Archive for April, 2011

>Volunteering during Golden Week.

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* Note, thanks to Japan Volunteers, AJET, Adventures in Gradland, and others for the links, recommendations and information.
Before making the decision to volunteer in Tohoku during Golden Week, please consider the following points:
1) You may be able to help more from home:

You can help out wherever you are now by making material/monetary donations, doing fundraisers, donating blood or hosting displaced people through CouchSurfing.  Going to the Tohoku region isn’t something to do because you want to be a hero or because of peer pressure, it is a very serious decision.
2) Do not go to Tohoku without support:

Going alone without the support of a recognized organization puts you and disaster victims in danger. Especially if you are untrained/unskilled, you can actually make matters worse.
3) Make sure you’re physically and mentally prepared:

Foreign Volunteers Japan and the volunteer organizations ask you to seriously consider your physical and mental health. There will be things that you may not expect or want to see.  You will be doing heavy, physical labor after a very long journey by bus and communication in your non-native language in such an environment will put extra stress on you.
4) Make sure that you dress appropriately, and bring proper supplies:

 Dress appropriately for the cold, make sure to include removable layers, warm ones and waterproof one. Wear work clothes, including boots and gloves, etc…

5) Make sure that you can afford to pay your own way:
You will be responsible for your own travel, accommodation, food, water and other basic expenses. Peace Boat recommends bringing at least¥20,000 in cash. You will be responsible for the safekeeping of any valuables you bring. You should have proper identification and insurance–some places will not accept you unless you do.
6) No picture-taking.

“Disaster tourism” is highly frowned upon, and can give your group a bad reputation. Please respect the right not to be photographed of the people you work with, and do not get distracted from your volunteer duties with extraneous items.
7) Be prepared to stay in very modest accommodation:

It is likely that you will be camping near your work sites but accommodation may vary by location.
8) Be sure that you can complete all work duties in addition to volunteering.
While Golden Week may be the only time that you’ll be able to volunteer, please make sure that your volunteer destination is aware and approving of the time frame that you will be able to volunteer. Some positions require a much longer commitment, and others may already have hit their position capacity during Golden Week.  

9) Be Ready for down time
Be ready to work hard, at least for a while;but be ready to stand around waiting, also. That is part of the deal.
10)Be aware of the risks:

Volunteer accepting organizations will do their best to make the each project safe for everyone, but please know that if anything happens, you are responsible for your own well-being. There is a risk of inhaling toxic materials such as asbestos left over from destroyed housing, risk of tetanus from stepping on nails, risk of injury at the work sites, and so forth. Please be aware of the risks, take suitable precautions, and consider applying for insurance before heading out.
Volunteer opportunities during Golden Week;
 *This list is a work in progress, we are still checking into whether particular places are willing to accept out-of-prefecture volunteers.*
(Scroll down for Volunteer information – or for FB Updates:)
 B1, 3-13-1 Takadanobaba, Shinjuku, Tokyo 169-0075
Contact: arataotake@peaceboat.gr.jp
 Peace Boat needs volunteers both to help with relief efforts in Ishinomaki City and to raise funds and sort donations in Tokyo. They ask volunteers to attend an orientation seminar at 6pm on Wednesday or Saturday first. Please contact Arata Otake at the above email address for more information. Please provide personal details (Full name, Age, Gender, Address, Telephone number, E-mail, Availability, Language ability) and specify whether you are interested in volunteering in Tokyo or Ishinomaki.
Application forms to register for volunteering around Sendai
They have a base in Minami Sanriku and need volunteers.Send them an email at  ogaforaid@gmail.com  or visit them on Facebook.
We are excited to announce that we are ready to accept volunteers on Project Tohoku, Japan! Project Tohoku is All Hands Volunteers’ tsunami response project in Ofunato and Rikuzentakata, Japan. Initially, we will work for two months on debris removal and home rehabilitation in the Sakari area of Ofunato, so that families can return home. This is dirty and physical work and volunteers may be outside for most of the day. As the needs of the community develop and if we are able to effectively fill gaps and complement the government’s efforts, we may expand into other types of work and longer time frames. We will work six days a week with each Tuesday off.
Though a large percentage of our volunteer force will be Japanese nationals, we have limited space for international volunteers. We do not require that our volunteers speak English (or Japanese), but bilingual English/Japanese speakers will be a critical link between our volunteers and the community. In addition to language skills, we are looking for carpenters and builders. People who know how to gut and re-floor houses will be particularly useful.
As with every All Hands project, we strive to create opportunities for those without specific skills and experience who just want to lend a hand. If this sounds like you, please fill out the Project Tohoku inquiry form. Note that space is limited and we unfortunately will not be able to accommodate everyone who applies.

