Our Volunteering to Revitalize Tohoku is Still Active!
By Jay Ponazecki - Project Leader
We hope you and your loved ones are as well as can be during these challenging times. With the Thanksgiving holidays on the horizon, we are very thankful for all your generous donations so far this year.
It is hard to believe that it has been nearly ten years since the devastating earthquake and tsunami along the Tohoku Coastline in Japan. You have helped us assure many people in Tohoku that they have not been forgotten as they continue to overcome daily challenges in further rebuilding their lives. Recovery and rebuilding take many years. Some are still living in what was originally intended to be temporary housing and there are still significant housing, infrastructure, labor and other shortages in the region. In addition, with the passage of time, the occurrence of devastating natural disasters in other parts of Japan and now concerns regarding the coronavirus, the number of volunteers going to and the amount of charitable donations being made for Tohoku continue to drop.
Labor shortages throughout Japan coupled with the coronavirus 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 and harvesting rice, vegetables and fruit sufficient enough to earn a modest livelihood and to repay the significant debts they incurred after the earthquake and tsunami is very labor intensive and the local farmers cannot do all the work by themselves. They need the continued support of volunteers.
The local farmers always ask us to convey to everyone who supports our volunteer activities in Tohoku just how much they appreciate all the support. What Hands On Tokyo volunteers are able to accomplish in a single day would take the local farmers and their families many days to complete.
Since our last report, we had hoped to resume bringing to Tohoku for volunteering many groups of children and their caregivers from different Tokyo Area children’s homes. Unfortunately, due to the coronavirus, we have had to further postpone these trips and are still looking for the time when we can safely reschedule these volunteer trips.
These volunteer trips are very impactful on the children and their caregivers. For the children who are the beneficiaries of volunteer activities at their children’s homes, these volunteer trips are an opportunity to experience volunteering themselves, to gain new experiences and life skills, and to gain further self confidence. These experiences will help them throughout their lives. The children greatly appreciate the opportunity and are still benefiting from all that they learned and experienced. They and their caretakers keep sending us wonderful feedback. Many want to volunteer again and they have encouraged others in their group homes to volunteer in the future. These volunteer trips are also an important opportunity for the caretakers to better understand each child’s fullest potential. We are deeply committed to continuing to organize these volunteer trips for children and their caregivers in Tokyo Area children’s homes as well as for students at Tokyo Area international schools.
Since our last report, we have been further raising funds for these volunteer trips and we have been in regular communication with our partners in Tohoku and at the Tokyo Area children’s homes and international schools. And we have been closely monitoring developments in Tohoku and Tokyo concerning the coronavirus.
We also are now working on volunteer holiday projects at Tokyo Area children’s homes in support of Tohoku. We have provided the children’s homes with arts and crafts supplies and holiday decorations so the children can create “thinking of you” holiday messages which we will deliver to local farmers, nursing homes, school children and others in Tohoku just before the year end holidays. These projects will further ignite the spirit of volunteerism among the children and remind them of the importance of thinking of others in need of support. These projects will also encourage local people in Tohoku who may be feeling forgotten and alone while attention has shifted to other challenges. And they will help maintain the warm connection between the Tokyo Area children’s homes and Tohoku.
We also have been finding ways for volunteers to support Tohoku and the Tokyo Area children’s homes while staying at home. For example, we held a drive to collect face masks and asked volunteers to make other PPEs (Personal Protection Equipment) like protective gowns. And we have been delivering these face masks and PPEs to children’s homes and others in need.
There is still so much to be done and there are still many people in need of encouragement and support in Tohoku. With your generous support, we will continue to organize volunteer trips to help farmers and others in Tohoku as they continue to work hard to further rebuild their lives.
Thank you very much in advance for your continued generosity, for touching the hearts and souls of so many people in Tohoku and for helping provide these life changing volunteer opportunities to so many children living in children’s homes, and to other children living, in the Greater Tokyo Area.
Slowly but steadily the road to recovery and the pathway for the future wellbeing of the next generation are being paved.
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