The Sci-Files – 12/12/2021 – Kayleigh Ward – Building Community in Japan After Disasters

Chelsie Boodoo and Daniel Puentes

Kayleigh Ward PresentingKayleigh is a Ph.D. Student in the Department of Sociology and Environmental Science and Policy. Following the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake, many coastal communities along the northeastern coast were completely decimated. In the following 10 years, various efforts have been made by national, prefectural, and local governments to assist residents as they recover from the disaster. However, these rural areas already had major social and economic problems they were handling prior to the disaster. Kayleigh’s research partnered with one such community, Minamisanriku, in order to evaluate social and economic problems related to a lack of jobs, lack of businesses, lack of social resources, high depopulation, and other issues associated with rebuilding. Kayleigh and her community partners focused on evaluating how residents handle these types of problems and how they utilize their social resources, such as family and business connections, and organization connections, to manage them. Their project combined creating community programs and research to help residents improve their skills, problem-solving, and collaboration skills over the past year to help support their recovery. Working with four other community organizations, the project analyzed more than 2,600 relationships in the community and showed that some residents are very isolated from each other, require different assistance, and that power dynamics generally exclude residents from having their opinions, ideas, and concerns heard. Through the project, her partners were able to identify new areas and new programs to assist residents, and Kayleigh developed a variety of policy recommendations that will go on to help other communities in similar situations in the future.