Shiogama – 5th Trip to MiyagiPosted: March 23, 2011
Our team split up into two groups – Seima Aoyagi, Thierry Richards, and Junko Nagao in one truck. The other, Roger Lowther, Matt Chase, and Tsutomu Kadowaki.
We went to Shichigahama to see if there was any need, and Takayama to see if a house was appropriate for a base. We were in touch with Rod Thomas of OMF, who led us through Takeyama. Drinking water via truck had arrived in the region. Some folks who arrived later weren’t able to get water.
We gave gas to Rod, who has been driving people to resource locations and back. The locals told us that the government is distributing foods/resources, but that they are big picture, egalitarian distribution systems, and may be missing specific needs folks need. Water on the hills (Takayama) will be delivered much later – they are not considered priority since its known as a vacation spot. Also, the British Embassy has been in touch with all their citizens/former citizens.
The roads are limited in the smaller neighborhoods in Takayama, where we were either restricted from entering by military tankers, or by broken roads.
Shichigahama: Needs – underwear (male and female), fresh veggies.
Scouting and Immediate Relief
Went to Higashi Matsushima emergency center with Pastor Akira Tateishi. Last Thursday, there were 350 people there; yesterday, there were 120 people. All the children are gone; they moved the families out. Mostly single men and women, older – to surrounding shelters, since they need to use the temple for funerals.
Higashi Matsushima: Needs – electric razors. Socks, underwear (shitagi), shampoo. Because they can’t use water much, they’d like wet tissue (for bathing).
We believe the farther north we go, the more the need for non-showering folks.
Roger talked to Luke Commings, who has been scouting in Kesennuma with his brother, Kaleb. They went to several shelters and hospitals. Found out that established shelters would rather not have supplies from individual orgs – they want it from the main distribution centers. The main distribution centers are not necessarily accepting things either – the government is kicking things in. Hospitals are also not told to accept anything other than through established channels. However, Luke and Kaleb had a truck load of stuff, and they finally found a shelter that hadn’t been reached and desperately needed the supplies. These locations are difficult to find, but still in need.
Our first night in Shiogama, we were alerted to a school facility that was in dire need of support for 500 evacuees. Roger’s truck delivered aid the next morning. 100 evacuees lined up from the truck, down an entry way, past the halls, around the corner, up several flights of stairs, across a long hallway, across the gym…I’m not quite sure where the line ended. Needless to say, our guys who – with good intentions – carried the heavier loads through this labyrinth certainly got a workout!
What volunteers can do:
1) Neighborhood clean up – but only through residents, locals. Tohoku residents do not want foreigners or outsiders to do this. They may be more accepting of outsiders cleaning up public places (highways, parks), but they would prefer working through the neighborhood associations.
2) English Camp – Japanese don’t have free time – they’re back and about cleaning their homes. Kids can go outside because it’s dangerous. Ideally, it’ll be biking distance. Not jyuku (studying) but learning English (or some other activity) in a fun environment.
3) Pastor Tateishi’s biggest need: for people to move here, and live here and work with him in ministry.
Agencies on the Ground
We went to Maysen Academy, where a few organizations are based.
We found out that the Japan Food for Hunger Int’l (JFHI) were also based there. The organizations JFHI, CRASH, Samaritan’s Purse, are finding ways to collaborate and share resources. However, they are all leaving the Maysen Academy within the next two days, since school is starting in April. Not sure how long they’ll be able to work together once their base is in different locations.
Spoke with Shin-san (JFHI). People reached are simply happy and appreciative of the fact that there are people outside of Tohoku thinking and looking out for them.
Challenge: School begins in April. Families with homes that did not get washed away are asked to leave the school evac centers. These homes are not livable.
We met CRASH volunteers. CRASH’s priority is developing networks for future ministry. They explained that they are not taking the role of emergency relief, but rather, compiling data (“doing research”) and working with the community churches after the first wave of emergency relief is delivered by the military and NGOs. They are developing a website where folks can post their needs, and volunteers can register teams (leader required). When they can, they’ll coordinate and get resources to survivors, but that’s not their priority.
NEED: Churches are seeking others to dig out their church
The Shiogama area finally had water by our second evening there.