When the Tohoku Kids' Support Team went on their first early support run to the Tohoku region, Field Leader Michael Maher King spent time with children and adults at a make-shift shelter and children's home in Kesennuma. Aside from delivering very basic supplies (food, drinks, clothing, toys), this time was spent connecting with survivors and hearing their emotional stories--often told in a very stoic manner and always showing tremendous resilience and courage. Here are a few snippets of their stories...
- Kei, 19 year-old who is volunteering in Dai-ichi shelter in Rikuzentakata. He spoke quite openly about losing many childhood friends and helping his family escape to higher ground. What is so special about Kei is that he's volunteering his time to teach kids in the shelter 'acapella' singing. He said, "you can't cry forever, it hurts a lot but I have to try and live my life and do what is best for my town."
- Very young boys (3-5 year-olds) were playing chess (or at least trying to!) when Michael Maher King sat down with them to ask how they were doing. One boy replied, “I’m okay, but my father is missing and my house is gone too." The other said that he had also lost his home. They then played rock-scissors-paper to see whose turn it was at chess and were giggling with each other about 10 seconds later as one was trying to explain the rules of how to move a rook. A perfect example of the importance of kids having space to be kids and the need for them to play. Further, it shows the importance of someone to be there to ask how they are doing at a time they want to talk about it.
- Akari, Junior High School student, also working with Kei teaching acapella, told Mike she was trying to stay strong for the younger kids. And then went on to say her sister's cremation was the very next day.
- Shimizu-san – 74 year-old who was a dance teacher and was looking after 2 kids that lost their parents – Naho and Takahashi Tsuchihiya (story also reported in Mainichi Shinbun). She said that their grandparents were coming soon and they may be living with them but she wasn't sure. Shimizu-san is just one extraordinary example of the Japanese spirit--truly looking out for one another without a second thought.