The Last Batch Of Frogs

As keeper of the 500 Frogs blog, I owe everyone an apology for not updating more efficiently. This project has been an ongoing, worldwide effort for the past year and a half. Even though the internet gives us instantaneous communication, life still dictates daily duties. The home base for 500 Frogs is with Deb & Randy in California. Our logo was created by Therese in Switzerland. Frogs have been lovingly painted from all four corners of the world! I am in Florida. Our hope was to have all frogs pictured on this site. My intent was to have all the updates from Anne Thomas on this site. Even though they aren’t here now, it’s my plan to eventually get them archived for all to see. Deb has painstakingly documented everything. I’m honored to have been part of such an inspired out-pouring of love.

~ Kathleen Prince

Update from Deb Buckler – Founder 500 Frogs Project

Well folks…… we just shipped the last boxes of frogs to the children of Japan. 500 Frogs is over. I’m sitting here tonight thinking… OMG! 500 Frogs has been such a big part of my life for the past year and a half. I can’t imagine what my house will be like without all these little frogs everywhere!  It’s a little sad. But what a feeling of accomplishment!

Deb & Randy Buckler

500 Frogs happened because of US, the model horse world! Once it got rolling, I was able to get schools and churches and organizations all over to help send a beautiful, hand painted frog to a child in Japan who had lost so much in the March 11, 2011 disaster.  I had hoped to be able to send 500 frogs to Japan. But in the end, we have now sent 714 frogs!!! That’s a lot of little hand-made resin cast frogs! Together, we have done something truly phenomenal.

Each frog represents love.

As we all get on with our lives and struggle with our own problems, it’s easy to forget what happened in a country clear on the other side of the world, over a year and a half ago.  Here is a pretty good documentary video that is a collection of videos shot during the earthquake and the following tsunami. It wasn’t enough that their buildings and streets were ruined by the earthquake. It wasn’t enough that their towns and farmlands, families and friends were washed out to sea. Now what’s left of much of their country is poisoned by radiation leaking from the nuclear power plant in Fukushima.

Tsunami Documentary

Our amazing friend, Anne Thomas, has kept us updated on the progress and conditions in Japan. She has been instrumental in getting each one of our wonderful frogs safely into the hands of a child or elder who needs to know the world hasn’t forgotten them and cares about their grief. On September 30th, Anne will be taking this last batch of frogs to a school in Iwaki, a region badly hit by the tsunami. There will be a special festival honoring the sad events of the past year, so our frogs in all their brightly colored, hand made pouches, will be a delightful treat. As usual, Anne promises lots of pictures and a story of the event. I can not wait and I will absolutely keep you all posted!

Frog #600 created by Kollean Gouyton

Other good things came from the 500 Frogs effort. One of the biggest was the lone hold out fellow, Naoto Matsumura, who refused to leave the city of Tomioko so he could care for the animals and pets who had been left behind. Because we helped raise awareness about his struggle to care for and feed all the abandoned animals, my best friend, Nanci Caron, spearheaded a “chip-in” fund. Before long, $20,000 had been raised for his aid! Nanci is no longer involved with this project, but it continues on. Mr. Matsumura has now gotten non-profit status so he can help other people who have hidden out in various villages to feed the pets and animals. The out-pouring of love for the animals has been so wonderful to see.  And since he now has money, Mr. Matsumura has been traveling to the government officials and petitioning them to do more for the animals of Japan.

Mr. Matsumura’s site

Like bread cast upon the water or a tiny stone… the ripple effect has been amazing, so much good. I am humbled and thankful to be part of the good things that have happened. I am so thankful to every one of you who painted frogs, sewed pouches, donated. We all did this together. We made a difference in the world.

Lastly, a bit of harsh reality. We shipped out 5 boxes of frogs today, each one costing $81!!!!!  I almost fainted at the Post Office. I knew it would be expensive. I had scrounged together a little extra money but I was not prepared for $81 a box – at 5 boxes!!!  So now I’m begging for some more donations!  Please, if you can chip in anything it will help.

Frog #700 created by Melissa Buckler

Anyone sending $20 or more, I will send them a special “Thank You Frog” from 500 Frogs. Please! Please!  Paypal works great, just use our e-mail:

gotrandy@tcsn.net  

I was very worried when I wrote that check at the Post Office but Randy just says, “Hmmm… I wonder what God’s gonna do about THIS?”
I do love that man.

