Thank you very much for all your continued support so far this year. You have helped us further assure many people in Tohoku that they have not been forgotten as they continue to overcome daily challenges in rebuilding their lives more than six years after the devastating earthquake and tsunami. Recovery and rebuilding take years. There are still people living in what was originally intended to be temporary housing and there are significant housing, infrastructure, labor and other shortages in the region. In addition, with the passage of time, the number of volunteers going to and the amount of charitable donations for Tohoku continue to drop.
Late summer and early autumn are very busy times for farmers as it is their primary growing season and when they must prepare for harvesting their crops Labor shortages continue to make it very hard for local farmers in Tohoku to run their farms and in turn to further rebuild their lives. Many of the local farms are family run with one, two or three family members doing all the work themselves. Growing rice, vegetables and fruit sufficient enough to earn a modest livelihood is very labor intensive and the local farmers cannot do all the work by themselves. They need the continued support of volunteers.
With your generous donations, Hands On Tokyo volunteers have been able to continue to support local farmers, Saito-san and his wife, and the New Rice Center (NRC) in Yamamoto-cho in Miyagi Prefecture. The NRC is an agricultural association of local farmers who produce and promote local rice and local produce.
In September, we made two trips to help Saito-san and his wife.
The first group of 22 volunteers — including children living in one of the children’s homes in the Greater Tokyo Area — helped by clipping paprika plants to netting to ensure that the paprika plants and the paprikas continue to grow without breaking the plants’ branches and by removing clips which are no longer needed from the lower sections of the plants. This process must take place several times during the growing season as the plants grow. It is a very labor intensive process. The Hands On Tokyo volunteers handled 1,000s of clips in the course of the afternoon. Paprikas are Saito-san’s primary crop so his family’s livelihood depends on the strength of his paprika harvest each year.
A week later 22 Hands On Tokyo Volunteers — including children living in eight different children’s homes in the Greater Tokyo Area — helped Saito-san and his wife by weeding their leek field.
The local farmers always ask us to convey to everyone who supports our volunteer activities in Tohoku just how much they lappreciate all the support. What Hands On Tokyo volunteers are able to accomplish in a day would take the local farmers and their families many days to complete. At the end of each day, Saito-san and his wife looked at the paprika greenhouses and the leek field with deep gratitude. They never imagined that the volunteers could do so much in two days.
With your generous support, we are continuing to organize volunteer trips to further support local farmers in Tohoku as they continue to work very hard to further rebuild their lives. We already have a volunteer trip to Tohoku planned for December.
Another area greatly impacted by the earthquake and tsunami is Minami Soma in Fukushima Prefecture. It is relatively near the nuclear power facility and the local residents were evacuated very abruptly soon after the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami without any time to prepare or any sense of how long they would be away from their homes. In July 2016 residents were allowed to begin returning to the town but that did not mean they could immediately return to living in their homes. The properties were as they were immediately after the earthquake and tsunami and the land was overgrown. The area and homes were essentially uninhabitable without a lot of hard work to be done. Many of the residents who want to return are elderly and unable to do all the hard work. Even now many Minami Soma residents are still living in temporary housing.
The community greatly needs the continued support of volunteers. In September we sent two volunteer groups to Minami Soma.
The first group of 22 volunteers — including children from one of the children’s homes in the Greater Tokyo Area — helped cut down weeds at a temporary housing site and visited with the temporary housing site residents. It meant a lot to the temporary housing site residents just to have visitors.
The second group of 22 volunteers — including children from eight different children’s homes in the Greater Tokyo Area — helped tame an overgrown field that had been untouched for over six years. They weeded by hand and with mowers.
With your generous support, we are continuing to organize volunteer projects in Minami Soma to further support and encourage the local residents. We already have a volunteer trip to Minami Soma planned for November.
We also took the group of volunteers from the one children’s home in the Greater Tokyo Area and a group of boys from a children’s home in the Greater Tokyo Area especially for boys suffering from shut in syndrome (that is, children who are socially withdrawn) to an elementary school near Sendai which was an evacuation center during the tsunami and is now a museum. The children, teachers and local residents in the school survived the tsunami which tragically washed away the surrounding area. We took the children there for natural disaster awareness and preparedness training. It was particularly impactful because the school is very similar to the elementary schools they themselves have attended. They learned the importance of acting quickly when there is a natural disaster and of always updating one’s evacuation plans.
These volunteer trips were also very impactful on the children and their teachers and caregivers. For the children who are the beneficiaries of volunteer activities at their children’s homes, it was an opportunity to experience volunteering themselves, to gain new experiences and life skills and to gain further self confidence. For the children, teachers and caregivers at the eight different children’s homes, it was an opportunity to share information, to make new friends and to realize there are others just like them in similar circumstances. And, for the boys, it was a huge step for them just to have gone on the trip and to have adhered to a time schedule and it was very impactful for them to see how an area devastated by a natural disaster is recovering day by day. They too gained new experiences that helped them gain further self confidence and life skills. Thank you very much for your generous support in helping make all this possible. The children greatly appreciated the opportunity and are still benefiting from all that they learned and experienced. Many want to volunteer again and they have encouraged others in their children’s homes to volunteer in the future.
There is still so much to be done in Tohoku and there are still many people in need of support and encouragement.
Thank you very much in advance for your continued support and for touching the hearts and souls of so many people in Tohoku. Slowly but steadily the road to recovery is being paved.