In spite of the state of emergency declared in Tokyo and other prefectures such as Okinawa, the Tokyo2020 Olympics were held. While the border has been closed since last year, athletes and their supporters arrived in Japan for the sporting event. Medical workers and others had predicted a dramatic increase and it seems their predictions have come true as Tokyo continues to register more than 5,000 new cases each day. Okinawa, where our work is focused, saw more than 60 COVID-related deaths in one hospital.
We continue our work and will have served 20,000 households at the end of next distributions August 28th and 29th. We continue to be surprised at how quickly distribution sites get filled up with reservations. In some cases it is a matter of hours before all pickup slots are fully booked.
In July we completely shifted to “drive-thru” distribution. Recipients stayin their vehicles at all times and we do all intake and distribution of food without having to come in contact with recipients. We all agree it is not the ideal situation. Last year we had hoped by this time to have created communities among recipients where they run the distributions and share what they believe would work in order to make a food safety-net possible. But with strict protocols in place, gathering people together to talk and share is simply impossible.
On a positive note, we continue to hold our food drives at our distributions and close to 90% of people bring something. This is very encouraging as it shows the spirit of yui maru (“mutual assistance” in Okinawan) is alive and well.
One last positive report. We conducted the first "backpack" program at a middle in school in Nanjo which is south of Naha. We had met the principle in July and he quickly saw the opportunity for us to provide food assistance to all 400 students as the started summer holidays in August. This was an incredible action on the part of this principal to take action so swiftly.
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