Trying to explain to a child why his world has suddenly been turned upside down after an event like the devastating natural disasters that took place last March in Japan is impossible. In situations such as these, parents are likely plagued with the same question weighing on their children's minds -- Why us? Why our home?
As a parent, I can only imagine what it must be like to have to tell your child that they can no longer go outside to play because of the toxic conditions, which months later still linger in the most heavily hit areas of Japan.
Recently, our partnership organization, With You Japan, created by IndyCar driver Takuma Sato, held an event to give some of these children the outdoor playtime they have been missing out on.
On July 18, children and their families were invited out to Mobi Park amusement park in Motegi, Japan to play and meet some of the top race car drivers competing in the nearby Indy Japan Finals.
On arrival, the kids were given hand-painted backpacks decorated by their "brothers and sisters" here in the United States. The bags were filled with a free one-day pass to the amusement park, a lunch voucher, and other goodies. Over 2,000 children and their families from surrounding areas were able to explore and play in the park's forest playground and Honda Fan Fun lab. A highlight for the kids? Go-karting with their favorite Indy drivers.
Sato thought long and hard about what to bring for the children and he decided on the backpacks because of the personal thought that went into them. The backpacks were decorated by children in South Central Los Angeles, who know only too well what it feels like to be a prisoner in their homes.
For the child in Watts who attended our South Central arts workshop in May, daily life consists of just hoping he will make it home from school safely and avoiding the dangers of street violence and gangs. He is hundreds of thousands of miles from Japan, but he came out to the May event to give back to another child who knows exactly what it is like to lose family members, to see his or her home destroyed, and to perhaps feel like there is no hope.
Children Mending Hearts is about children reminding other children that there is hope and that they are not alone. My wish is that when that child in Japan wears his colorfully painted backpack, he remembers not just the fun he had at With You Japan's event, but that somewhere far away there is another child who understands and who cares.
Follow Lysa Heslov on Twitter: www.twitter.com/childrenmending