Ishinomaki, Minamisanriku: Day 2Posted: April 5, 2011
Monday, 4 April
5:30 AM: Preparing ingredients to bring to the next site.
7:30AM: Met up with Chiba Team, volunteers from a network of churches based in Chiba region (next to Tokyo). Led by Dan Iverson III and Masahiro Takata. Chiba team takes over ingredient-prep, as we take a break and grab breakfast (leftovers from last night’s home made curry).
8:30AM: Departure. We head to another area in Ishinomaki, where a local contact worked with us to identify where we might set up our market and takedashi for the towns people. The homes here were not destroyed, but with no electricity, running water, or gas, and hardly any stores to buy food and necessities, the towns people rely on supplies entering the evacuation centers. But for those who cannot make the long distance, supplies are running low. The towns people who came to our market told us that there hasn’t been a warm takedashi that was quite as hearty as ours. They had bread and onigiri (rice balls) aplenty. But you can only live on those for so long before you can’t stand the site of one.
It snowed in the middle of our setup here. The people enjoyed traditional shakuhachi music, played by Bruce Huebner, creating a lively setting for the people enduring the hardships since the quake.
2:30PM: After Ishinomaki, we headed to Minamisanriku, where I’ve been in touch with another group, OGA for Aid, working tirelessly with the local community (visit their facebook page). The Ortiz family run a business in Sendai, and they immediately began supporting the tsunami survivors in the northern areas of Tohoku. Getting out of Ishinomaki these days can take an hour to three hours now that the roads are open to the public. Many are looking for their family and friends. We had to push back our 4PM takedashi in Minamisanriku evacuation center to 5:30PM.
Our caravan, 7 vehicles strong, made its way through one main highway, only to be turned around half way by broken roads and bridges. We backtracked and rerouted through another highway and cut across toward the ocean. The scenery was beautiful, until we descended down the hill toward the town of Minamisanriku.
5PM: arrive at Minamisanriku. The destruction here is worse than what any of our teams had seen before. In other sites, there were people milling through their possessions, trying to find their house that had been transported by the tsunami, and cleaning the roads and homes. Here, the silence was deafening.
There are still people living in homes on higher ground, sheltered in tents or makeshift homes. With very little support coming into the area, and the long distance between the homes and the evacuation centers, the people living in group homes rely on small, mobile groups like OGA for Aid to deliver supplies. The day before we arrived, these homes had run out of most of their food and resources.
We met with OGA for Aid’s director, Angela Ortiz, yesterday. It was great to see her in person after talking over the phone for two days arranging logistics. She and her team took us to one of the elementary school shelters, which housed 550 evacuees. 200+ were moved out the day before to another evacuation site. It was cold enough that you could see your breath. Despite the heater and blankets in the gymnasium where people lived and slept, the survivors required layers to keep warm.
Upon hearing that one of the survivors was freezing cold, our volunteers went to the manager of the evacuation center to ask for a sweater from the boxes of supplies that were stored on the first floor – they even offered to sort through the boxes to find it. The manager explained that everyone was warm and didn’t require sweaters and avoided further conversation on the topic. Our volunteers went back to the survivor and one of them gave the sweater she was wearing to the lady.
We find that despite supplies arriving at shelters, they aren’t being distributed by the managing staff. These staff members are sent from the local prefecture offices – people who are similarly affected by the tsunami. This is not the first evacuation center we’ve seen with plenty of supplies and little distribution.
8:30PM ish: Left Minamisanriku through winding roads up and down the mountains. Reminded us of Vermont.
Tuesday, 5 April
5:30AM: Arrived in Tokyo.
We’ll be returning there on Friday, to deliver supplies to homes.