Disaster Recovery Volunteer Project

by Hands On Tokyo
Disaster Recovery Volunteer Project
Disaster Recovery Volunteer Project
Disaster Recovery Volunteer Project
Disaster Recovery Volunteer Project
Disaster Recovery Volunteer Project
Disaster Recovery Volunteer Project
Disaster Recovery Volunteer Project
Disaster Recovery Volunteer Project
Disaster Recovery Volunteer Project
Disaster Recovery Volunteer Project
Disaster Recovery Volunteer Project
Disaster Recovery Volunteer Project
Disaster Recovery Volunteer Project
Disaster Recovery Volunteer Project
Disaster Recovery Volunteer Project
Disaster Recovery Volunteer Project
Disaster Recovery Volunteer Project
Disaster Recovery Volunteer Project
Disaster Recovery Volunteer Project
Disaster Recovery Volunteer Project
Kazuo & Masako "Thank you for helping my farm"
Kazuo & Masako "Thank you for helping my farm"

Today, we'd like to share a story out of many lives you have changed - through supporting our project.

Kazuo and Masako's story

Kazuo and Masako Saito are paprika farmers in Yamamoto-cho, Miyagi-ken. All they remember of the hours that followed the March 11th earthquake were the aftershocks, the bitter cold, and the constant fear that ensued. After evacuating his family to a safe area, Kazuo dedicated himself to help locate survivors in the Kasano-ku area, where he serves as a local leader. 

Like many in their community, the family lost everything they owned to the tsunami. Their home and farm, located 100m from the coastline, were completely washed away. They also lost all their machinery, which is detrimental for a farmer. Although they managed to rent damaged fields from a friend, the work that laid ahead for Kazuo and Masako was daunting, especially with no machinery.

But in July 2011, a local volunteer organization introduced them to Hands On Tokyo (HOT). HOT volunteers helped them plow their fields, construct green houses, and to plant, grow and harvest their paprika.

Today, the Saito family lives in three separate temporary housing units. They long for the day when the entire family can all live under the same roof again. And they still need help to get back on their feet. In addition to purchasing new machines, they need to secure direct sales outlets to sell their produce. HOT will continue to provide assistance to the Saito's, as well as to other farmers in the community.

In honor of the 3rd anniversary of the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami, GlobalGiving is hosting a matching campaign for recovery projects in the Tohoku area. Starting today, your donations will be matched 100% by GlobalGiving until matching funds last. To donate, click on "give now" button below.  

Thank you for supporting this project, and for helping to tranform the lives of people like Kazuo and Masako!

Photo: "I am thankful for helping my farm - Arigato"
Taken on February 8, 2014, by HOT volunteers who provided assistance to the Saito's during a snow storm.

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O-Link House surrounded by flowers
O-Link House surrounded by flowers

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.

  Volulnteer serving drinks & sweets to locals
Volulnteer serving drinks & sweets to locals
Halloween goodie bags for school kids
Halloween goodie bags for school kids
Volunteers helping local farmers
Volunteers helping local farmers
Yummy looking menu of O-Link House Cafe
Yummy looking menu of O-Link House Cafe

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Group Photo
Group Photo

Through the inaugural HandsOn Tokyo Summer Teen Program, one of the high school participants chose as his project to bring US-style basketball training to children in the Tohoku region.  With advise from former NBA stars, domestic professional and former professional basketball players, the volunteers put on a two-day program that sought to emphasize the enjoyment of basketball and to introduce a more American style of competitiveness.  

Our regional partner is the Ofunato Junior Sports League, which is run by the city's social welfare department, but is largely organized and managed by the children's parents.  Following the effects of the Great East Japan Earthquake and resulting tsunami, one of the consequences was the impact on local children and their physical education.  With their parents struggling in many cases to get back on their feet, the Junior Sports League activities, understandably, became a very low priority.  Thankfully, as the region has begun to make progress toward recovery, many of the sports activities have re-started; however, many teams are now consolidations of smaller groups reflecting the affects of the disaster on the population.  Moreover, in response to the urgent need for housing, Ofunato built over 1,800 temporary houses to accommodate the disenfranchised, many of which were schoolyards (and one complex resided at the Massaki Elementary School (these buildings can be seen on the map below of the school as the row houses.)  The situation is further exacerbated by the fact that the City has coopted other public spaces, such as parks and play areas, for temporary housing.  As such, outdoor sports is increasingly challenge and the local Sports Leagues wants to get the kids to play basketball.  

Over the course of two days, Hands On Tokyo supported six volunteers to run the first Tohoku Youth Basketball Program, putting the kids through drills, playing skills games for prizes, and after a mini-draft, dividing the 24 elementary school children into four teams for a round-robbin tournament.  We also provided t-shirts to all the participants so no one went home empty handed!  

Following the program, the parents of the students treated the volunteers to a terrific barbecue at the local fire department.  The homemade grill made from used propane tanks (ironically constructed by the firemen!) served the 50+ parents, athletes and volunteers.  We were able to get feedback from the locals who praised the young volunteers for inspiring them to incorporate more fun into their training, increase competition and most importantly, increased the level of interest amongst the school children in basketball.  

We hope to have this event as an annual event, including more area sports teams in the program.

Watching how the pros gets it done!
Watching how the pros gets it done!
Drills
Drills
Dribbling skills game
Dribbling skills game
A future star?
A future star?
Please come again
Please come again
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O-Link House is Open!
O-Link House is Open!

