The Best Moments of 2011- Part I

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Giuliane Bertaglia
Se registró el día 20 de marzo de 2011
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Isn’t incredible and exciting at the same time to think that we are starting a New Year? Do you remember what were your best moments in 2011? Well, I’ll try to share you some of my experiences in the past year and I really recommend that you do the same (think about what you did!). So, based on the lection of my articles, I hope you and I (of course!) begin our 2012 with good values. If you didn’t do so many things last year or something went wrong, roll up your sleeves to be a difference in our world this year! Be inspired by the stories described below:

Story 1) An earthquake in Japan will not destroy the hope of its population.

On April 10 I had the opportunity to speak with Katherine Mueller (, who works to International Red Cross ( She was attending the victims of earthquake in Japan and she told me how your experience in this land was. I asked her about what kind of specific aid was being given and she commented about the psychosocial support. Many people have died; others were injured by this tragic incident. So, how did they overcome the fact and find reasons to keep on if they were in dire need? Solve your doubt reading her email to me.

“When she walks into the gymnasium which now serves as home for close to 200 tsunami survivors in northeastern Japan, the mood in the large room gets noticeably lighter. Adults share shy smiles with Kuniko Kido, while the children scamper closer, vying for a spot on her comfortable lap.

Kuniko is a nurse with the Japanese Red Cross and she is at this evacuation centre in Yamada to offer psychosocial support to those who lived through the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.

It’s an important component to the health care being offered to thousands of survivors. “So many people are suffering from survivor guilt,” says Kuniko. “They question why they survived but their loved ones didn’t.”

It’s the job of this 37 year old nurse to get people talking about their feelings, but in a culture where people just don’t do that, it’s a challenge. “At first they hide their true feelings,” she says. “So when I first approach them, I simply ask them how they are, how they are spending their day. Then once they trust you, and they can see you are there for them they slowly begin to open up.”

Nightmares, difficulty sleeping and eating, crying, and hyperventilating are all signs of mental stress suffered after having gone through such an unimaginable event. Whether she’s connecting with the young or the old, Kuniko stresses the importance of building that bond. “If the children are playing, I will join in with them. I touch them. I hug them. Physical contact is so important. It symbolizes stability, something these children do not have at the moment. Their routine has been turned upside down. With the adults, I make eye contact. I show sympathy. I listen to them.” Through tears, Kuniko expresses concern that the stoicism people are showing right now is going to crumble as the memories of that day get replayed over and over again in their minds, causing them to re-live the trauma.

Psychosocial support is not a quick fix solution. Some will need support for years to come. It also isn’t only for those who actually experienced the horrors of March 11, 2011. It’s also critical for those people are coming in to help, whether they are search and rescue teams, crews tasked with clean-up, or the health care providers themselves.

In another city, about an hour’s drive away, 12 year old Mizuki leads visitors past her flattened house to her burned out school. Her family and friends survived, but virtually everything familiar to this little girl has been destroyed. “The tsunami took everything,” she says in a voice stronger than what you would expect. “I saved nothing. I miss my poster of my favourite band the most. I now spend my days helping my mother or walking around my town, just to see. As I walk, I think, ‘there used to be a house here’. It used to be a cheerful town.”

Mizuki says she doesn’t have nightmares, but she is very afraid of the water, and of another earthquake. The ground shakes with increasing regularity here, as hundreds of aftershocks continue to rattle the region. “She and her brother are very sensitive to the aftershocks,” says her mother Satomi. “They try to hide under the bed and to cover themselves. All I can do is speak to them, try to calm them down and give them lots of hugs.”

After reading the message, I feel up to come face to face with my “problems”, my inners and externals “earthquakes”. Actually everything that I used to consider as a problem turn into a tiny problem. Finally, I just smiled like Ayane Yamada and I do it today every moment I feel angry or sad. Even in worst situation Japaneses were able to teach us so much. Isn’t incredible?

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