Delivering Aid Directly To Japan's Tsunami Victims

by SHINE Humanity
Lines for heating oil
Lines for heating oil

April 20th - “Today, the SHINE Humanity-sponsored fuel relief truck visited Oshika Hanto, the  peninsula just Northeast of the city that juts out and curls into the Pacific. Before the tsunami, many small fishing villages called Hamas (literally meaning ‘beach’) had been along the coast road that we travelled.  This was the first time the truck visited this fishing village.  The truck delivered fuel to the few groups of Tsunami survivors who remain here, dispersed in small Hamas and shelters. Kenji Christopher Suzuki, a liaison with the project, brought the team into his home and told us his story of the afternoon of the earthquake and Tsunami. These are his words:

“I was sitting in my room next to the kerosene heater, watching television. I started to hear a rumble sound – all the earthquakes start with noise first – and it kept getting louder and louder; the house began to shake and it kept getting bigger and bigger; stuff started falling down everywhere in the house and the sound became a roar. I shut the heater off fast and jumped up and ran out the sliding door into the yard. It was snowing and I was just in my underwear. The quake just kept getting worse and it was all roaring everywhere. It sounded like the end of the world. I ran up into the garden where it was open and everything was moving. I could see the mountain moving and boulders were falling and it was like the whole land was alive. It wasn’t just shaking up and down but side to side and diagonally. It just kept going on and I began to believe it might be the end of the world. I threw my hands up into the air, towards the sky and yelled ‘Please stop…Please stop’ over and over and it began to slow down and it did stop.

I knew there would be a Tsunami and I was worried about my Dad, who I knew would be driving from Ishinomaki.  I ran into the house and got dressed, got all my important stuff together in my pack, shut the breakers off on the house and got in my car and drove up the hill, to the old school that was on higher ground. I left my car up there and ran back down to help get the older people up the hill. At that time my Dad returned and we did this together. I was glad to see him.  All the people in our part of the Hama were up high now and we watched the sea. I saw a big bulk of water, like a lump, pass in the sea going toward Ishinomaki. Part of it wrapped around the jetty in front of our Hama and came to our area. The sea pulled away and came back up with a roaring sound into the lower houses and you could hear crunching and breaking sounds – snapping and cracking like lumber breaking. The second wave came up and began pushing houses off foundations. Everyone was in bewilderment. Smaller Tsunamis continued – maybe 16 or 17 in all. After that there were more aftershocks and it started to get dark. I didn’t sleep that night or the next. On day three I walked into Ishinomaki. ”

April 18th - “Now, the fire for life in Japan was evoked by terrible circumstances. But here are still smiling and laughing children, an old man staunchly carrying twenty liters of fuel from our truck to his home a kilometer away, the mother with two little ones by her side expressing her thanks, the workers and Japanese volunteers cleaning and repairing meter by meter.

Today, in a neighborhood where the Tsunami waterline shows at about three meters high, a group of six young boys were taking turns practicing with a single skateboard. Our translator, Kenji Christopher Suzuki, who is an accomplished surfer, went over to them to give them some examples of good skateboard technique. He mounted the board and after a series of beautifully done moves, received resounding applause from the boys and the people waiting in line for fuel. We laughed and clapped together.  Happiness and joy is what he brought out in all of us. That’s all it took. We found that part of us, the part that knows life must go on and is happy for it, and we shared that wonder for a moment.” 

Filed by: Robert Picariello, Team Member

A restful moment for two young Japanese
A restful moment for two young Japanese
A devastated fishing village
A devastated fishing village
Carrying home heating fuel
Carrying home heating fuel
Orderly lines for fuel
Orderly lines for fuel

SHINE Humanity's partners are delivering 4,000 liters of fuel daily, providing heat and warmth to hundreds of families left homeless by the tsunami. Yesterday, on April 13th, the fuel relief trucks served two communities that are on the edge of the Southern and Western limit of their range ability. Here is a report from team leader Robert Picarielllo:

"The trucks are in a district called Higashimatsushima and have been isolated from the main relief effort taking place in central areas. The Japanese Army is there now, determining priority of needs, searching for bodies and establishing aid centers. The location is on a peninsula about 25km from Ishinomaki City. The area was ravaged by the Tsunami. We saw train cars that had been lifted off their tracks and swept 20 meters into the side of a community building.

They have not seen a Fuel Relief truck since the Tsunami, so it was a new experience for all of us. As we distributed heating fuel, people expressed, in the dignified and heartfelt manner we have experienced everywhere, genuine appreciation and happiness for the warmth represented by the kerosene. As the line formed for fuel, an older woman, an elder who must have experienced many events and feelings in her life, small of build and bent in frame, gestured to me and began speaking rapidly in Japanese. She knew that I was not able to understand but her need to express herself must have been so urgent and necessary for her that she had to speak. I asked Kenji, our translator, to come over and translate for me. Her story was of what the Tsunami took away: friends, relatives, children, grandchildren, homes… more than can be named. Her eyes held tears but she was not looking for pity or sympathy. She just wanted to tell it…with dignity. She ended her story and thanked us for what we were doing and I was so moved by it all: her, her story, the loss, her dignity, that I had to gather myself to hold some composure. It seemed too much to cry with her then and there. I thanked her and expressed myself in words. I just hope that was enough. 

As we drove away I realized that much more was happening here than the over 53,000 liters of fuel we’ve distributed; maybe even as much as the physical warmth which 50,000 families have gained. The kerosene is real and the heat given from it is so meaningful. But in another sense, the kerosene is a metaphor for the emotional comfort for helping with the motivation and moral needed to carry on, for the bond of being just a human being. It represents all of us not able to control what happens to us."

A community devastated
A community devastated
Patience and dignity in the Japanese
Patience and dignity in the Japanese
Local community groups have mobilized
Local community groups have mobilized

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Organization Information

SHINE Humanity

Location: Tustin, CA - USA
Website: http:/​/​
Project Leader:
Todd Shea
Executive Director
Irvine, California United States

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