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!
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