The Ogatsu landscape has further changed in recent months. All building structures that remained in one form or another after the earthquake and tsunami have been torn down including the former town hall which served as a storage and work area over the past 2.5 years. With the help of your generous donations, Hands on Tokyo (HOT) was able to build the first permanent structure in Ogatsu since March 11th – the new community center known as O-Link House. HOT volunteers helped paint and did landscaping before O-Link House opened a few months ago. Surrounded by vast open spaces, this community center serves as a beacon of hope for the former residents of Ogatsu who still hope to return home someday.
In July we held a workshop at O-Link House for HOT volunteers to study the impact of our activities since the March 11th earthquake and tsunami and to consider how we can continue to support the Ogatsu area. The next day we supported the “Sea Urchin Festival,” a very popular event in Ogatsu over many years. This was the second such festival since March 11th and many former residents and visitors attended. HOT volunteers helped O-Link House serve drinks, food and summer festival sweets. It was very good seeing so many smiling faces in Ogatsu.
While delivering over 300 Halloween goodie bags to two elementary schools in the Ogatsu area, HOT volunteers recently paid a visit to O-Link House and were very happy to see how it is being used as a gallery for local artists, a place to train the next generation of inkstone carvers (an important traditional craft which was centered in Ogatsu prior to the tsunami) and a lovely café run by former Ogatsu residents serving delicious coffee, homemade cakes and chocolate and berry parfaits. It is very important to have provided a means for former Ogatsu residents to earn a livelihood once again in Ogatsu. Thank you for empowering them with such an opportunity through your generous donations.
With your continued support, on a going forward basis, we will continue to plan volunteer trips to Ogatsu to help maintain the community house, to clean local beaches so that people from the greater Sendai area will continue to visit the area and thereby support the local economy, to hold special events in Ogatsu to support and encourage those who are waiting to move back to Ogatsu and to support others in the Ogatsu area in their continued efforts to relaunch their former businesses or start new businesses.
Since our last report, HOT volunteers also continued to support a local farmer – Saito-san -- in Yamamoto-cho who needed assistance rebuilding one of his greenhouses and staking growing red and green pepper plants. He and his wife could not have done this without the support of volunteers given the nature of the tasks and the labor shortage in certain parts of Tohoku.
Going forward, we plan to organize more volunteer trips to further support Saito-san and others in Tohoku as they work hard to further rebuild their lives.
Thank you in advance for your continued support.
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