Volunteer interview – Minagawa Sachi
Volunteer Minagawa Sachi gives a bright smile to all she meets, and creates attractive drawings and signs on cardboard boxes in an instant with just a marker. She becomes friends with children at relief distribution points straight away, playing with them and making them laugh. This makes sense upon hearing that she is a childcare expert working at a preschool.
Ms Minagawa, from Kyoto Prefecture, has been working as a preschool teacher for four years since graduating from college. “It is said that after three years you can be considered a professional, but for me I feel like it was only in my fourth year that I could be confident about my skills.” She has taken leave from her job as of April 1, deciding to commit this year to doing things she wants for herself. From this July, she will be travelling onboard Peace Boat’s 74th Global Voyage for three months.
“At the time of the earthquake on March 11, I was working at the preschool. The parents who came to pick up their children told us that something terrible had happened, but we didn’t know what they were referring to. Once I went home and turned the television on I was so surprised by the images appearing on the screen. But although I was very shocked, I still kept eating my dinner in front of the television. Thinking about it, I felt very uncomfortable by the gap between the world within the television screen and the world around me.
After that, although I was living in the same country – Japan – in the Kansai region in the west, there was barely any effect on our every day lives. I was thinking every day about what I could do myself to make a difference, but going on with things normally.
I volunteered to help fundraising by collecting donations on the streets in Osaka with Peace Boat. Doing this, I felt that I would like to support more directly by actually going to the affected areas myself.
I didn’t know if there was anything I could actually do by going there. However, sine I had recently left my job, it was possible for me to go. So I thought that maybe I could be more useful in the affected areas instead of just waiting at home.”
Since arriving in Ishinomaki on April 30, Ms Minagawa has been responsible for delivering meals prepared by Peace Boat and relief goods.
“The needs are continually changing, so we are always thinking about what items to take each day, what people are needing the most. Although there is not a great amount we can do, it is so fulfilling when we can make people happy by the meals or supplies we are bringing.”
At the time that Ms Minagawa arrived in Ishinomaki, she met briefly with a fellow volunteer and friend from Osaka who had already been there for a week and was on the way home. Her friend left saying that “I would really like to extend and stay for another week, but I can’t put off work any longer, so unfortunately have to go home.” Initially, Ms Minagawa was surpised to hear that her friend wanted to stay for two weeks.
“However, after working on deliveries for a week I really understood what she meant. There is so much more to do. It is important to continue the delivery operations. When the staff change each week, some work is also cut off during the changeover. Also, the relationships created with the local residents have to be started again from scratch. It is such a shame to have to go home at that stage. Because I don’t have a job I have to return to, I didn’t think twice about wanting to stay for another week.”
Ms Minagawa says that after volunteering for a week, she very much felt the huge need of volunteers in the recovery process. She is also worried about what will happen if the number of volunteers decreases.
“There are many people gathering here from all over Japan and even overseas to take action together. And of course we are working together with the local people for recovery. Looking at this happening, it is amazing to see what we can achieve together. Although the lives of the town and people will never go back to as it was, the community is working hard to create a new life together. I really hope that I can continue to contribute in some way to this.”