On April 6, Japan Emergency NGOs (JEN) invited me on a visit with their staff to see some of the communities they are working with in the Tohoku region, where last year’s earthquake and tsunami devastated hundreds of miles of coastline and towns. I came to JEN’s local field office in Ishinomaki and met with three of their staff: Taku Kawada, Hiroyuki Kogure, and Tetsuo Kimura. We started the day with an overview of the work that JEN has carried out over the past year – from food distribution and rubble removal early on, to longer-term efforts to rebuild communities more recently. JEN is currently working in 13 of the most hard-to-reach temporary housing compounds in the Ishinomaki area. This means not just the JEN choose to work in areas hard-hit by last year’s disaster, but that JEN goes out of their way to find and assist the communities furthest away from other services.
This certainly seemed the case during the rest of our site visit. At about 10am, we piled into the car and drove out of the city to Oshika Peninsula, where about 2,000 people now live. We continued driving until the road turned into a dirt path. We passed oyster beds and fishing boats, in town after town we saw the destruction the tsunami left in its wake. We finally arrived at one of the temporary shelter homes, where we saw container after container filled with families who had lost their homes last year. We went into the community
Throughout the rest of the day I saw a lot of other projects JEN is running in the Ishinomaki area – from children’s centers to fishing projects. It’s clear that the work their doing is needed and appreciated by the community. Perhaps the most impressive thing, however, was not the work that is being done, but rather the plans the JEN staff continue to develop to further their work in these communities –and the passion in which they execute those plans.
During my visit we talked about the need for further psycho-social support for survivors of this disaster, as well as innovative ideas to re-start businesses in the region. JEN is continuing to raise funds for their efforts in Tohoku and plan to stay in the area for several years to come. Seeing the work that JEN is carrying out, and talking to the people affected by donations like yours, made me was proud to be a GlobalGiver!
Relief & Re-establishment activities for those affected by the Tohoku Pacific Area Earthquake
Miyagi Prefecture, Ishinomaki City and nearby villages
Activities during September, October & November 2011
[Distribution of daily goods to temporary shelters completed, yet…]
In the end, completed daily goods distribution consists of 70items to 6,800 temporary shelters (originally planned for 7,000) at the end of September. Then, JEN start preparing to distribute air-conditioning devices for the coming winter, allocated for the people who decides NOT to take temporary shelters, but live in the rented (by the government) houses. This situation occurred due to the lack of land for temporary shelters and the kind “choice” given by the local government.
Formally acted as “Soup Kitchen”, 3 soup kitchens had turned into “Community Space” since the end of July to maximize the strength of the revitalization of the communities and to respect their motivation to keep the physically and mentally damaged communities. In July, before the soup kitchen close, the residents who benefited had been acting with a sign of being “self-reliant”. Therefore, JEN gained the confidence of let themselves run the spaces. Soon after “Community Space” starts functioning, many variety of activities were installed; such as Hand craft class, Play class (for kids), Choreography class and legal consultation. These 3 spaces are acting as the roll model for next 15 spaces which JEN is planning to install at the temporary shelters.
JEN is planning to open more than 15 community spaces by the end of this year as part of their unique psycho-social care assistance. They will be installed at the temporary shelters. As of October, tea party at 5 compounds (our of 131 in Ishinomaki) have been organized by JEN so far. More to come in year 2012.
[Mud busters are transforming into…]
JEN continues to coordinate volunteer activities in wider community. To date almost 4,000 JEN volunteers contributed to clean both public and private properties. In addition to that, JEN start supporting fishermen who works for fish production industry who were forced to stop their business, for nearly 7months, due to 1)shortage of tools – wiped away by Tsunami, 2) human resources – need to catch up. The former is supported financially by JEN and the latter is supported by volunteers who give hands. This indicates that JEN is reaching the remote area of Ishinomaki, where were abandoned by delivering the support for months. Aiming to establish the good relationship with locals for both physical and psycho- social recovery. This is essential to avoid the depopulation as the remote area were suffering from it even before the disaster hit the area.
It is also the beginning of the livelihood support, direct to the affected fishermen in Ishinomaki.
JEN continue to seek for volunteer from general public.
Not only for fishermen, JEN supports local logistic companies who lost their business tools – vehicle. They are very important for the main industry of Ishinomaki; “Fishery Supply Chain industry” to begin with. Not only their presence in the city encourages affected people as a sign of recovery, but the owners agreed on the condition raised by JEN that they have to engage with social contribution regularly. Sometimes, they help to deliver the debris collected by JEN volunteers to the garbage collection point, another time, they deliver some material for public spaces. JEN continues to support them till the market value of the vehicle goes down, means that the owners could afford to own them by themselves.
Activities during June, July & August 2011
[Distribution of daily goods to temporary shelters]
Almost 7,000 temporary shelters have now been built for local residents who lost their homes in the Tsunami. JEN support this activity by distributing around 50 items, including bedding, clothing, kitchenware, hygiene materials etc. to each temporary home.
As local residents move to transitional shelters or where they prefer and it is possible, back to the upper floors of their partially destroyed homes, the soup kitchens have become required less and JEN closed their Ishinomaki soup kitchen in July. To ensure that people can still gather for social activities and to help promote a community environment, 3 Community Spaces have been established. JEN has initiated some activities and seeks community input for ideas and organization going forward. Activities which JEN have organized to date, include, tea parties, yoga, massages, iPad sessions and a homework group. Volunteers assist with these activities giving their time and sometimes their expertise to support the delivery of a successful session.
