This is a letter from a couple in Ishinomaki thanking volunteers for their assistance in cleaning their shop as a first step towards rebuilding their lives. Thank you to all of the volunteers and to the community in Ishinomaki for their cooperation.
Photographs by Ueno Yoshinori of the situation and clean up activities at the fishing port of Koami Kurahama on the Oshika Peninsula, Miyagi Prefecture (around one hour from Ishinomaki City).
Many places within Ishinomaki still do not have any infrastructure such as electricity, water or gas, however in the central areas infrastructural reconstruction is gradually underway. However, even when running water is restored, the fact that most roadside drains are still filled with mud, sludge and debris has meant that water cannot be used in many cases. Volunteers are now working to clear these drains and ensure that running water can be restored.
The need for many volunteers to assist relief and recovery efforts in Ishinomaki are still crucial, yet the number of volunteers has been decreasing in recent weeks. In order to encourage more volunteers to participate, Peace Boat has revised the conditions for volunteers including the transport costs, required items, meals and so on.
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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 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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“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.
A delegation from Sri Lanka is now on the ground in Ishinomaki symbolising the importance of international cooperation. In 2004, Sri Lanka experienced an enormous tsunami, which caused immense damage to the country. All fifteen members of the group were involved in the relief efforts following the disaster which hit their own country. According to one of them, “the damage from the tsunami is the same. We have experienced the same tragedy, so we understand the distress and the needs of the survivors.”
“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.”
Over 180 non-Japanese volunteers, or ‘International Volunteers,’ have joined Peace Boat’s relief activities. As a rural town, Ishinomaki does not see many non-Japanese visitors, so the presence of International Volunteers is a source of fascination and encouragement for the locals. As many helping hands as possible is needed in Ishinomaki, and it is important to include non-Japanese in these efforts – both people resident in Japan and from elsewhere. Domestic news coverage of the destruction is on the wane. The presence of the international community still continues to be needed in Japan so that the devastation may not be forgotten, and efforts to rebuild can be continued together.