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Friday, Dec. 22, 2006

Quake survivor sees self in art by orphans

Staff writer

Nearly 12 years after losing his parents in the Great Hanshin Earthquake of 1995, Masaki Nishiyama still has a difficult time facing his loss. But the friendships he made this summer with others who had similar experiences has eased the pain a little.

News photo
Ashinaga President and founder Yoshiomi Tamai (left) and three orphans (from second from left) Nabukenya Ritah, Masaki Nishiyama and Hayumi Amada pose Thursday in front of illustrations by orphans at Gallery Hibiya in Tokyo. YOSHIAKI MIURA PHOTO

"I saw myself in those orphaned kids. I was glad to be able to communicate with them," the 19-year-old said Thursday at the opening of an exhibition of drawings by orphans from overseas.

Nishiyama, a freshman at the Japan College of Social Work, was one of the approximately 1,000 orphans, now high school and college students, who participated in a two-week camp organized in August by the Tokyo-based nonprofit organization Ashinaga.

One hundred orphans from 16 countries who lost their parents to illness and tragedies, including the Indian Ocean tsunami of 2004, the 9.11 terrorist attacks and Hurricane Katrina were also invited to Japan to participate.

The children were asked to put their feelings down on paper at the beginning and end of the two-week camp. Their drawings will be on display at Gallery Hibiya in Tokyo until next Tuesday.

Nabukenya Ritah, a freshman at Waseda University in Tokyo and an AIDS orphan from Uganda who participated in the camp, said the drawings express the grief the orphans experienced in losing their parents.

But the illustrations done at the end of the camp show the joy they felt through interaction with others and making new friends, she said.

Ashinaga compiled the drawings into a book and published them Wednesday under the title "The Dreams of 100 World Orphans."

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The Japan Times

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