NGO JEN calling for volunteers to support them in their soup kitchen.
The details for the soup kitchen volunteer opportunities, and application forms can be found here: 

NGO JEN is calling for volunteers to help them remove mud and sludge from houses.
The details for sludge removal volunteer opportunities can be found here: 

 Japan Guide Consortium – Group mobilizing volunteer interpreters to assist relief efforts.


The Japan Asian Association and Asian Friendship Societyアジア協会アジア友の会
is looking for Osaka-based volunteers to help with material and monetary donations. please get more information from the site: 

CRASH volunteers: prioritizing our resources and volunteers in a database and will contact you when we are prepared to place you.  (For teams overseas, it will likely be at least April before we are ready to receive you.) 

Sendai shopping volunteers: Have a look at the Otodoketai and see what you can do to help elders in the Sendai area! 

 Tokyo English Life Line (TELL) are looking for volunteers who can provide counselling over the phone.

Japan EQ Animal Rescue and Support
Need people in Tokyo that are at bilingual (Japanese/English).  Or at least an English speaker that is good at Japanese, or visaversa. That said, we need other Tokyo based errands:


Rescue Japan is a non-profit relief effort working to collect and donate supplies for those affected by the 2011 Tohoku Tsunami and Earthquake. Lots of opps helping out!

The Japan Emergency Team asking for information from people who want to help.
Please send your information to team@jhelp.com
* Include your contact information, when and how you might be able to help. Please also confirm your level of Japanese language skills.
The Japan Emergency Team,
3-3-7 Kokubun-cho Aoba-ku
Sendai, Miyagi-ken 980-8671
*Telephone connection is not regular at this time.
http://www.jhelp.com

宮城県災害ボランティアセンター 

宮城県災害ボランティアセンター(VC)では、被災者の方々へボランティアの皆さんのお力をお届けするために、ボランティアバスパックの募集を行います。

  ・募集要綱(PDF形式、Zip圧縮済)こちらからダウンロード下さい
・申込書(Word形式、Zip圧縮済)こちらからダウンロード下さい
・参加者名簿(Excel形式、Zip圧縮済)こちらからダウンロード下さい
Japanese government website on volunteering.
http://www.bousai.go.jp/vol/
For comprehensive listings, please visit the AJET Volunteer/Donation Information  Japan Volunteers, or the Adventures in Gradland pages:

>The Town of Taro

>Written by Rob Keyworth, Foreign Volunteers Japan

IMG_0023
Delivering 5 tons of Aid to the Green Pia distribution centre near Taro, Iwate.

Here’s a brief update from the fundraiser to support the town of Taro, and what we’ve been doing since then.

We raised 428,350 yen from the Race Night at Paddy Foley’s – thank you very much for all who attended.

As a result of this we were able to take 3 trucks up to Tohoku.
The initial plan was to leave Saturday morning and return on Sunday but as there was a strong aftershock on Thursday night we delayed until the roads were open and the electricity was back on. We probably could have gone earlier but it was only at 10 am on Saturday morning that we were able to confirm that we were able to get diesel all the way up the Tohoku Expressway and we didn’t want to create an issue up there by getting stranded. This proved to be a wise decision as one of the trucks had a very small gas tank and so the delay was probably the correct call.

We had arranged to collect aid from three different locations – Thomas’ bar in Zushi, Allied Pickford’s offices in Roppongi and Second Harvest in Asakusabashi. On top of that we used some of the money we raised to buy things before we left which included toothbrushes, toys, games, puzzles etc. So all three vans were pretty well stocked when we left Tokyo.

The journey up was pretty uneventful and we got to the hotel in Mizusawa Iwate by about 8 pm. We refueled there and made plans for the next day. Dave’s friend Jonathan had scouted the area and found that there are a couple of areas that still weren’t getting enough supplies so we decided that we should head to the distribution centre for the town of Taro.

Japan 11 111


After checking Google maps we discovered this would be a 3.5 hour drive so we had a few hours sleep and we were back on the road again at 6 am.
The drive to our destination was through some of the most beautiful scenery and a world away from where we were heading to. It’s still the back end of winter up there and the mountains and fields were still covered in deep snow and the rivers were in full flow carrying the melt water out to sea. At another time and place it would have been worth taking photos of the scenery as it was stunning.

As we drove towards the coast the mood changed. We drove through Miyako which had been very badly damaged by the tsunami. There’s a lot of video of Miyako on the internet but it was impressive that despite the devastation there were two gas stations open for business and selling fuel. Even though their buildings, car wash etc had been destroyed they were back in operation.

We then drove through where Taro used to be. The town of Taro was devastated by tsunami’s in 1933 and 1961 so they built two 10 metre walls which would have protected them against a tsunami wave of 15 metres. Apparently when the alarms went off, the people didn’t react as well as they might have done as they believed that these walls would protect them.
The wave was believed to have been the highest that hit any part of the area with some reports suggesting that it could have been as high as 36 m.

