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.
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.”
“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.”
“The Japan Soccer Legend Players Club” (a welfare organization consisting of well-known Japanese soccer players) is collaborating with Peace Boat for a goodwill soccer event to be held in Ishinomaki. Many schools have re-opened in Ishinomaki now, however after-school sport clubs are not operational yet. Physical exertion is essential for a healthy body and mind, especially for children in such a difficult situation. Peace Boat especially felt the pressing need to carry out events such as this for the local children.
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?
“I was one of the lucky ones to have not been killed. I owe a lot, and I cannot ever take my life for granted now,” restaurant owner Sakuma Ikuko says.
“I really appreciate the work being carried out by Peace Boat, and I want them to know that. So that’s why we are letting the volunteers stay in our main dining hall. I have nightmares about the tsunami every night. I get swallowed up by the waves and the moment that I think I’m going to die, I wake up. When I do wake up, all I see out of the window are the endless mountains of debris. A darkness was beginning to consume me and I didn’t think I could make it through… but then, I saw the young Peace Boat volunteers, with their boundless energy, partaking in sludge and debris removal. They gave me courage and the drive not to give up. That is what Peace Boat gave me.”
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.