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)

MSNBC Team Report from the Ground

MSNBC team, led by Senior Write and Editor of msnbc.com Miranda Leitsinger and photojournalist Jim Seida, is reporting from the field.  Nearly three months after the tsunami, their stories capture the conditions of people in Tohoku. Follow them on facebook or on their blog.

msnbc world blog

Loves Koganehama

loves koganehama

Grace City Relief, Help Tohoku, and Tsukuda Loves Tohoku have teamed up to deliver  Love Koganehama project.  Koganehama is a relatively new neighborhood of Watanoha, Ishinomaki. It is separated from Ishinomaki city center by a river and tunnel. There’s only one path in and out of the town.  Very little aid comes through this area and much of the town is still in ruins.  Debris and tossed cars remain in the same locations as the first week after the tsunami. When the tide rises, the water floods the area. Residents whose homes are still standing, but whose first floor has been destroyed, live on the second floor. They time their outings to match the tide – otherwise, they either get stuck at home or must wait until the tide recedes to return home.

After the rains last week, the ocean water rose with the tide. This is what it looked like a few days ago (below). Not much different from after the tsunami.


Love Koganehama runs every weekend, leaving Tokyo on Friday evening and returns Saturday night/Sunday morning. If you would like to help with takidashi, massage, open market, or scouting, please email actionsummit@gmail.com.

Juilliard Team Performs in Tohoku

This week, a team of students and professors from Juilliard visited several sites in Miyagi prefecture to perform for survivors and volunteers.  You can find their blog here (also listed on the blogroll to the right).

New to Japan and to relief work, the team had many questions about safety, music instrument concerns, etc prior to arrival.  However, these musicians, normally secure in their performance space and structured schedules, adjusted quickly and naturally to the limited spaces and unpredictable weather.

juilliard ii

If you would like to join a music trip, please email actionsummit@gmail.com.

Network Orange & Futaba Hoikuen

About two weeks ago, we visited Kesennuma’s Network Orange and Futaba Hoikuen (Day Care).

The children at Futaba were energetic and enthusiastic about guests arriving, particularly English speaking guests.


We dropped off a few boxes of summer clothes, grapes, and bananas for the children to enjoy. One girl gave us note paper in return, which I promptly used to take notes as the head of the Hoikuen explained the situation in the area.

notepaper gifts

Of the former students, only 2/3 of the children are back. The staff do not know or have not heard from the 1/3 of the families and their children. They explained that many families are living in the evacuation centers, others have moved out of the city. They worry that if the government does not supply jobs and decide what is to be rebuilt, more young families will leave.

Network Orange, formerly a nonprofit that serves children with disabilities, is now focusing on rebuilding Kesennuma communities. Led by a young lady, Miko Onodera, they cleaned out their former office building and is launching their Community Cafe on June 2. If anyone is making their way to Kesennuma this week, please join them in the opening – 10AM to 2PM. You can visit their blog here: Network Orange.  Phone number: 080-1697-7611.

network orange

We dropped off non-perishable foods, fresh vegetables and fruits, and summer clothes. Miko explained that there is rising tension among those who are living in evacuation centers and those who are not – anyone who tried to return to the city and found their homes destroyed were barred from entering the evacuation centers, and are forced to fend for themselves. Unlike some cities we’ve worked in, supplies and resources that come to the evacuation centers here are not distributed among the families outside the evacuation centers. Network Orange ensures that there is enough supplies for families to sustain themselves while the city recovers.

Miko recently sent photos (below) of the distribution of goods that we brought. Miko is pictured in the second photo:
miko with rice
community distribution
community distribution II

Summer clothes and shoes were supplied generously by Tsukuda community members through Tsukuda Loves Tohoku.  Vegetables and fresh fruit were provided by Grace City Relief.  (Photo below: Tsukuda Loves Tohoku volunteers sorting and packing supplies).