Of the initial population of around 4,000 people there are 800 are now living in shelters.
I don’t know how many of the remainder survived.

The town of Taro has gone.

We delivered about 5 tons of aid to the distribution centre there. This included Food, Water, Hygiene products and things that would keep them entertained.

After a very brief stop there we headed back home.

We were making very good time until the aftershock on Monday afternoon which closed the Tohoku Expressway and added a three hour diversion to two of the trucks and a three hour wait at Hanyu for the third. We eventually made it back to Tokyo after 11 pm. But at least we had homes to go to.

As always there are very many people to thank, without whom we wouldn’t have been able to do what we did.

In no particular order:

Thanks to Neil for hosting the Race Night
Thanks to all who sponsored the races
Thanks to all who attended
Thanks to everyone else who donated to Dave or Andy
Thanks to Lindsay for sorting the trucks again
Thanks to Thomas and his customers in Zushi for their donations
Thanks to the Tokyo American Club for their donations
Thanks to Scott for pretty much everything
Thanks to those of you who got up early on a Sunday morning just to help load some trucks
Thanks to Second Harvest for allowing us to take some of their stuff

Japan 11 115
Delivering aid to Taro, Iwate.

Thanks to the amazing Jessielyn Fernando of Mizusawa, Iwate, who put us all up for the night in the Azuma Hotel, fed us, and wouldn’t take any payment.
And thanks to the other six drivers who came on a journey we won’t forget.

A brief report was posted on the Foreign Volunteers Japan website about our trip and someone who was originally from Taro wrote this:

Hey, that is my home town! I don’t know if any of you knew people in Taro and that’s how you chose the evacuation center to deliver the aids, but how nice of you guys to do this! I feel truly so grateful for your actions. There are people who really care about our small town – that’s a wonderful feeling! You made my day! Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!!!

I thought that you would like to know that your donations have made some kind of difference.
We still have money left and we will be using it to fund more trips until we run out of money or until there’s no longer a need for it.
Thanks again to everyone involved.

Japan 11 113
Delivering aid to Taro, Iwate.

>Volunteer Opportunities with NGO JEN

>NGO JEN is looking for volunteers for its soup kitchen and sludge removal projects. 

Reposted from NGO JEN blog. Image (C) JEN

JEN is an NGO with a wealth of experience in disaster relief, focused on needs assessment, coordinating with other international organizations, scouting for local manpower and managing support projects to adapting all of these to a variety of situations.  They are currently handling projects in Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Sudan, Iraq, Haiti, and now Miyagi. They are a very effective at the work they do. Their well-proven objective is not to execute one-time relief work, but to work through an established process to insure sustainable recovery in each of the areas where they set up operations.

Soup Kitchen Volunteers: 

JEN dispatched its first team to Miyagi prefecture immediately after the earthquake, and conducted damage and needs assessment and assessment of transportation and procurement routes. Along with these assessments, JEN distributed emergency supplies of clothing, hygiene kits and food for soup kitchens. They also provided hot meals for 600 people in evacuation centers with the cooperation of earthquake/tsunami victims. They have decided to organize soup kitchen in Ishinomaki to provide hot meals for those who have difficulties securing food.

Now they are calling for volunteers to support them in their soup kitchen.

The details for the soup kitchen volunteer opportunities, and application forms can be found here: 

Sludge Removal Volunteers!

Sludge, brought by the tsunami, is now emitting disturbing odor around communities. It has been more than three weeks since the incident, and the sludge is drying up and hardening. Gradually this sludge will turn into dust. The dust will be blown up into the air which can have perverse effects to our health.

The tsunami brought heavy mud and sludge inside houses. Tatami mats and furniture have absorbed water (one tatami can weigh up to 100kg), thus women and elderly cannot even clean up their houses. Most of the people staying at their homes live on the second floor because the ground floor is covered with mud and sludge. There are also evacuees who could return home once mud and sludge is cleared.

JEN is now procuring equipment and preparing to receive volunteers while coordinating with other organizations. They are now calling for volunteers to help them remove mud and sludge from houses.

The details for sludge removal volunteer opportunities can be found here: 

Following that, NGO JEN is also collecting donations related directly to their Soup Kitchen and Sludge Cleanup operations. Please follow their main blog for details.

