Nine teenagers from an area of Japan devastated by a tsunami in 2011 visited a camp at a children’s rehabilitation hospital in Toronto on Tuesday.

The students, who are between the ages of 13 and 17, joined Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital camper doing arts and crafts at the Spiral Garden, a day camp for children with and without physical and cognitive challenges.

The visit was sponsored through a non-profit organization in Japan called Support Our Kids, which helps children traumatized by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in the country.

Karl was just eight years old at the time. He spoke in halting English about his memories.

“My house is high, so my house (doesn’t get) damaged from tsunami, but my house was damaged by earthquake,” says Karl, who is now 16 years old. “I (went) into the home. My important things were broken, and the electricity and water was stopped.”

He says he hopes Canadian kids know how lucky they are to live in an area that’s relatively safe from earthquakes.

Holland Bloorview CEO Julia Hanigsberg said that despite the language barrier, the children understood each other very well.

“Many of the kids at Holland Bloorview don’t communicate in traditional ways. They may not be able to speak to communicate, but they can communicate with each other and interact making an artistic piece, or through making music and that’s what this morning was really all about.”

Toronto philanthropists James and Chako Matsumoto have been organizing trips to Canada for Japanese teens from the Tohoku region for several years. Next year will be the last year the program will operate, as Support Our Kids was a 10-year-commitment.

Both James and Chako Matsumoto hope that the children who participated in the program, who once so desperately needed help, will now be able to reach out and help others.

Chako Matsumoto says she’s seen the emotional development in many of the kids.

“They are thinking about exploring their lives and growth. They come back this year and they are the helpers this year”

Tuesday’s events included flag-painting, music, a parade and a presentation involving Rugby Canada star Al Charron.

Charron will bring a colourful flag, decorated by the all children at the Spiral Garden, to Japan with the Canadian National Rugby team for the 2019 Rugby World Cup this fall.