KOBE – A black rainbow drawn by a 10-year-old boy who lost his father and sister in the Great Hanshin Earthquake four years ago has become a symbol of the psychological damage suffered by child survivors of the temblor.
The boy, who was buried in the rubble of his house for nine hours, drew the black rainbow several months after the quake, and it was published later that year in a book about young quake survivors.
Now the drawing has become the inspiration for Rainbow House, a facility completed earlier this month to provide a place for children to heal the scars that remain in their hearts.
“When we saw the drawing of a black rainbow, we were shocked. Four years later, the situation has gotten worse. While people are forgetting about the quake, the children who lost parents have buried their sadness deep in their minds,” said Toshiyuki Yagi, director of Ashinaga Ikuei-kai, a Tokyo-based organization that operates Rainbow House in Higashi-Nada Ward here. “There is no facility in Japan for children who have lost their parents. So we are making the facility a place where the children can feel at home and express their feelings,” he said.
According to the organization, about 600 children lost one or both of their parents in the quake. Some of the children live outside Hyogo Prefecture.
Over the past 30 years, Ashinaga Ikuei-kai has provided scholarships for more than 50,000 children who lost parents through disasters, accidents or diseases. Since the quake, the group has promoted various events to cheer up the children.
Borrowing ideas from a similar facility in the United States, the five-story building has a variety of rooms. Children can spend time alone crying or thinking in the Room of Thought, or they can vent their anger in the Volcano Room, which has a punching bag and padded walls.
There are also two rooms for art, music and other activities, meeting rooms, a library of children’s books and documents on the quake, a dining room and a living room. Two Japanese-style rooms are available for those who want to stay overnight at the facility.
One unique feature of the facility is a dormitory that houses 48 college students who receive scholarships from the organization. “They are very important to this house. Whenever children come to this house, these college students take care of them by playing together and helping them with their homework,” Yagi said, adding that about 100 other people have registered as volunteers.
Six members of the organization work at the house, and experts such as psychologists and counselors come to the facility on a regular basis.