>The Fruit Tree Project

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April 13, 2011 *UPDATE*
昨日、気仙沼小学校で働いている方と電話で少しお話ししました。現在の状況は以前私たちが伺ったときとほとんど変わらず、このところ届く食料はパンだけだそうです。
私たちのフルーツツリープロジェクトの話をすると、大変喜んでいらっしゃいました。ぜひお願いします!ありがとうございます!すみませんと何回もおっしゃっていました。
私たちは必ずこのプロジェクトを成功させなければいけません!今後ともみなさまのご支援よろしくお願い致します。

 
Hey folks, this is the funds proposal I have been sending out in hopes of receiving funding to get this project rolling. Please take a look and definitely get back to me with your thoughts/opinions. Also feel free to pass it along to anyone who might be interested in supporting this project. 10 days you might ask? Well, plain and simple, it would be very difficult to sustain this project long term, considering how grassroots our efforts are at this moment. BUT, this project will raise awareness of this issue and hopefully set an example and challenge larger organizations and government programs to continue to provide fruits!!! Minami and I were SHOCKED when we found out that there was a wholesale fruit market in Kesennuma with an abundance of fruit, yet people in shelters were not receiving anything! This has to change. Kesennuma isn’t the only town either! Many reports from other shelters and devastation areas are coming back saying the same thing, WE NEED FRUIT! The Fruit Tree Project will be as successful as funds allow! So please spread the word, and let’s start making moves!

Hello, my name is Paul Yoo and I am a current JET in Yurihonjo, Akita. In wake of the recent disaster, we, in Akita, have actively been involved in the relief efforts and are doing our best to contribute in this time of need. Please take a look at this website for more detailed accounts of our activities (volunteerakita.wordpress.com). The Fruit Tree Project spawned from our trip down to Kesennuma last week to drop off supplies. While at the shelter we had the opportunity to talk about what their needs were, and FRESH FRUIT was their unanimous answer. After leaving the shelter we contacted a local store manager who agreed to help us in our efforts, and offered to make orders for us from his wholesale fruit provider (located in Kesennuma!!!). He assured us that all of our orders could be accommodated for as long as we placed them the day before. The details for this plan are SET. The only thing we need now is funding. It is heart-breaking to know that the people aren’t able to get what they need, especially with a source so close to them. We have to change this. Right now, the shelter I am in contact with, accommodates 1100 people and receives prepared meals from the Japanese military. They get a bowl of rice and miso soup. For this first project, my goal is to establish the infrastructure it takes to get fresh fruits into the shelters, while also raising awareness of this issue. My hope is that others, who are looking to make a difference, will continue the Fruit Tree Project in other cities and towns effected by the disaster.
Timeline/Goals: I want to take advantage of Golden Week and head down to Kesennuma for 10 days (April 29th – May 8th) making multiple deliveries per day. My goal for this mission is to first and foremost get fruits into the shelters. Second, is to raise awareness of this issue so others can follow our lead and continue the Fruit Tree Project throughout the devastated areas.

Projected Costs: Please note, although we are getting wholesale prices, the projected costs are based upon averages (fruit prices fluctuate daily)

~70 apples/box = ~4000yen
1,100 people/70 apples = ~16 boxes = 64,000yen (per day)
~60 bananas/box = ~2,500yen
1,100 people/60 bananas = ~18 boxes = 45,000yen (per day)
~5 oranges/pack = 300yen
1,100 people/5 oranges = 220 packs = 66,000yen (per day)
Aim is to supply each person in the shelter with 2 fruits per day for 10 days (ex:) one apple and one banana (for each person) = 109,000yen/day x 10days = 1,090,000yen
What we need: The only thing holding us back right now is funding. The fruit supplier is set, as well as transportation/gasoline/delivery logistics.
How you can donate: People in Japan can donate through bank transfers (furikomi), a bank account has been set up specifically for this initiative. ALL donated funds will go towards purchasing fruit for this project. Those outside of Japan can donate through paypal. Please refer to the website (volunteerakita.wordpress.com) under the “Donations” section for detailed instructions on donating.
Summary: This project is important to me as a JET because THIS is our community! Once we settle into our new jobs and towns here in Japan, we become part of the community, and right now Japan has come together as one community. And this includes us! I realize it will take a significant amount of money to make this project happen, but when you break it down, a 1000 yen donation could provide 1 person with 2 fruits daily, for 10 consecutive days. Every little bit counts, and I will guarantee that all funds donated to this project will DIRECTLY benefit the people in need.

Thank you for your time,

Paul Yoo and Minami Ishikawa

フルーツツリープロジェクト(The Fruit Tree Project)

発案:ポール ユー
日本語著:石川 南
前回の気仙沼小学校への物資運搬トリップで、その避難所で働いている方にお話を聞く機会がありました。気仙沼小学校はすぐ隣に気仙沼中学校と市民会 館があり、現在すべてが避難所となっています。合わせて約1100人の方が避難しておられます。毎日の食事は自衛隊が炊き出しを行っていますが、食事はほ とんどがごはんとみそ汁のみ。かなり偏った栄養バランスになっています。避難所では調理することが難しく、保存場所もありません。今何が一番欲しいです か?と質問したら、答えは「フルーツ」でした。

