It has been one year and a half since the earthquake, and still a lot of work to be done. We have heard that there are many students that wanted to participate in volunteer activities, but did not know how to go about doing so, or worried about their Japanese speaking abilities. With a few of the SSAJ members are familiar with the volunteer scene at Tohoku, we put our organizational skills to good use and successfully organised an SSAJ Volunteer Trip to Ootsuchi, Iwate Prefecture, from 1 June to 4 June 2012, and 44 participants (both Singaporeans and international friends) took the weekend to clean up Kiri Kiri Beach. Below are the details of how it went!
1 June, Friday: Set off in night bus
Few of us glamorously taking care of bags while the rest of the group leaders set off to buy breakfast for the participants
June 2-3: Cleaning of Kiri Kiri beach
We set out there with the mindset that we would help whatever the locals need help with and cause minimum trouble, be it digging up sludge from the drains or clearing trash from abandoned sites. We were tasked with cleaning up of Kiri Kiri beach over the weekend, shoveling sand onto trays with holes that function like filters and filtering the debris off the sand.
Although huge chunks of debris was already cleared in the beach, there were still tiny pieces of wood, shards of glass and broken pieces of rope and plastic hidden in the sand that makes it still unsafe to walk on with bear feet.
On the lunch of the 2nd day, Watanabe-san bravely shared with us his experience when the earthquake and tsunami occurred in Ootsuchi on the fateful day, where he served as a caregiver at an old folks’ home. It had been a close call for him and in the end, he reminded us that he did not tell the story for us to take pity on him, rather to pass the message that life is precious, and while many things may not go our way through the course of our lives, if we have a chance to live, he learnt that any problem can be solved.
Though it was a short trip, we are glad to have made a difference in the lives of the people in Ootsuchi, and pass on the story of the survivors to our friends. There is still a lot more work to be done, and we are also very heartened that many of the participants this time round are looking into participating in more volunteer trips for disaster relief in Tohoku.