In Ishinomaki, if provision of meals through NGOs and other citizens’ groups was to cease, many people would still not have access to any food other than rice balls and bread provided through donations. Considering this situation, Peace Boat decided to open a Central Kitchen in order to increase the number of meals that can be provided, improving efficiency, safety and hygiene.
The Moriya Fruit and Vegetable Store was the first of the shops in Ishinomaki to reopen on the central street of Ishinomaki, on April 13 – just over one month after the disaster. Of course the situation is still extremely difficult, yet the existence of such stores continuing to open and provide a service to the local community is giving an important hope for recovery. Peace Boat will continue to assist with clearup and recovery efforts in order to support the activities of shops such as the Moriya Fruit and Vegetable Store.
Peace Boat will hold an event in Tokyo on June 12 (Sunday) to report on its activities in Ishinomaki in the three months following the devastating earthquake and tsunami of March 11.
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“Every little bit helps. All you need is empathy, to put yourself in the shoes of the survivors,” states Peace Boat staff member Ueshima Yasuhiro. “The area of Chuo-cho, where we first started the clean-up operation, is looking remarkably better now… It is a symbol of what can be achieved through cooperation between the local populace and volunteers. We’ve seen shop owners ready to throw in the towel, believing that there was no future, regain their fighting spirit and open up shop again. Alone, people may become despondent….but bring forces together, and people gain courage. I strongly believe this to be true.”
“They are still so many houses and buildings that need to be cleaned out. The road ahead is long and no where near finished.”
Interview with Relief Project Coordinator – “as long as the needs exist, it is important to ensure enough volunteers”
“For example, it is so important to make sure that the efforts are sustainable – that we can guarantee to provide meals not only today, but also tomorrow. If the number of volunteers decreases, it will be difficult to maintain the activities we are responsible for at the moment, and so we really want to ask volunteers to continue coming to Ishinomaki. Also, those people who have already volunteered once have a good understanding of the situation and the work itself, and so it is a huge help if people can come to volunteer more than once, also.”
“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.”
Peace Boat staff member Ueshima Yasuhiro (29) has been acting as coordinator for the approximately 2000 volunteers that Peace Bot has dispatched to Ishinomaki over these past two months. He’s been stationed in Ishinomaki since just after the quake and has stayed put for the duration. How have the last 2 months been through his eyes? How will the needs and requirements of the volunteers change over the coming weeks and months?
Peace Boat stores all donated relief goods at the indoor baseball training hall on the Ishinomaki Senshu University campus. Relief goods include food, sanitary goods, household items for everyday use as well as equipment required for sludge and debris removal. Volunteers working at the storage area keep tabs on all items incoming and outgoing. They are also responsible for keeping items stored and separated according to category.
“Sometimes you will find letters addressed to the survivors of the quake in boxes of donated relief goods. Whomever sent the items express their solidarity with the survivors…really, it made me well up with tears when I came across that letter.” says a storage area volunteer.
The distribution of hot meals by Peace Boat is carried out in coordination with a number of other organizations conducting the same service. Meetings are held between the groups to determine how many meals need to be distributed to which area.
The ‘delivery team’ is then responsible for the safe distribution of the prepared food.
On the day of this post, 1000 meals prepared by the Kitchen team were to be distributed throughout 8 areas in the region, along with other relief goods.