Frog #714 created by Valerie Dunham

I am a little melancholy tonight. I will miss 500 Frogs but know I will be “told” to do something else… heh, heh! Love you guys all so much.
Many Blessings ~
Deb

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Told Thru The Eyes Of Children

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One Year Ago…

Our world forever changed. We pray for you. We love you. Your 500 Frogs Family.

Candles floating in water by Scottie Prince


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Ishinomaki 11 Months Later

A letter from our friend, Anne…

Dear Family and Friends,

One of the most unsettling and surprising things in eastern Tohoku is the unevenness of the clean up work. A once damaged area may be pretty much bare by now. But even so, there might be an apartment building still standing with people living on the top floors. The rest of the structure might be broken and smashed up, but the second or third stories might have laundry hanging out on the veranda. Or a bicycle might be leaning against a wobbly pole that more or less held up the entire building.

I went to Ishinomaki last September and was shocked by the extent of the destruction in the area near the port. The hospital was in complete shambles and next to it a pharmacy tilted knee deep in water. There were frames of houses and piles of debris everywhere. And along one whole side of this expansive, tragic mess was a wall of bent and crunched vehicles. There were cranes and backhoes working constantly to gather rubbish, as trucks plied back and forth removing what had been collected.
At that time a sense of deep and ongoing emptiness could be felt everywhere. It was as if the souls of the recently deceased were lost and wandering hither and yon trying to find something familiar to hold on to. The effect on the living was eerie and haunting, worrisome and deeply sad.

Six months later, almost a year since the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami smashed into people’s ordinary lives, I ventured back to Ishinomaki to see how things were progressing. I was expecting the entire area near the sea to be cleared away, but to my amazement nothing seemed to have changed much. The shattered hospital that had visited me over and over again in my dreams was boarded up and roped off, but otherwise unchanged.

The buildings around it were still there, all worse for wear. Mud had turned to green slime and mold. And amazingly one vacated house, its windows intact and open, had curtains flapping in the fiercely cold strong winds of late winter. The school that had caught fire was still standing with its charred black empty face staring out to sea.

But as I looked more carefully, I realized most of the cranes had completed their major tasks and had moved on. Also I did not find the makeshift altar where the frantic noodle shop owner had showed me where his restaurant had once stood. But I did come across a newly erected stone slab with a Buddha carved on it. It stood alone and humble within the expansive area of house frames and scattered stones. In fact, it seemed to be an anchor collecting and comforting what was left of all that shattering.

The place itself felt empty this time. No spirits wandering, no howling, no cries of grief. Simply empty. Simply sad. With fringes of deep, unspoken depression and also wonder. Wonder as to what would become of that area, as to how the city officials would rebuild that land so close to the unpredictable, dangerous, yet abundant sea.
A Japanese friend who teaches in Ishnomaki kindly drove me up the coast so I could see what life there had become. That coastline was a series of coves, which before the tsunami had been pocketed with small fishing villages. Most were part of Ishinomaki City, but one large chunk was Onnagawa, where a now-closed nuclear power plant stood. Fortuitously that plant was high up and had been closed for inspection just before the tsunami. So unlike its Fukushima counterpart, it had not caused any problems. It remains closed, however.

Happily, even though there were no houses left in those small coves, we did see many working oyster boats bobbing in the waters nearby. That encouraging sign meant that slowly fishermen were getting back to the sea and trying to make a living from it once again.

There is a terrible problem of what to do with all the rubbish that is still accumulating as the clearing out process soldiers on.  We noticed that a few of the once beautiful larger coves had been turned into rubbish dumps. In fact, the famous bus perched on top of a three-story building in Ogatsu was still there, looking out over mountains of debris.

Other prefectures refuse to take rubbish from Tohoku. They fear nuclear contamination. Unfortunately, not only foreigners, but also many Japanese lump Tohoku into one huge area of contamination. Depending on who and where people are, opinions about the extent of the radiation vary greatly. Here is an amusing picture of those differences:

From top left to bottom right:
Top row:
1 = viewed by Tohoku People
2 = viewed by Kanto People (near Tokyo)
3 = viewed by Hokkaido People
4 = viewed by TEPCO People (Tokyo Electric Power Company)
Bottom row:
5 = viewed by Kansai People (Western Japan)
6 = viewed by Okinawa People
7 = viewed by The Rest of the World
8 = viewed by Japanese Politicians

This applies not only to rubbish but also to all products from this region. People are reluctant to buy agricultural goods, seafood, and meat. They choose not to come near this once popular area, despite its many scenic spots, delicious food, and salt-of-the-earth people. That means, of course, that the economic future of this region is very uncertain. Jobs that are emerging are individual and scattered. People who lost homes cannot afford a second mortgage to buy another one. School enrollments are down, some as much as 50%.  The suicide rate is climbing.

