Dec 2012


Hurricane Sandy Relief Volunteer Project: Japanese Volunteers Supporting Disaster Victims in New York

“In Japanese culture, it’s tradition to observe a moment of silence when you’re standing near the place where someone passed away. That’s why on a rainy Friday afternoon in Midland Beach, Yoshinobu Bandai took a moment to honor those who didn’t survive Hurricane Sandy — many victims were found just blocks from where he stood.” NY1, a New York based media, reports.

The March 11 disasters in Japan resulted in an outpouring of concern, support and solidarity from the United States, which has been truly inspiring and encouraging, and made a tangible impact on the lives of people affected by the disaster in the Tohoku region. Peace Boat decided to travel to New York to assess the needs in the wake of Hurricane Sandy to try to reciprocate the support that we received in Tohoku from the people of the US.

With a March 11 survivor from Ishinomaki Bandai Yoshinobu, in our team as a representative from the local Tohoku community hoping to directly show appreciation to the US community, a team of 9 Peace Boat staff and volunteers have been coordinating the relief effort in partnership with World Cares Center (WCC) and AmeriCares.

The team members work mainly in the Rockaways, Staten Island and Manhattan, depending on the needs on a day to day basis. In collaboration with WCC, deeply familiar with the characteristics of each region, Peace Boat team members coordinate WCC spontaneous volunteers as team leaders, distribute emergency supplies, conduct needs surveys, and perform administrative tasks to ensure all calls for assistance are handled efficiently and in a timely manner.

In some areas with severe damage survivors were offered the option to evacuate to hotels, however those structures are usually located far away and are not convenient for their daily activities. Survivors rather prefer to live in their own houses even though the first floor may be damaged, with health issues arising due to mold growth. Survivors are therefore wishing to have their houses made habitable once again. This requires a ‘muck-out,’ which includes removing debris, walls, and flooring, then mold remediation to ensure the house is safe to live in. As this work can only be done by hand, it is very labour intensive and requires substantial human resources. A massive injection of volunteers who are well-coordinated and work together with the local community is required to facilitate the return of local people to their homes and daily routines, and thus support the early re-generation of the community and the physical and psychological health of the residents.

Peace Boat will continue its volunteer coordination in collaboration with WCC until 17 December.