Saturday, October 22, 2011

Volunteering in Ishinomaki

This weekend we went to the orientation meeting for the volunteer trip next week up to Ishinomaki in Tohoku (northern Japan) during our week's vacation from the university. Ishinomaki was greatly damaged by the earthquake and subsequent tsumani. Approximately 20% of the population was killed. Some of the more dramatic tsunami video footage you may have seen came from Ishinomaki. Even more than six months later, the recovery, restoration and rebuilding efforts are still ongoing and desperately needed.

We are going with Peace Boat and their "Emergency Relief Operation" and will spend a week with many other volunteers, international and Japanese, helping as best we can. Our friend, Chris (another Asia University teacher) participated in the same program in September and gave it a rousing endorsement

Peace Boat's work is focused on three main areas: general clean up (drainage ditches along the sides of roads, flooded homes, etc.), construction of temporary housing, and helping the fishing industry (salvaging equipment, cleaning up the shore, etc.). At this point, we don't know which one we will be helping with.

The group will take a night bus from Tokyo on Friday evening. On Saturday, we start work. Our shared accommodations will be a large, unheated room on the second floor of a now defunct cleaning business. Basically, we will be camping and need sleeping bags, sleeping pads, etc. Peace Boat will provide a brown bag lunch and a bento box dinner; we are responsible for breakfasts and miscellaneous snacks. There is a convenience store ten minutes away by foot, but they encouraged us to bring everything we might need or want. There should be access to showers (an onsen?) every other day, but it will be dirty work with no access to laundry facilities.

We are a little nervous but excited about this trip and are really grateful for the chance to help. Even though we can only do a little bit, it is important that people affected by this disaster know they are not forgotten and that people still want to help.

Stay tuned for photos and info (although we may have limited access to electricity and won't do much with the Internet).

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