660 volunteers during Golden Week break – creating a new base for volunteers
It is now Golden Week, with several public holidays in a row in Japan. Many people are using their vacation time to travel to affected areas and volunteer.
During this time, Peace Boat is coordinating 480 people in Ishinomaki for the week – the most at one time until date. As well as this weekly group, Peace Boat has also organised a shorter programme for 180 volunteers to travel from Tokyo from May 2 and spend three nights / five days volunteering in Ishinomaki. The maximum number of volunteers Peace Boat has coordinated at one time in Ishinomaki has been 380 people. As a result, there will be 660 volunteers working in Miyagi with Peace Boat during Golden Week.
During this time, it is expected that there will also be an enormous increase in individuals approaching the Disaster Volunteer Centres in affected areas (run by the local Social Welfare Councils). Today in Ishinomaki in fact, there were 2000 volunteers at work – more than double the usual number.
Many of these volunteers are coming from other prefectures throughout Japan. While more pairs of hands for work such as clearing mud and debris are absolutely vital, being able to secure places for these volunteers to slep has been a challenge. Until now Peace Boat has been able to base its headquarters tent and also sleeping tents for both volunteers and staff on the grounds of the Ishinomaki Senshu University campus, however because of the huge influx of people during Golden Week this is becoming more difficult.
In order to prepare for the irregular situation during Golden Week, Peace Boat has been able to secure some space at the Numazu Camp area, also in Ishinomaki, and has transferred the sleeping tents for around half of the volunteers to this site. Furthermore, considering the severe environment, Peace Boat has also been ale to locate another indoor space to use within Ishinomaki City as a volunteer centre and base.
The building that will be the new Peace Boat volunteer centre in Ishinomaki was also hard-hit by the tsunami, with waves reached a height of two metres. The building was filled with destroyed office equipment, furniture and tsunami sludge. Despite the tight schedule, volunteers worked hard to clear the building so that it would be usable during Golden Week.Just before the greatest influx was expected to enter Ishinomaki on May 3, the mud clearing was complete. Preparations for use are now underway, with one large room for sleeping accommodations, a generator and computer, other office items, and storage space for mud clearing equipment, cooking equipment and relief supplies. This indoor space will surely be of great use during the approaching rainy season, and help Peace Boat’s efforts to contribute to the full recovery of Ishinomaki as soon as possible.