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  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.