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Volunteers Mix with Locals in Disaster-stricken Areas

JEN has been involved in wide range of activities including helping victims make a living and restore their communities since right after the disaster in the Oshika Peninsula, the city of Ishinomaki. Its activities to restore communities have been conducted mainly in the Ohara district located in the middle of the peninsula.

Two thirds of the people in the district were left homeless by the tsunami, forced to live in shelters. With another third of them escaped getting their houses destroyed, the difference in living conditions once drove the two sides even too further. The united efforts together by the people to resume their traditional festival, however, were able to lead to overcome the difference, the people working to settle in a higher ground together.

【Volunteers and locals rallied before the Ohara Community Center】

On March 29, about forty people from the district and volunteers from outside participated in housecleaning the Ohara Community Center and other facilities. The center was affected by the tsunami but restored by the help of the volunteers across the country, and has been provided free of charge for volunteers in the peninsula where no accommodations were available after the disaster. The local authorities have planned to demolish it at any time in point, but it’s still a vital space for the community to maintain connections among people because no new alternate spaces haven’t been built.

【Bedding and tatamis were aired out.】

The participants are divide in to three groups to share the cleaning work; the Ohara Community Center, a conversation lounge attached to temporary quarters, and other places including a park, a small library, and a bus station.

The first group was assigned to the Ohara Community Center and gave a thorough cleaning even to places that are usually neglected, airing out tatamis and bedding, cleaning overhead lights and swabbing floors, wiping windows and screens. So the center looked so good that the locals hardly recognized it, one of them saying “Did we have this bright a room?”

【They cleaned rooms from ceilings to floors.】

The second group worked on fixing fences and then getting walls and playground equipment painted, the third cleaning air conditioners, fans and windows. After completing their assignment, the second and third group started preparing to serve “Okuzukake”, an Ishinomaki’s specialty dressed in a sauce made from arrowroot starch, for lunch with help from women taking shelters in temporary quarters.

【They prepared lunch at a conversation lounge.】

The volunteers and the locals had cheerful chatting over lunch, enjoying eating rice balls, “Okuzukake”, and marinated wakame seaweed. One of the volunteers expressed his/her impression saying “Having contact with you, I’ve realize it’s because you have the mentality to cherish a spirit of mutual assistance that you can be positive even in tough living conditions.” A word of thanks from the locals was that, thanks to help from volunteers, they have been able to face difficulties after the disaster, and they are very happy to see the volunteers again this time. The day’s activity was over after the participants shaking hands each other. The locals said “Come visit us again!”

【The volunteers said good-by to the locals with a handshake.】

JEN is committed to continuing help people live a forward-looking life.

【JEN is now asking for donations. Donate here

April 16, 2015 in Tohoku earthquake |