Peace Boat’s relief activities diversifying to respond to the evolving needs of the community in the affected areas, including now supporting the moves of survivors into temporary housing, ensuring a comfortable and liveable environment. This entry details the delivery of relief goods for 94 houses Peace Boat is supporting in Onagawa, 30 km from Ishinomaki.
On June 12 (Sun), just over three months since the earthquake and tsunami, Peace Boat held an event in Tokyo to reflect upon the relief activities of the past three months and consider next steps. This report tells of the efforts of volunteers, including international and corporate volunteers, in Peace Boat’s efforts to support emergency relief and the recovery of Ishinomaki.
Peace Boat volunteers are supporting the baths launched by NGO JIM-NET for evacuees and survivors, known as the “1000 Person Bath Project.”
“People were so happy when we first opened the bath. For the majority of them, it was their first chance to bathe since the day of the earthquake. While some young people had been able to make their way to the Self Defence Force baths or to relatives’ houses further away, it was much more difficult for elderly people. Many people told us that they were finally able to warm themselves, relax, and sleep well.”
“Noone is coming up here just for fun or to look around. You can tell that by their faces. Everyone has an expression of wanting to do anything that might be useful. We are so grateful for that. So, that is why I actively talk to the volunteers, hoping to make them certain that they are glad they came. From then, everyone calls out to me, waving and calling me Ban-chan! They ask me, “Ban-chan tell us your story.”” Mr Bandai hopes for volunteers to see as much of the damage as possible, so that he can convey to them the true, terrible power of the tsunami. At every such opportunity, he shares with the volunteers the story of his own experience of the disaster.
Peace Boat’s activities in Ishinomaki are being supported by many volunteers, including those who travel from throughout Japan and overseas to support the relief efforts. However, many members of the local community – themselves deeply affected by the earthquake and tsunami – are also joining Peace Boat’s activities. One such person is Bandai Yoshinobu, a driver who has been contributing immensely to recovery efforts in Ishinomaki by transporting many volunteers by bus to their mud-clearing work sites, or transporting mud and debris by truck.
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.
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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.
“I really wanted to protect even just this one tree,” said Ms Abe Mayumi, of Niidate in Ishinomaki City. Nine cars were piled up in the large persimmon tree during the tsunami, however because of this tree her house was not swept away, and there was minimal damage to the walls. It was as if the tree protected the Abe’s house and family.
Volunteer Shibata Ayako lost much of her family in the tsunami. “To understand what the survivors are having to go through. As a volunteer you are in a certain position that is ‘apart’ from the survivors…I feel it is important to bridge this gap.”