UNESCO honors kids who created postquake newspaper


UNESCO on Monday honored the children who created a newspaper to encourage evacuees at a shelter in Kesennuma, Miyagi Prefecture, after it was hit by last year’s earthquake and tsunami.

Four of the 12 children who worked on creating the Fight Shimbun newspaper, a colorful handwritten wall newspaper with illustrations, were invited to the headquarters of the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization in Paris to be honored by Francesco Bandarin, assistant director general for culture.

Bandarin described the children, including 8-year-old Risa Yoshida, as “a light for the future” and praised them for raising the spirits of evacuees struggling in harsh conditions.

“I would like to say thank you to the people who have helped us all this time,” said Yoshida, who served as the first editor-in-chief of the newspaper, expressing gratitude on behalf of the people of Tohoku for the support received from around the globe for victims of the disaster.

At the ceremony to honor the children, Satoko Oyama, 10, who later took over Yoshida’s role as editor-in-chief, said, “I’m so glad that many people have read Fight Shimbun.”

Oyama’s sister, 13-year-old Kanako, who served as a reporter for the newspaper, said, “We will do our best toward recovery and would like you to extend your support.”

During the event, the children handed to Bandarin reproductions of some of the issues of Fight Shimbun, which UNESCO will display at its headquarters.

Bandarin said people around the globe are still concerned about the victims of the disasters and they will always extend their support.

On March 18, 2011, just a week after the massive earthquake and tsunami hit the city, Yoshida, together with her friend Oyama and two other elementary and junior high school students, launched the first edition of the Fight Shimbun. In Japan, urging someone to “fight!” is a way of encouraging them to do their best.

They published the newspaper almost every other day through issue number 50 on July 7, preparing articles under headlines such as “Now Electricity is Back!” as they covered events that brought delight to them and other evacuees at the shelter.