プロジェクトの目的

ゴールデンウィークの10日間(4月29日~5月8日)を利用し、毎日新鮮なフルーツを気仙沼小学校へ届ける。
一人一日2個ずつ行き渡るようにする。

コスト

価格は平均価格で計算。合計は1,100人、一人一人にそれぞれ1つずつ割り当てた計算。
りんご1箱(約70個)=約4,000円 合計16箱=64,000円
バナナ1箱(約60本)=約2,500円 合計18箱=45,000円
オレンジ1袋(約5個)=約300円 合計220袋=66,000円
よって、1日にりんごとバナナを全員に配るとすると、1日約109,000円のコストがかかることになる。10日間で合計約1,090,000円の費用が必要とされる。

プロジェクトに必要なこと
大量のフルーツを購入する為のルートはすでに準備が出来ているので、現在必要なのは費用を集めることである。
費用はvolunteerAKITAのサイトを通して寄付金を募る。
このプロジェクトを実現させるのには莫大な費用がかかる為一見難しそうに見えますが、細かく分けてみてみると1,000円の寄付で一人分(1日フ ルーツ2つ、10日分)を補えることがわかります。少しずつでも多くの方にご協力して頂くことが出来たらこのプロジェクトは必ず成功させることが出来ま す。volunteerAKITAを通して寄付して頂いたお金はすべてこのプロジェクトの為に使われ、必要としている方々のもとへ届きます。

また、このプロジェクトをリードし、成功させることでフルーツツリープロジェクトの輪を広げていきたいと考えています。気仙沼小学校だけではなく、 多数ある他の避難所も同じような状況にあると思われます。一人ですべての避難所をサポートするのは不可能です。私たちに続き多くの人にこのプロジェクトを 実行して頂き、なるべくたくさんの避難所で生活している方々に、少しでも多くのフルーツを届けることが目標です。

振込先
ゆうちょ銀行
【店名】八六八(ハチロクハチ)
【店番】868
【貯金種目】普通預金
【口座番号】0190609
【口座名義】石川 南

※こちらの口座はvolunteeraAKITA専用の口座です
Thank you for your time,

Paul Yoo and Minami Ishikawa

>25 hours to Kesennuma

>Written by Rob Keyworth, Foreign Volunteers Japan

(* Photos to be added shortly)

Apologies if none of this makes much sense but I’ve not had much sleep

As you probably know, Dave and I went up to Kesennuma yesterday to deliver some supplies to the people who need it. This is a match report of the 25 hours that covered the 1100 km round trip and a bit of background thrown in.

Dave and I decided earlier this week that we would take some stuff to the people who have been most affected by the Tohoku Tsunami and Earthquake and decided that Kesennuma would be the best destination.

I’d seen the footage on the Telegraph of the 7 minutes where the tsunami destroyed the town but also I discovered that they had 13,000 people in shelters and there was one main distribution centre. This was key for me because my Japanese is appalling and I thought it was important that we could do some good without creating any issues and if we were driving from shelter to shelter with only one Japanese speaker it could create issues. And it was also not fair on Dave to have to deal with that side of things completely on his own so we decided we’d do a big drop to one area and they would then be able to allocate the resources that we were able to deliver.

I got in touch with Damian and he put me in touch with Lindsay who was volunteering to help people in anyway she could. She was able to speak to Sato-san at the distribution centre and he informed her that their most pressing need was food. Canned food was okay but they would prefer fresh.

I got in touch with a reputable charity and spoke to them three times. I told them I needed food and they said they could provide some but wouldn’t be able to provide a full amount (2 ton truck’s worth). Scott McCaskie posted on the Foreign Volunteers Japan website that he had about a 2 ton truck’s worth of supplies – tooth brushes, baby and adult diapers, baby food etc and most importantly food. He kindly offered us some of the stuff he’d collected and so we arranged with the charity to collect food from them on Saturday before filling the rest of the truck with Scott’s stuff.

In the meantime Dave spent ages trying to get a truck and thanks to one of his friends he was able to book a 2ton truck so we were all set for a Saturday departure. Andy volunteered to come with us but when we went to pick up the truck it was only in the 2 big lads size so Andy unfortunately had to miss out.

Even before we left the truck rental place one of Dave’s friends had dropped some stuff off so we were well on the way. The first stop was the charity place and as this was a truck there was no navigation system. Not to worry as Dave had programmed his iphone with directions and we should be there in about 20 minutes. About 40 minutes later Dave realized my sense of direction, even when following a moving map left a lot to be desired and he was going to be in for an even longer night than he expected.

So anyway, we arrived at the charity and to cut a long story short, they allowed us to take some boxes.  Of the 9 or 10 volunteers who were at the charity ONE of them volunteered to help us so we took about ¼ of a trucks worth of stuff that mostly wasn’t food. But as Dave said, these people do a lot of good work all of the time and not just when something big has happened. So they do deserve credit for their work. But I was a little bit frustrated that we didn’t get more food.

