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08/09/2007

The First Dialogue Friends have been sent!

From August 3rd to 5th we had carried out the first operation of the Dialogue Friends, which is part of our "Chuetso-oki earthquake volunteer program".

The nine people who took part of this operation began their activities in the community center of Betsuyama where many people are taking refuge. They helped with clearing and cleaning areas. They also visited individual homes to help with fixing the gardens and other places damaged by the quake.

After all that, they took some rest and shared tea with the people at the refuge center where they were welcomed warmly even by those who haven't had a sip of warm tea since the earthquake.

There are also some people who hesitate to have strangers like us, and some others who have hearing disabilities, living at the refuge center. Still, as soon as we began to serve tea and played some games with them, they approached and happily joined us.

The streets outside of the refuge center show how fast the restoration works are being conducted. That is typical Japan. But on the other hand, we can also see a welfare bus that serves as the legs for all of the elderly. In spite of all the portable gas stoves provided, the supplies bought, the medicine given, there is no way to get to the public baths away from the refuge center.

A 90 year old lady who was born, married and raised her children in Betsuyama, has lived alone since her husband died 20 years ago, until the earthquake happened. She lived here for her entire life, and to see buildings from as far back as the Edo Period fall down.

She mentions that she is now living at the refuge, but still goes to her vegetable farm everyday. She is worried about the possibility of moving into a temporary shelter within walking distance from the farm, but at the same time she reckons with a smile that hers are small worries if compared to a war situation.

We were supposed to go help these people, but were overwhelmed by their strength. We are thankful for all we learned together.

August 9, 2007 in Niigata |