On April 14, 2013 under a bright blue sky, we cut the ribbon to officially christen and open the O-Link House in Ogatsu.  Thanks to the generosity of so many donors, including our special GlobalGiving donations and the matching programme, Hands On Tokyo was able to support the full construction cost, landscaping and furnishing of the O-Link House, the only newly constructed building in the district.  We would like to relay the tremendous gratitude of the people of this tiny district of Ishinomaki, Miyagi prefecture that was so heavily impacted by the earthquake and resulting events of March 11, 2011 (the Events).  

Background of Ogatsu Community Center Project:

Prior to the Events, Ogatsu had a population of 4,300 of which over 400 residents lost their lives or are still missing, and, due to the significant damage suffered by the district, only 900 survivors live there today.  A significant cause of this negative demographic impact is the loss of much of the critical municipal infrastructure necessary for daily life, such as the grocery stores, restaurants, petrol stands, and civil support (police, fire, postal, medical, etc).  Further, with ca. 90% of the homes in Ogatsu, damaged or destroyed, much of the little town is now designated a no-build zone, with limited space for temporary housing, which resulted in nearly three-quarters of the population evacuating out of Ogatsu, where they remain to this day.  A plan is proposed to move the town to higher ground, but it remains unclear whether residents will come back to an area that was already suffering from an aging and declining population even before the earthquake.

As such, many survivors continue to live with uncertainty about their future. One of the biggest concerns is the tendency of the uprooted elderly, especially those living alone, to become isolated living in unfamiliar surroundings.  The vision for the community center is to become a resource for the broader city of Ishinomaki and attract all ages beyond Ogatsu residents.  

Through a generous donation of building materials from Intercontinental Trading Corp., Hands On Tokyo found a means to try to support the people of Ishinomaki.  With further support from US-Japan Council and Major League Baseball Players Association, and countless locals, Hands On Tokyo (HOT) undertook to manage this important construction project.  HOT organized and managed over [400] volunteers to support the construction of the facility lead managed by a professional contractor sourced by HOT in the town of Ogatsu. 

O-Link House will house a café and library, a space for the preservation of industry and traditional culture (e.g., fishing and inkstone handcrafts), and a study and recreation space for all ages of people who live around Ogatsu as well as visitors from outside Ishinomaki-City.  HOT is also committed to the long-term support of survivors and will continue to develop and implement volunteer-driven programs that utilize this precious resource in Ogatsu. 

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Volunteers painting Community Center
Volunteers painting Community Center

Thank you very much for all your tremendous continued support which means so much to the people of Tohoku and our dedicated volunteers. 

Since our last report, we made five relief trips to Tohoku and held activities and events with nearly 130 volunteers, benefitting over 600 people.

We are very pleased to report that the construction of the Ogatsu Community Center has been going very well.  They are now using locally produced slate recovered after the tsunami on the roof.  Through generous donations from all over the world, we were able to send two groups of volunteers to assist with painting the exterior on February 9/10 and 16/17 as shown in the photograph below.  We also supported the local economy by having the volunteers stay overnight in a small local minshuku (Japanese inn) in the hills just outside Ogatsu.  We hope that – with your generous support – Hands on Tokyo volunteers will be able to continue to assist with painting and
landscaping activities during the final stages of construction and then with ongoing community events once the new Community Center opens around April 2013.  As the tsunami washed away or severely damaged all but one of the
buildings and as so far this is the only new, non-temporary construction in Ogatsu since the tsunami, this is a tremendous source of encouragement for the people of Ogatsu and highlights the critical importance of ongoing volunteer initiatives in the region.  Once completed, it will house a library, a café run by local residents, offices for the Machizukuri Council and the Recovery Project Committee, space for the preservation of local industry and traditional culture (such as fishing and ink stone crafts) and study and recreational areas.  

After taking an overnight bus to Arahama Beach (outside Ogatsu), Hands on Tokyo volunteers worked on December 1st with members of the local community to make rice cakes for an “Ogatsu Canvas of Hope – Be Heard Our Vow to Recover” event where people wrote messages of hope for recovery on a 4x40 meter board facing the ocean and
to those who lost their lives in the tsunami.  Our volunteers also held a café – serving warm drinks and food to all those who participated in the event.  Then, after taking an overnight bus to Ogatsu, Hands on Tokyo volunteers held a special Christmas café on December 15th – serving yakisoba, pancakes, hot dogs, cakes baked by volunteers in Tokyo and hot drinks and distributing handmade New Year’s decorations and blankets to members of the local community of all ages. 

As so many people are still living in temporary housing in locations quite far from their former neighbors and support networks, Hands on Tokyo remains very committed to further supporting and encouraging the people of Ogatsu through cafes and other activities.  We also hope that – with your generous support – we can continue helping local residents to rebuild their lives and restart their businesses.  For example, in March we are arranging a volunteer weekend to help Saito-san and his wife, local farmers in Yamamoto-cho, prepare for the spring growing season. 

Thank you in advance for making all this possible through your generous donations.  We cannot do what we do without your support.

Dinner at local minshuku (Japanese inn)
Dinner at local minshuku (Japanese inn)
Ogatsu Community Center
Ogatsu Community Center
In front of Ogatsu Canvas of Hope
In front of Ogatsu Canvas of Hope
Famous HOT cafe
Famous HOT cafe
Handing out year-end/new year gift
Handing out year-end/new year gift

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Organization Information

Hands On Tokyo

Location: Tokyo - Japan
Website:
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @Hands_On_Tokyo
Project Leader:
Naho Hozumi
Tokyo, Japan
$89,572 raised of $99,000 goal
 
479 donations
$9,428 to go
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