Then we went to the combini to get essential supplies for the trip. Sweets, snickers, water, snickers, sports drinks, snickers and as we were paying I noticed they were selling cans of tuna. So we got three because we’d promised the people of Kesennuma that we’d take food and the very least we’d have some. Not ideal by any stretch of the imagination.

Our next stop was Scott’s in Roppongi. Scott works for Allied Pickfords and he and his company had collected a lot of supplies. Scott was also helping to supply a second FVJ truck and after a quick call he agreed to let us have all of the food as well as whatever other stuff the other group couldn’t take. We made our way over to Roppongi to fill the rest of the truck but Dave had sensibly asked for a number of volunteers to help so by the time we got there, there were about 7 or 8 people who helped fill the truck in record time. So we were set with a mountain of rice, tuna, canned food, toilet rolls, tissues, underwear etc etc etc. And a couple of bags of fresh salad. So all in all we were delighted with the products that we would be able to take with us and were sure that they would be very well received when we got there.

Dave drove the first leg and we stopped off at Hanyu (a favourite stopping point of the cricket team when we play at Sano). At this point Dave mentioned that one of his friends, Chizu, had provided us with a load of homemade sandwiches – top effort Chizu! So it was homemade sarnies, coffee at Starbucks and we charged our iphones there.

I drove the next leg and things were going smoothly until an orange warning light started flashing on the dashboard. We pulled over, pressed a couple of buttons and it seemed to be okay. Continued on again and we had the same problem. Dave managed to decipher the manual and we discovered we had to pull over and let the engine clean itself for 15 minutes so that’s pretty much what we did until the engine cleaned itself.

The road on this stretch of the route was pretty impressive. There had clearly been massive damage caused by the earthquake on March 11th and we drove over countless areas where repair work had been done. On the return journey on Sunday we discovered that the white line on the edge of the road was no longer joined and in some places the road had shifted up to 30 cm.

I think it’s absolutely remarkable that the engineers were able to repair so much serious damage and have both lanes open of both the North and South bound carriageways within 2 weeks of the disaster.
We stopped off at the next place for more sandwiches, more charging of the iPhone and it was this point I discovered we’d picked the service station closest to Fukushima Dai Ichi. So Dave went outside to counter the radiation threat with a cigarette and off we went to our final stop of the night where we planned to have a few hours sleep before going on in the morning.

The outside temperature was supposed to be -1 so we wrapped up in jumpers, coats and sleeping bags. Dave had the genius idea of turning the engine on for 10 minutes to warm the cab and he was soon snoring away. I have never been the best of sleepers and with that going off as well as the surprisingly bright break lights of people going through the services I was never going to get to sleep. So instead of trying to get comfortable which would have been impossible I decided the smart thing to do was to go to the snack area in the services and stay warm.

I tried to leave the cab without disturbing Dave but managed to catch my sleeping bag in the door. Twice. Which apparently led to all of the really nice warm air leaving the cab and being replaced by something a whole lot colder. But I only have someone else’s opinion on that and you should never trust a mackem.

The only place that I could find to charge my phone was in the men’s toilets so I’d go in there and charge it every now and again. I can’t believe that I’ve just admitted to spending my Saturday night hanging around men’s toilet’s but that seems to be what I did.

At 5 am Dave woke up (was woken) we had a breakfast of champions – Sandwich and cup a soup and we were soon on the way to Kesennuma. I think you’ve all seen the devastating Tsunami that hit Kesennuma and if you don’t then Google it, there’s plenty of video footage.

But as we approached the city I found it exceptionally surreal that life was continuing normally for the vast majority of people in the towns on the way there and even as we entered Kesennuma itself there were no suggestions that there was anything untoward. At one point I even asked Dave if there was more than one Kesennuma’s because there really didn’t seem to be anything wrong with it. And then we turned a corner and drove down a road which was coated in sand and dirt and as we drove down this road we were suddenly in a scene from a movie.

We decided the best thing to do would be to go to the depot where we needed to and drop off all of the supplies. After another spell of my infamous map reading skills we made it to the depot at around 7:40 am. There was already a number of Japan Self Defence Troups there as well as a number of drivers from the local Takkyubin (parcel delivery service).

