We hope you and your loved ones are as safe and well as can be and that you are filled with hope as more and more people are able to get their Covid vaccinations.
We are forever grateful for all your generous donations and encouragement.
It is very hard to believe that it has been ten years since the devastating 9.0 earthquake and tsunami ravished the Tohoku Coastline in Japan — tragically killing more than 18,000 people and displacing nearly 500,000 people. Several thousand people remain unaccounted for and tens of thousands of people have not returned home. While many infrastructure reconstruction projects have been completed, far less was invested in helping people rebuild their lives and heal. There’s still so much to be done and acts of kindness and volunteerism still go a long way in Tohoku.
Earlier this year, a 7.1 earthquake struck the Tohoku region, an aftershock from the 2011 earthquake. Fortunately this time there was no tsunami and there were few fatalities, although approximately 50 people were injured. Our friends and partners in Tohoku must have been quite scared by this strong aftershock. It is a reminder of the fragility of life as we know it and has motivated us even more to continue our Natural Disaster Recovery Projects.
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 (including the recent mudslide in Atami), the focus on the 2020 Olympics and Paralympics and continued concerns regarding the coronavirus and the Delta Variant, the number of volunteers going to and the amount of charitable donations being made for Tohoku continue to drop. Residents in Tokyo and neighboring prefectures are still urged not to travel, and Japan’s Covid vaccination program is still getting underway with approximately 13% of the nation’s population now vaccinated.
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 are 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 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 we are still looking for the time when we can safely reschedule these 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 deeply appreciate the opportunity and are still benefiting from all that they have 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.
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 we have been closely monitoring developments in Tohoku and Tokyo concerning the coronavirus.
We also have started planning a remembrance concert — with music, poetry and art — to be held in Ishinomaki (in Miyagi Prefecture) next March. This concert will not be a fund raising event. It will be an event for the Ishinomaki community commemorating those who tragically lost their lives in the 2011 earthquake and tsunami and celebrating the resilience of all those who survived.
Ishinomaki was one of the areas in Tohoku most severely impacted by the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami. A 33 foot wall of water traveled more than three miles inland leveling 80% of the homes and destroying many other buildings. Now ten years later Ishinomaki is still rebuilding.
There is still so much to be done and there are still many people in need of continued encouragement and support in Tohoku. With your generous support, we will continue to organize volunteer trips to help — and volunteer projects in Tokyo to support and encourage — 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 Tokyo Area children’s homes. Slowly but steadily the road to recovery and pathways to future wellbeing are being paved.
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