Please Visit New Site

Dear Readers:

Thank you for supporting the immediate relief efforts. We have worked with a number of great teams and individuals who tirelessly provided food, resources, drivers, warm blankets, and other goods to help survivors get back on their feet. We couldn’t have done this without you.

We have launched our new website under the NPO, Vision Sprout. Please visit this site for regular updates on our community strengthening work.

We serve communities primarily in Fukushima Prefecture, but continue to collaborate with multiple organizations in Miyagi and Iwate Prefectures.  Please continue sending comments and inquiries to our email:  If you’d like to participate in our programs, please email:

We look forward to sharing our future activities with you.

Happy Holidays,

First Responders Team

Seeking Solutions: Fukushima Residents

This video was recently posted on July 23 by pejorativeglut, demonstrating a slice of the continuing challenges in Fukushima and the Japanese government.  Also featured in TimeOut Tokyo.

Soma, Nomaoi

On Saturday, July 23, Soma, Fukushima and surrounding cities, led by Nakamura Shrine, will host this year’s Nomaoi Festival (Horse Chancing festival).  Bring your friends and family to support the citizens of Soma, Minami Soma, and surrounding cities celebrate this traditional event of over 1000 years!

Flower Power

This past weekend, Grace City Relief visited the Mangokuura Kasetsu Jutaku (temporary housing) in Ishinomaki to distribute flowers, vegetable plants, planters, and soil to over 80 families. The goal of the project  (Flower Power) was for volunteers to be able to plant new life with the survivors living in the shelters, ultimately developing a sense of community between volunteers and survivors and within the Kasetsu Jutaku itself.

A group of 26 volunteers gathered at Koganehama early Saturday morning: half of them stayed in Koganehama to complete a smaller version of the Flower Power project there and half drove to Mangokuura. The weather forecast had said that it would rain, but it turned out to be extremely sunny and hot that day. In fact, it was one of the first “mousho” days (extremely hot days) in the area. Still, volunteers stayed outside and planted flowers for six hours, something that many of the survivors were very appreciative of. Grandmothers, young children, mothers, and fathers came up to us to thank us for this experience.


Volunteer planting with one of the children in Mangokuura

Volunteer Debbie Pixley (MTW) planting with one of the children in Mangokuura

The Flower Power Team

The Flower Power Team in Koganehama, lead by Jun Shepard and Virginia Lavallee


Flower Planting: Volunteers Needed

This weekend – July 8-9 – we are planting flowers and vegetables in temporary housing in Watanoha section of Ishinomaki, one of the areas most heavily affected by the tsunami. Our goal is to provide not only supplies, but also emotional care for survivors who have lost friends and family members.  We encourage all volunteers to communicate with survivors and help rebuild this community.

We are recruiting volunteers. The schedule is as follows:

Dates: 7/8~7/9
Location: Koganehama, Watanoha, Ishinomaki City (Miyagi Prefecture)

10PM: All volunteers meet in front of Lions Tower in Tsukishima; On Yurakucho or Oedo Lines. Exit 6. Walk straight and you’ll see 7-Eleven. Lions Tower is next to the store. Walk around the building to the back, where you’ll see a community center – floor to ceiling glass walls with tables and chairs lined up. We meet outside.

10:30PM: Two vans leave for Koganehama

6:30AM: Arrive at Senshu University fields
7AM-8AM: Orientation
8AM-8:30AM: Two groups go to given locations (one group goes to Koganehama, one group goes to a temporary housing location close by)
9AM: Begin planting
2:30~3PM: End planting
3PM-4PM: Clean up
4PM: Debrief/Departure
11:30PM: Arrival at Lions Tower, Tsukishima.

It will be raining on Saturday, so expect to get wet and muddy. All volunteer should bring a change of clothes and rain gear (a poncho, raincoat,…etc), including:

*Lunch for Saturday (you can buy this at the Lawson’s on the way over to the sites)
Change of Clothes
Sturdy shoes (waterproof)
Baseball cap
Bug Repellent
Notepad, pen
Rain gear
Sturdy gloves
*If you have small shovels, please bring them with you

Snacks for the ride up (although we will be making stops at convenience stores)
To Join: contact jun [dot] shepard [at] gmail [dot] com by THURSDAY, July 6 before 5PM.

Love Koganehama in Kazuma

This past weekend, the Love Koganehama team visited a new location, about 15 minutes away from the fields where we usually have our free market and takidashi. Kazuma, an area that is receiving barely any attention from volunteer groups is mainly comprised of danchi-style apartment buildings. Most of the people living in Kazuma are young adults with children or the elderly. They are jobless, and the supply of materials is limited. The Love Koganehama team brought vegetables, fruits, and fish and distributed them. We hope to continue our relationship with Kazuma, and plan to support this community in the same way that we have in Koganehama.

Love Koganehama Team

The Love Koganehama Team after a long day of distribution

Volunteers needed

We are looking for people who can volunteer anything from 2 hours per week over a number of weeks to 2~8 weeks straight. What you do and how much you work is up for negotiation. More than anything else, however, we are looking for a consistent commitment, regardless of how many hours worked.  One of our objectives is to strengthen communities, and that requires building relationships and trust through regular contact.