It was immediately obvious that the takkyubin couriers were working with the SDF to deliver all of the aid to the 88 shelters in the city. We went in to the main office and introduced ourselves as members of the FVJ (and the other charity) and the people there were naturally very happy that we had come. But at no point did they seem remotely bothered that we were foreign. They just were very happy that people had brought them aid. We gave our details and waited for us to be called. As we waited we watched in shock and admiration as the SDF emptied the contents of a very large trailer in about 10 minutes. A few snow flurries fell and it was pretty cold (long t-shirt weather) and then it was our turn to unload. We drove to the unloading bay and what happened next was just a blur of professionalism, effectiveness and pure quality. I never thought I would see such an efficient outfit in Japan but they emptied the van with a speed and efficiency that was impressive. A maximum of 8 minutes and we were on our way. And we forgot to give them our cans of tuna.

We stopped back in to the main office to talk to the people in charge and find out what their current need situation was. They didn’t need any more water or balnkets which is good to hear but they still need food – especially fresh food or food for cooking like miso, consommé and stuff to add to rice. Thanks charity.

We said we’d see what we could do and then headed back to the town centre and have a look at the devastation we’d seen on TV. We didn’t feel at all comfortable and drove round a few areas but didn’t stop because it just didn’t feel right. You’ve seen the pictures and there’s not a lot I can add except to say it really is horrific but again the SDF have done a superb job at starting what seems to be an impossible task. Roads are opened, stuff has been tidied up and it is neatly piled.

It’s very easy to look at the wood and not attribute it to a house. Certainly what was piled up by the rivers could easily be confused with pollution/fly tipping in the UK but the rest was, simply impossible to describe. Girders just don’t bend like that. Nor do lampposts and cars don’t belong on houses. For me it is possible to distance yourself from much of the debris. But when you see a shoe on top of the detritus in a shop. Or a child’s toy. It was a bit too much.

At one point I said to Dave that I was concerned that my frown would be permanently etched on my face. It was horrific and we felt uneasy by being there. We didn’t stay long and headed back towards Tokyo.

Shortly afterwards I started to finally nod off. Dave braked hard and immediately apologized for waking me up. Which obviously made me very suspicious.

We took turns driving the rest of the way back and managed to get back just an hour late at 5 pm.
It was a hell of a day and a hell of a journey but completely worthwhile.

A number of people have thanked me for doing this and I think I can speak for Dave in this regard. We were just the face of this small project. There were many, many people involved.
The people who donated the food to that charity as well as to Scott and Andy W for having the inspired idea of raising sponsorship and getting 180,000 yen pledged to the Japan red cross.
Chizu for the sandwiches (they really were that good)

Those who helped load the truck at Scott’s (and Dave D for the chocolate)
The guy at the charity who helped, even those who were not helping must (surely??) have done something useful, Scott for giving so much of the stuff that people in Kesennuma needed
The SDF guys for their help in emptying the truck at the depot
Dave for putting up with me for 23 hours (he had two hours sleep).
Dave’s friend for getting the truck
Lindsay for calling Kesennuma
We were the drivers, the couriers but without everyone else’s contribution we’d have had a very empty truck.

So thank you all and please continue to contribute in any shape, or form that you can.
There are a lot of people who still need help.

>Bicycle repair guy: Daiki Mochizuki

>This is an entry by Henry Osborn, on behalf of Bikes for Japan

 

Daiki Mochizuki (blog: http://ameblo.jp/vfr400r-hrc/) works at bicycle and motorbike repair shop in Omiya. Having originally trained to be a dancer, Daiki discovered bikes when he started cycling as part of rehabilitation, when recovering from a leg injury. He started repairing bikes at the shop – mainly for the police and postal services – three years ago. In his twenties, Daiki has two young kids – a girl called Shino and a boy called Ren. After a week of following the plights of thousands of families following the Tohoku earthquake he decided to drop what he was doing, and drove up to Sendai by himself without any set plans ahead to see what he could do to help people there. He took his tools and as many bicycle parts with him as he could carry, while everyone else was heading the other way. He arrived in Sendai and tracked down a shelter in Tagajo-shi – a big shelter housing around 1,000 people. He set up a site and told people he’d come to fix their bikes. He started repairing the bicycles brought to him for free, returning to Tokyo a few days later. He’s been doing this every week since then. Driving up at midnight, staying for 2 days, fixing as many bikes as he can, then coming back to work at his shop in Omiya.

Daiki now has 4 other colleagues from the repair shop voluntarily working with him. They take it in turns to travel up to Sendai together. They’ve so far worked with 4 shelters. Each time they go to a shelter, if they work around the clock they can fix up about 40 bikes per day. There are always more bikes in need of repair, and never enough time or hands to go around. The bike shops in the areas were all destroyed and have no parts coming in so there are no other on-site support channels available. All the activities they have done so far have been completely self-funded.

What difference can a bicycle make?
In the affected areas up until the tsunami hit people mainly used cars to get around. Unlike in cities or towns, where train stations are close together, in rural areas and along the coasts stations are far apart. You simply can’t get around without a car. Most people’s cars were either swept away or destroyed by the tsunami. Even if people still have their cars they have no gasoline. A lot of roads remain inaccessible by car. So bicycles are really the only way people can travel over anything more than a short distance.

