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Maria in the UK

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Part of Aid For Japan’s mission is to reach out to some of the orphans from the tragic events of 2011. While the charity aims to connect with these children through the annual summer residential courses, it’s also beneficial for the orphans to visit the UK when the charity can arrange it.

For children that have lost their parents, this is an important step that not only broadens their view of the world but also reminds them that the world remembers them.

This year saw Maria making the journey from Japan. Maria is one of the children that Aid For Japan has supported since the early days of the charity (as seen in this special TV coverage).

At the end of July, Maria arrived in the UK to spend a break assisted by Aid For Japan and its team of volunteers. The first port of call was the Asian Wellness, Yoga & Vegan Festival in Richmond. The event featured yoga sessions, Tai Chi and Qi Gong classes while Aid For Japan staged origami and calligraphy demonstrations for enthusiastic attendees.

Maria was very tired by the afternoon, but perked up for a special evening welcome party staged at Tokyo Diner in London’s China Town.

One of Maria’s dreams was to travel on the Eurostar, so regular charity volunteer Angela and interpreter Shiori took Maria to London’s St Pancreas station for a trip to Brussels. During the journey, Maria took time to catch up on her science homework while the train zipped to its Belgian destination.

Arriving in Brussels, Maria enjoyed a walk around the main square – and tucked into a treat of a cone of strawberries dipped in chocolate. Belgium is world-renowned for its chocolate, something which Maria got to sample first-hand by visits to some of the city’s best chocolate shops.

After lunch, Maria enjoyed some of the rich culture of Brussels, which includes the ornate facade of the Town Hall and the visually stunning Cathedral of St. Michael and St. Gudula. Meanwhile, the famous Manneken Pis (a statue of a little boy peeing) raised some giggles.

After her adventures in the UK and Belgium, Maria returned to Japan, but sent a message back to her UK friends: “It was a good memory this summer. I really appreciate your kindness”.

Maria, like so many of the orphans of the 2011 earthquake/tsunami, is faced with the memories of that tragic event on a daily basis. Having the opportunity to enjoy a few days in a different environment, which brings them happier memories, is an important step in the road to recovery.

Aid For Japan extends its gratitude to all those that have helped with activities this summer, including the host families and special thanks to Angela Shaffer.