Children at Suzu Evacuation Facility Cheer up Adults with Practical, Heartwarming Handmade Newspaper

The Yomiuri Shimbun
A shelter in the town of Shika, Ishikawa Prefecture.

SUZU, Ishikawa — With over 20,000 people continuing to take shelter following the Jan. 1 Noto Peninsula Earthquake, children are cheering up adults by creating a handwritten newspaper at an elementary school in Suzu, Ishikawa Prefecture.

About 10 elementary and junior high school students, who are taking shelter at Shoin Elementary School, started the handwritten newspaper on Jan. 4. They pin up their creations on the walls of the school building, with each issue written on a sheet about 80 centimeters long and about 1 meter wide.

The newspaper shares some important tips for living at the evacuation center. “It would be really frightening if an infectious disease broke out. If you are not feeling well, please report it immediately,” it said. There is another line saying, “Water and cups are valuable, so use them with care.”

An evacuation center was set up at the public elementary school after a powerful earthquake struck the peninsula on New Year’s Day. Evacuees at the facility have been helping each other since then, divided into several groups such as one for medical care and another for preparing meals. Watching them work, young evacuees also felt like doing something and came up with the idea of creating a newspaper.

The children hold an “editorial meeting” every morning, discussing the topics to cover and the layout of the day’s issue before completing it in about two hours.

The newspaper features a wide range of topics. For example, it offers useful tips for daily life, such as how to use temporary toilets, while also calling for wearing masks and ventilating rooms to prevent an infectious disease from spreading. Some heartwarming articles are also featured, such as a ranking of the evacuation center’s most delicious meals.

The children produce each issue by interviewing the adults who are running the evacuation center and getting advice from them.

The latest issue is posted at the main entrance of the school building so that many people can see it. Back issues are also pinned up in the hallways and stairways.

“We can provide a variety of information on our own,” said a first-year junior high school girl who serves as one of the editors. “I’m glad because we feel fulfilled [from creating the newspaper].”

Currently, about 260 people, of whom 70% to 80% are 65 or older, are taking shelter at the elementary school. Evacuees welcome the children’s newspaper, finding it convenient because even people with mobility issues can get information at a glance without having to move too far from the classrooms where they are staying.

“This is a wonderful innovation,” one evacuee said. “I can feel the children’s youth, which cheers me up.”

It is likely that many residents in Suzu will be unable to return home anytime soon, because many houses were destroyed by the earthquake and water is still cut off for about 4,800 households throughout the city.

“We’ll continue to make a newspaper that will bring smiles to people at the evacuation center and cheer them up, while sharing necessary tips that they should be careful about,” said another first-year junior high school girl.