Mar 2024


International Solidarity in Times of Disaster: 16 Latin American and Caribbean Ambassadors in Japan Visit the Disaster-Affected Noto Peninsula

On March 19, 2024, 16 Ambassadors to Japan from countries of the Group of Latin America and the Caribbean (referred to as GRULAC) visited disaster-stricken areas of the Noto Peninsula in Ishikawa Prefecture, hosted by Peace Boat Disaster Relief (PBV).


This visit was realized through the strong determination of the Ambassadors to directly convey messages of solidarity along with relief supplies to the victims of the Noto earthquake, which occurred on January 1. The delegation included Ambassadors of Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Costa Rica, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico (representative), Nicaragua, Peru, Uruguay and Venezuela. Peace Boat has long cooperated with members of GRULAC both in Japan and during our global voyages, and together with PBV also in April 2011 hosted a delegation’s visit to the city of Ishinomaki, deeply impacted by the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami the month prior.

The delegation first visited the city of Wajima City, including the morning market destroyed by fire, and the port, where land levels reportedly rose 1 to 2 meters because of the earthquake. The Ambassadors then paid a courtesy visit to Mayor Sakaguchi Shigeru at the Wajima City Hall. Ambassador Shorna K. Richards of Jamaica, who led the delegation, conveyed, “I felt that reconstruction will take a long time. We want to support and stand with you throughout the long process of recovery.” Mayor Sakaguchi responded with strong assurance, expressing the city’s appreciation of the delegation’s sentiments, and determination to rebuild both the morning market and the local Wajima lacquerware craft industry. He also shared the desire to visit the delegation’s countries once the reconstruction process has progressed.

From Wajima, the delegation then visited Oya Elementary School, now serving as an evacuation center. The centre’s leader kindly welcomed the group, sharing his experience of enduring the past challenging three months while navigating the new situation with the local community. The Ambassadors were deeply impressed, commending his leadership. Additionally, they offered words of encouragement to the elderly taking shelter at the centre, listening closely to their stories.

The group proceeded to the city of Suzu, where the Ambassadors were greeted by 60 bright smiles from the children of Tada Elementary School and their teachers. Due to the lack of functioning cooking facilities, school meals are currently provided through the support of PBV. The children, full of curiosity about the Ambassadors from distant countries, eagerly exclaimed phrases like “Bon appétit!” and “Provecho!” before energetically beginning their meals. They bid farewell with words of “Gracias!” as they received gifts from the delegation including chocolates from Venezuela, prunes from Chile, and banana chips from Jamaica.

Next was a visit to the local centre of PBV, where on site staff shared information about the ongoing relief activities. The Ambassadors drew parallels with their own country’s situations, as countries of Latin America and the Caribbean likewise experience various natural disasters such as earthquakes, hurricanes, and forest fires. The discussion included themes such as the necessity of infrastructure development, volunteer coordination, cooperation with local authorities, and matching support. The group also visited the Jikei district, where they were left speechless by the severity of the tsunami damage and expressed their heartfelt sympathy for the victims.

From there, the delegation met with Mayor Izumiya Masuhiro of the city of Suzu. Displaying a map of the Okunoto region of the peninsula, he outlined the many challenges faced by the city, including changes in terrain due to earthquakes, their impacts, evacuation situations, and population outflows. Suzu City, burdened with many issues, also lost the beautiful scenery that was the charm of its tourism industry. While Mayor Izumiya expressed regret, he also emphasised that “if something is broken, we just have to fix it;” choking up as he spoke. The Ambassadors empathized strongly with this strong and complex sentiment, and offered a heartfelt round of applause in solidarity. Ambassador Richards added, “just as Japan has extended a helping hand to Latin America and the Caribbean in times of natural disasters, we also promise to provide long-term support,” and concluded with the words, “Somos amigos (We are friends).”

Media reporting on the situation in the disaster-stricken areas of the Noto Peninsula has decreased compared to the initial period following the earthquake. However, the remaining damaged houses and ongoing water shortages make clear that the road to recovery will be long. This visit by the GRULAC Ambassadors surely conveyed a strong message of international cooperation, and served as an opportunity to explore new avenues of collaboration.

Ongoing support is vital

Due to the extensive impacts, continued support over a long period of time will be needed. We thank you for your ongoing support and cooperation.

Donate to Peace Boat Disaster Relief (PBV) through credit card payments, money transfer, Benevity, Give 2 Asia, or Yahoo! Japan internet donations.