from businesses in the prefecture, they will start running the service as early as August.

“I hope we can create jobs for the people affected by the disasters and fill the hollowness in their heart, if by only a little,” said Akira Nozaki, 21, a sophomore majoring in management.

The project has been undertaken by Nozaki and four other students: Tsuyoshi Takaba, Azusa Iwamoto, Kotaro Hori and Mei Yamada, all 20 years old. They have studied how to launch a company under the tutelage of professor Hironari Ukai, 46.

They came up with a two-pronged strategy: providing part-time work for people in the northern part of Miyagi Prefecture, where many people are still living in temporary housing, while also offering jobs for people in the southern part of the prefecture to manufacture bricks using soil damaged by tsunami.

Last September, as part of their academic work for Ukai, the students began planning a project to contribute to the recovery efforts.

Having interviewed 10 people, including university staff and students who have done volunteer work, and studying news reports, they decided to try to help the many people in temporary housing who remain unemployed and are struggling to pay off their debts.

The students believed that if the jobless could land work and support their families, they would be satisfied.

Then they came up with the plan to create jobs in which people can work together while helping each other. The brick-production project stems from the idea that salt used to be added to the soil in manufacturing bricks.

They are seeking cooperation from private companies to introduce side jobs for the affected area or to build a brickyard.

They have already negotiated with Naishoku-Ichiba Corp., an agent that assigns part-time jobs in Kasugai, Aichi Prefecture, for the introduction of more than 500 jobs.

Seto Brick, based in Seto, Aichi Prefecture, has agreed to offer full cooperation once a brick plant is established in Miyagi.

Under the job-placement service, one idea is for temporary housing residents to make items that could be used as small gifts or product samples. The students will start talks with Miyagi Prefecture to kick off the project.

The average wage for part-timers is around ¥1,000 a day, or ¥30,000 a month. If the brick-making business gets off the ground, some of its profit will be allocated to the job-placement business.

In November, the five students participated in the Business Plan Contest organized by the U.S. Embassy and Keio University. Students across the country made proposals on the theme of disaster recovery efforts, and the Aichi Gakuin group won one of the top prizes, a regional contribution award, in February.

Now they are visiting companies in Aichi Prefectures to get more sponsors. “I want to see their business plans take off by the time they graduate,” said professor Ukai.

This section, appearing Saturdays, features topics and issues from the Chubu region covered by the Chunichi Shimbun. The original article was published on March 23.