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.
Summer is a very busy time for farmers as it is their primary growing season. 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 June, 19 Hands On Tokyo volunteers — mostly students from an international high school in Tokyo — helped Saito-san and his wife by working in their eggplant fields. Although paprikas are their primary crop, Saito-san and his wife recently began growing eggplants as well as eggplants are quite hardy and can grow in soil that has been mixed with sand and saltwater.
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 day would take the local farmers and their families many days to complete. At the end of the day, Saito-san and his wife looked at the eggplant fields with deep gratitude. They never imagined that the volunteers could do so much in a day.
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 several volunteer trips to Tohoku planned for August and September.
We also are still organizing volunteer projects for Tohoku residents that take place in Tokyo. This helps build awareness of the continued need for support and enables people living in the Greater Tokyo Area to participate in volunteer projects when they are unable to travel to Tohoku.
In June, a group of volunteers from Moody’s Japan gathered in Tokyo to decorate cookies and we delivered the beautifully and colorfully decorated cookies to a kindergarten in Yamamoto-cho. The children and teachers were very happy to receive the cookies. The cookies triggered many smiles and provided an opportunity for the children and teachers to create new happy memories together.
Ogatsu in Miyagi Prefecture was completely devastated by the tsunami and is still far from being ready for reconstruction and redevelopment. In June, 19 Hands On Tokyo volunteers — mostly high school students from an international high school in Tokyo — helped weed, plant new plants and do other gardening at the O-Link House in Ogatsu. The O-Link House was the first permanent building to be rebuilt in Ogatsu after the earthquake and tsunami and as such is a beacon of hope for the former residents of Ogatsiu. It was built by Hands On Tokyo with the generous support of the Major League Baseball Players Association and other donors. It serves as an important community center for those who used to live in Ogatsu before the earthquake and tsunami and who wish to meet with their friends and neighbors from Ogatsu and to continue their community activities. It has gallery space where local artists can hold exhibitions and performances. It also has a cafe run by young people from Ogatsu offering refreshment to the former residents of Ogatsu and other visitors. The people running, using and visiting the O-Link House greatly appreciate all the hard work of the Hands On Tokyo volunteers who help maintain the building and the surrounding grounds.
With your generous support, we are continuing to organize volunteer projects in Tokyo and Ogatsu to support and encourage the residents of Ogatsu who survived the tsunami. We are already planning to bring more volunteers to Ogatsu in the coming months.
There is still so much to be done in Tohoku and there are still many people in need of support and encouragement. Among other volunteer projects, we are now very busy planning a Disaster Relief Baseball Project called Be the Wind of the Future for nearly 50 young students on three local school baseball teams from Tohoku, Kumamoto and Tokyo. Kumamoto is still rebuilding after and recovering from a devastating earthquake last year. Tohoku and Kumamoto primary and secondary school children have had their sports training and school activities interrupted by these devastating natural disasters and we are working to bring three baseball teams together for sports, leadership and natural disaster response and recovery training in the hope that these young athletes will become future leaders in their local communities. This project will be held in Tokyo this summer for several days.
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.