In After the Tsunami: Making a Difference, I shared my niece Anne Smith’s reports on her work with a group helping tsunami victims in Japan. The group, volunteerAkita, was started by English language teachers (known as “ALTs”) working in the Akita prefecture for the Japan Exchange and Teaching Programmme (“JET”). Here is Anne’s latest report:
Just returned late last night from Ishinomaki where we were volunteering for the weekend. My friend, Paul, started a group called volunteerAkita and I was there working with him and about 10 other Akita ALTs. Saturday, we worked a community event, handing out soap, food, clothes, kitchen items, etc to people of the area. It seems supplies are still running short along the coast (rushes to grocery stores at the delivery times of certain items are still common). Also many, many people are now out of work or having to deal with the enormous costs of relocating and rebuilding their lives.
This event was located in the middle of a formerly beautiful neighborhood. I saw a house that had been completely flipped upside down and there was a large fishing boat sitting next to a house, clearly out of place. Debris is piled up in the large sports field next to the junior high school, flies are everywhere, and there is a smell. Windows are broken, stores are empty shells, and many of the traffic lights are out still (police were directing traffic). The wreckage is hard to really comprehend.
At that event, I met a woman, who is an engineer with Nissan. She said she frequently has business trips to Japan and has become very connected to this country. She decided to take three weeks vacation to volunteer. This means camping in a tent at the volunteer center, showering outdoors everyday, and doing some pretty hard work at times. As she carried around a trash bag collecting empty paper cups, I could tell she wouldn’t want to be anywhere else right now.
NBC decided to follow Paul and volunteerAkita this weekend particularly because we partnered with the Taylor Anderson Fund to deliver fruit on Saturday. Taylor Anderson is the JET who was lost in Ishinomaki’s tsunami. Her family has been very supportive of volunteerAkita and our efforts to get fruit into the shelters of the affected areas. Overall, it was very meaningful to be able to be a part of her legacy.
I was paired up with Kat, a personal friend of Taylor’s, on Saturday as we delivered fruit so the NBC crew decided to follow my group.
NBC Nightly News aired this report on July 4. Anne can be seen in the background at one point.Vodpod videos no longer available.
For more information or if you feel moved to contribute to volunteerAkita, please visit their website.