Some sample volunteer activities include:

Tokyo (or remote):
– research to help raise awareness: summary of latest news on NHK and other media outlets to distribute to team.
– Analysis on the news, white papers, reports from foundations, universities, policy think tanks, etc.
– Organize fundraising, advocacy events (small house parties, cafes, etc)
– Help short term research projects
– Web design
– Technology upgrades, efficient applications to use
– Gather non-food supplies as requested

Field work (Tohoku):
– help coordinate logistics
– break down houses (ability to pick up hammer and smash into walls required)
– build homes (construction work experience necessary)
– deliver programs on site (English language, dance, arts, music, etc)
– oversee partnerships on site
– interview locals on a regular basis, build relationships
– take copious notes and debrief day with team, send to Tokyo team
– tweet
– turn camp into wireless base camp!

Provision for Tohoku:

For demolition/construction activities you will be based out of Tome, an hour north of Ishinomaki, hosted by Samaritans Purse.  They will provide tools, safety equipment (masks, gloves, goggles), housing (cabin), showers, meals 3x/day (made by in-house chef), and ride to and from site. You will need your clothes, snacks, sleepingbag, toiletries, and tetanus shot.

Grace City Relief will provide the ride up from Tokyo to Ishinomaki (free) – or if you want to ride up north separately, that works too.  Non-demolition/construction volunteers will be camping in tents on grounds.  Tents and portapotties provided. Bring your flashlight, sleepingbag, sleeping pad (air mat), layers.

We’ll send you a more thorough list upon registration!  Contact us at actionsummit (at) gmail (dot) com.

100 days

June 18: 100th day memorial

We approached the 100th day since the tsunami working alongside local neighbors, partner organizations, and multiple groups who have been working  in the field since March.

A 17-member team from Nagoya arrived with GCR on Wednesday. They brought children’s activities and supplies for an English and crafts program.  Led by Amy Newsome, they cleaned homes for the first two days in a neighborhood block close to the Koganehama Community Center.

bare bones

Ishida home

Group shot

Group shot above, with owners of the homes, taken after the first day of cleaning. Comprised of members from six countries, seven regions in Japan, and four organizations/groups.

Samaritan’s Purse generously provided tools, equipment, and oversight – followed by dinner and showers at their home base in Tome, an hour north of Ishinomaki.  The group returned the next day to finish the house cleaning on the block.  This neighborhood didn’t lose anyone to the tsunami, but since their homes were flooded up to the top of the first flight of stairs, evacuated to temporary shelters, homes of relatives, or apartments subsidized by the government. Many return each day to be home and among neighbors. One owner, a fisherman, works out of his back yard each day – with only a cell phone and note pad. He returns each night to a temporary apartment, and is looking forward to working out of his home again soon.

Owners return to ensure that the construction is going as planned. Others want to ensure the government has not written off their property.  And businessmen return to be present regularly to co-workers, business partners, and the community in general.  This particular Koganehama block residents were mostly older folks whose children had already moved elsewhere.  For them, this is home, where they intend to retire and rest their bodies.

All around the neighborhood, there are hundreds of homes waiting to be stripped and rebuilt.  There are not enough hands to do the work, and the carpenters, construction workers, architects are all overworked.  Volunteers help kick-start the work, finishing three days’ worth of labor within a fraction of that time.

On Saturday, the 100th day since the quake, we had an open market and takidashi at the Koganehama Kaikan (Community Center).  The small, one story building was cleaned out by neighbors and volunteer groups earlier this month, and serves multiple purposes: community gathering spot, community cafe (every Monday afternoon), takidashi and volunteer activities; storage for supplies to clean out homes; rest stop for workers.

kaikan open market


The day ended with one of our interns playing the violin at the Buddhist temple after the funeral and 100th day memorial of lost family members.  He also played for the local community members while they waited for us to set up earlier in the day (below).


Tohoku Base Camp

Many volunteers are familiar with the Ishinomaki Senshu University which has generously opened its fields and campus to nonprofits and groups supporting the recovery of Tohoku region.

Our team set up a temporary base camp there recently:

base camp

Over the next few months: we will provide hot meals on Saturdays, and music events and educational classes (dance, language, arts) over the course of the week. We are working with locals to support their transition from evacuation centers to temporary housing.  Depression is starting to set into areas where once there were high levels of enthusiasm to rebuild.

Today, we distributed bikes and household items to the neighbors in Koganehama, Ishinomaki.  One of our interns, Chad, helped a woman by riding one of the bikes to her house for her granddaughter, who appeared to be the only survivor in her family.  Vehicles carried by the tsunami were still washed up in the fields in front of her house.

bike distribution

This afternoon, Chad and Isaac will be in Minami Sanriku to distribute a two ton truck full of fresh cucumbers and tomatoes at the request of Minami Sanriku citizens.  Chad will be based there, supporting OGA for Aid all week and providing music events in the evenings.

Young Leaders

Our youngest team left this morning from Tokyo to deliver a truck full of bikes, futon, and other itemized requests to the Ishinomaki neighborhood.

Motoki Fukuda, Volunteer Coordinator from Grace City Relief; truck packing and open market coordinator.

Chad Cannon, Intern from Harvard University Reischauer Institute; musician and logistics support volunteer.

Virginia Lavallee, volunteer from Mission to the World; logistics and general volunteer.

Bike Delivery Team

A few others have joined our core team:
Isaac Knopp, from Grace City Relief; oversees volunteer activities in Tohoku.
Jun Shepard, from Reischauer Institute; logistics, research, and program development.

(below, team introductions and planning)