My friend’s home is just across the river from the Okawa Elementary School, where almost all the children, obeying evacuation procedures perfectly, were unable to escape and drowned. That tragic place is standing, but mostly ruins now. There is a small altar in front of the ruins, where hundreds of people have come to witness and to pray.

Since that incident was so shocking, and since it left such a deep and disturbing impact on people’s psyches, extra effort is being made to find and honor the bones of those very young victims. So far all but four have been retrieved. And the search goes on. When I was there, a backhoe was ever so carefully scraping down a hill of rubble, hoping to come across fragile human bones. If none or not all are found, there is talk of blocking off and draining that part of the river to allow a very thorough search. For Japanese this process is vitally important. How else can they properly honor the souls of their loved ones, allowing them to enter eternity in peace?

Although my friend lives in Ishinomaki, he had not been along that coast route for many months. “I was incredibly busy after the tsunami ruined much of my home,” he explained. “So all I did for four months was to clean up the mess. Now I’m exhausted – physically and emotionally – and all I want is to live a normal life again.”
He also said “My priorities really changed because of all this. Before I was keenly focused on my career.  I still care about my job and my students, of course, but they simply don’t hold me like they used to. I have two kids, aged four and two, and I want to spend as much time with them as I can. I love being a father and I want to be fully involved in the privilege and joy of that.”

He took me to his home and walked me through the long hard process of cleaning it up after the tsunami waters stood in it for two weeks. “I sent my wife and children to her family home. And then I worked from dawn to dusk. I shoveled out mud and threw away almost everything. It was backbreaking, but you know, I loved it. I simply focused and went to work. I adored the clarity of purpose. And because of that I had more energy that I think I ever had. It was great.”

“I’d go to the volunteer center to ask for help on occasion. But mostly I worked by myself. When my wife came back, we would go to the center where there were piles of donated items. We got sleeping mats for the kids there and other useful things. Also a friend from Sendai gave me old tatami mats, so we did not have to buy much. Actually, we don’t need or want much these days.”

“This old house used to belong to my grandparents. All the years we lived here – first me, later my wife, and later still my kids – the walls were dark and dreary and the place was full of their stuff. So for us the tsunami was a wonderful opportunity to start afresh. As you can see, the walls are now white and we have only what we need and no more. The space and sense of lightness are exhilarating.”

“We know the future is very uncertain. How long will my university stay open with so few students applying now? How long will we be able to stay here? We don’t know anything for certain. But I do know that I am happy this day. My wife and kids help to make me so.”

Then he looked at me very thoughtfully and said, “Yes, at this point in my life I feel like the happiest man in the world.”

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Our Modern Day Samurai

Our very special friend in Japan, Anne, was able to meet face to face with Mr. Naoto Matsumura! I’m amazed at the mountains this group is moving. We will have a detailed post in the near future.

His frogs.

 

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Very Special Frog

from our friend, Donna Lorello
Arcadian Creations

I asked Deb if I could do this and was able to offer up a commission slot for a painted frog with all proceeds going to Mr. Matsumura who is in Japan caring for the abandoned/homeless animals left behind after the tsunami disaster.  Someone took me up on it and asked for the frog to be painted like a blue and black poison dart frog and I complied.

The piece is now done and the payment will be turned over in donation to Mr. Matsumura and his continued efforts to help the animals.

I was so happy with the resulting paint job that the inspiration carried over to a customized Breyer SM now a seahorse thanks to the ever talented Shawn McNeely (the Plastic Surgeon). The seahorse is staying w/me!

I’ll also be shipping off a few more frogs for 500 Frogs.

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Special Frogs With A Special Purpose

Just wanted to share some of the beautiful frogs that were crafted by a
patient at Napa State Hospital. Are these lovely, or what! Two of them are being
donated to raise money for Mr. Naoto Matsumura, the caretaker for the animals left behind. Good people are everywhere! It’s our governments that keep us at each others throats.
Blessings abound!
~ Deb

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