Oct 2011


Cleaning Assistant Director (AD) (Part 1)

Ichijo Kenji, nicknamed Mantle, is responsible for the cleaning operations in Ishinomaki (mud clearance and cleaning). Here, he is preparing the heavy machinery and driver allocation for the following day's operations at the Ishinomaki Disaster Recovery Assistance Council.

As the local needs change with every day, the Peace Boat volunteers are also required to adapt to developments in their varied activities. This report follows Cleaning Team Assistant Director Ichijo Kenji for a day. Mr Ichijo, known as Mantle, has been in Ishinomaki since March 21 when he travelled ahead to prepare to receive the first 50 volunteers, and since then has been responsible for debris clearance and home cleaning activities.

Just after 7am, the team eats breakfast on the move while preparing for departure.

After waking around 6:30, Mantle shows no tiredness as he gets ready for the day, leaving his current home at Kozan (where Peace Boat’s Headquarters and Central Kitchen are located).

Driving to the work place for the day, around 1.5 hours away

Today’s work will be carried out at Kobuchihama on the Oshika Peninsula. This was an active fishing port town, however was severely affected by the tsunami.

Operations here are not only cleaning but also supporting the revival of the local fishing industry.

Just after 8am, Mantle arrives and heads straight to the work location

Straight after arrival, work begins quickly. Even areas near the port which were once rice fields are now totally covered in masses of debris and fishing equipment that was dragged up by the tsunami.

Today, volunteers are working to remove the debris in this area and recover any equipment that could be used again. Although operations in this location have been undertaken since several days ago, due to bad weather and land substinence, as well as changes in the tide and flow of water, daily safety checks are absolutely essential.

Explaining changes from the day before and today's procedures to the volunteers as they arrive

As the time for volunteers’ activities to begin comes closer, many buses full of volunteer members arrive on site. Today, there are around 70-80 people who are in Ishinomaki either as individuals or part of corporate volunteer groups. Because the arrival of each bus is at a different time, Mr Ichijo explains the same information to each group as they arrive.

“Volunteers in disaster areas must be flexible.” This is something that is shared with all volunteers, and the AD is careful to ensure they have enough information. It is obvious that Mr Ichijo has learned through experience the importance of always being flexible under changing conditions.

The explanations and briefings for volunteers on their first day of activities is particularly important. While this of course includes the contents of their work and procedures, information about the damage caused to the particular location, the current situation there, cautions in regards to heatstroke or industries, evacuation procedures in case of aftershocks, and many other detailed information is carefully shared with volunteers. As well as helping to ensure their safety, this also helps reduce the concerns of each individual volunteer, something which is important to create an environment in which they can concentrate on the work ahead. Of course, energetic greetings and a sense of humour is also something important, as the ADs work to create an atmosphere in which everyone can work comfortably and enjoyably.

On site, Mantle explains the work procedures while fielding many questions from volunteers.

Volunteers at work. Even in such a big area, the AD works hard to keep an eye on each part of the site.

And of course the AD also joins directly in the activities. Teamwork on site is crucial.

In consideration of the heat and strenuous work, a 10 minute break is taken each 30 minutes.
Lunch is between 12 noon and 1 pm, and during that time each team or group forms a circle.
Mr Ichijo checks the situation with each of the team leaders, and chats with the local fishermen while preparing for the afternoon’s work.

Giving thanks for the day's work after completion is also an important moment of the day.

Considering high tide and travel times, work for the day is brought to an end at 2:30 pm. After clearing up and changing clothes, all members departed from the port by just after 3pm. Mr Ichijo then speaks some more with the fishermen, checks for items left behind, and heads back to the headquarters.

From here starts the rush of meetings held each evening.

(Continued in Part 2)