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.
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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