JEN is planning to open more than 10 community spaces by the end of this year as part of their unique psycho-social care assistance.
[Mud busters continue]
JEN continues to coordinate volunteer activities in wider community, cleaning houses, streams and ditches, of debris and sludge. To date around 200 homes have been cleaned and many ditches cleared with almost 3000 JEN volunteers. A professional contractor volunteered his natural enzyme product and time to spray areas after sludge removal to help prevent the build-up of flies and mosquitos.
Some volunteers travel to the area for the day, or a few days, whilst others may stay longer, or return for more than one visit – coming from all over Japan as well as travelling from far away countries such as England, to lend their support. Everyone’s assistance is appreciated, “Thank you from the people of Ishinomaki and from JEN”, and volunteers are still very much needed …. please.
JEN has engaged with the wider community to understand that a need for assistance is required for some of the smaller fishing village areas, to support them in re-establishing their livelihoods. Volunteers have consequently been performing activities such as assistance with Oyster farming, fish-cake factory restoration, fishing net preparations and of course with ditch cleaning.
Emergency Relief Activities for the affected by the Tohoku Pacific Area Earthquake
◆ Target Area
Miyagi Prefecture, Ishinomaki City
◆ Activities in May 2011
Many houses were swept away by Tsunami and temporary shelters are being built by the government. In Ishinomaki, 8000 temporary shelters are planned to be built but it is on its half a way now. Local government prepare only the building itself. Red Cross is to prepare electric devices such as refrigerator, washing machine, TV.
JEN wish the people could start their daily life immediately after moving into the temporary shelters. Therefore we are preparing the daily goods, such as kitchen equipment and bedding consists of 56 items. Sorting out and distributing to each room is the work done by volunteers and locally employed part-time workers.
[Community Soup kitchen to Community Cafe]
JEN has started its soup kitchen in the evacuation center, which was located in secondary school in Sendai city. Then after settle down in Ishinomaki, we started a soup kitchen for people in Ishinomaki who eventually returned their house’s second floor or above. (First floors are mostly destroyed by mud and sludge due to Tsunami)
We have called for groups of volunteers who have experiences and with the condition of could stay in the place for more than one week continuously. JEN intended not only providing the warm dish but warm communication to be established between the group of volunteers and locals. It exceeded our expectation. Soup kitchen volunteer groups have made a wonderful communication with the locals.
Now the number of places are increasing and covering entire city of Ishinomaki, gradually to be shifting into a “community café” where local people could gather, exchange information, chat over the tea, and receive massage which is provided by the volunteers. JEN is planning to open more than 10 community café by the end of this year. It is JEN’s another psycho-social care assistance.
There are still large needs to clean the mud inside and outside of the houses. There are many volunteers who wish to lend a hand to the needs in the field. JEN has continued to coordinate volunteer activities in the field. There have been more than 2,398 volunteers who joined JEN’s volunteering program (988 from JEN, 1410 from volunteer center). Base camp for volunteers is prepared since April.
Volunteer mobilization and coordination in the affected by the Tohoku Pacific Area Earthquake
◆ Activities in April 2011
[Local staff employed]
During April, JEN has hired 6 local staff from the victims of the earthquake in Ishinomaki. At the beginning, we have dispatched our staff from Tokyo headquarters in turn. However, due to the fact that mid-term to long-term assistance shall be needed, as we do in other operational countries, we have started to employ local staff in the area.
They have been working as project coordinator, logistic officer, finance/administration officer. We still have 3 to 4 staff from headquarters engaged in the operation in the field, and 3 to 4 staff working at headquarters solely in charge of Tohoku project as well.
[Mud busters started]
There are large needs to clean the mud inside and outside of the houses. There are many volunteers who wish to lend a hand to the needs in the field. JEN has started to coordinate volunteer activities in the field. Although the lack of infrastructures slow down the implementation of the assistance, there have been more than 1000 volunteers who join the program. They are expected to come to Ishinomaki by themselves and bring all their needs on their own, starting from sleeping bag to daily food and water. Still there are many volunteers from in and out of Japan and we highly appreciate their hard work.
Eventually, JEN has found one abundant house which could be used as volunteer accommodation, then we call “Watanoha Base Camp” till today. The capacity is around 20 to 30 people. There is toilet, running water (not shower but in the kitchen) and portable gas stove for the volunteer needs. JEN staff is coordinating with other NPOs and local governmental bodies not to duplicate the needs. JEN staff are assessing the needs of each houses in the area allocated for JEN and try to meet all the needs on the ground. It’s been a real grass roots initiatives till today which allow us to build a good relationship with local house hold which results to set up Community Soup Kitchen for phyco –social care.
Voice of Mud-busters
“Nationality, age, profession, sex… It has been truly an exciting experience to live together with such a diverse team. In fact, the team got on very quickly despite the diversity.
Our work consisted of different needs. Mud removal, hay removal, roof tile removal, cleaning houses, transporting various things… None of them were easy task. And yet when I visited the affected people’s homes, all of them were so positive and strong, each holding his/her emotions for successful reconstruction. “
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