Families need bicycles to go out and get food and supplies, and to carry them back. Many are staying in places several miles away from the closest stores or distribution points. For individuals who are trying to find their family members and friends, a bicycle gives them a way to go out and search for them. For people who have lost their homes and businesses, it gives them a way to travel to and from the site where their buildings used to stand, to begin the clean-up and to gather what is left of their belongings. For those who have become unemployed and who are looking for new jobs, it gives them a way to get out to a job interview further inland where towns are less damaged. For school children, it gives them a way to get to their classes. For young kids who have suffered extreme stress in the aftermath of the disaster, having a bike to ride around and play on gives them something fun to do, something to look forward to in their day. They really need more kid’s bikes as almost all the bicycles around are for adults.

Shortage
Although some public organizations have already donated bikes, there is still a massive need for bicycles. The Osaka local government made a donation of a few hundred bicycles. Yamaha have given 200. However, these bikes are all distributed under a reservation/time-shared basis at the shelters. There are waiting lists stretching for days, so most people are not able to access them. There are still over 200,000 people living in shelters across Tohoku.

Collecting bicycles for Tohoku
In an effort to do what he can to increase the number of available bikes for people who really need them, Daiki has started trying to collect used bicycles in Tokyo, which he can repair and take with him up to Sendai in his truck. In between fixing bikes and his trips up to Sendai, finding people with bikes to give is time consuming. So far he has managed to get a total of 30 bikes, having spoken to over 100 people. We’ve decided to help him out by reaching out to people we know, asking for bike donations, picking them up around Tokyo, and helping him get them up to Tohoku.

What you can do to help
If you have bikes which you are not using and which you’d like to donate, let us know and we will come to pick them up (either by truck or rider), directly at your address this or the following Sundays running up to Golden Week. Please contact me directly at hosborn@heidrick.com with the following details:

i) Your name, address, and contact details
ii) The number of bikes for donation, the type (mountain, road, shopping bike etc.)
iii) Please specify whether the bikes are for adults or kids
iv) Please state the condition they are in (immediately ride-able upon pick-up, or in need of repair). Daiki is confident he can fix even the most “boro-boro” bikes so please don’t worry too much about their condition!
v) What time it would be possible to pick the bikes up at your address this or the following Sundays (between 9pm to 6pm)

Once we have an idea of how many bikes there are for collecting each Sunday, and the pick-up points around Tokyo, we’ll get back to you individually within the next few days to let you know when we can stop by. If there are many bikes clustered around a small area, we may ask you to kindly bring the bikes to a convenient local collection point. If anyone has any questions please reach out to me any time.

Thank you very much indeed for your kind support.

Henry Osborn / Bikes for Japan

>Join Foreign Volunteers Japan on Facebook

>

If you haven’t yet joined Foreign Volunteers Japan on Facebook and would like to help out with our efforts providing; food, and daily goods to the disaster areas, here’s the link;

 Foreign Volunteers Japan Facebook Group 
This group is created to gather willing foreigners, who wish to do volunteer work at an appropriate time and when required in the wake of the disaster. At this present time, whilst many of you would like to get started now, it is preferable to let the experts do their work unhindered and assess what needs to be done. In the meantime, stay safe. If and when required, we will share information regarding volunteer activities.

>Foreign Volunteers Japan Delivery Missions

>Since I’ve had the chance to join in on two delivery missions with the group, and one with Beau Retallick’s group, I thought I should take this chance to elaborate on what exactly these missions entail.
2011-03-27 FVJ - Ishinomaki Local Conditions 183

Currently, there are shortages of gasoline and rental trucks across Japan. As you could imagine, this creates one of the largest logistical challenges for anyone organizing deliveries up to Tohoku. For our first two trips, we were able to secure a special “Emergency Relief Vehicle” permit for our trucks from local police departments. That allowed us access to the still-closed Tohoku expressway, and emergency vehicles are allowed to cut into gasoline lines at local stations.


FVJ - Ishinomaki
(Be considerate though – each station has a daily quota, and if a 10-truck caravan fills up after cutting in line, the locals who have been waiting patiently at the end of a three-hour line, will end up being turned away without being able to fill-up after the daily quota is maxed out.)

The next challenge is find food and supplies. Thanks to generous donors, collection centers across Tokyo have been filling up quickly. Currently, there are three major collection points. Second Harvest, Tokyo IS Support Center, and Peace Boat. Please see the list of places to send material aid donations for details.

A few people have asked why our collection center at IKON Pubs has put a pause on collecting donations. There are two reasons for this. The first one is that Foreign Volunteers Japan is now putting more effort into matching up delivery runs with local needs and requests from individual refugee centers across Tohoku. The second one is that Foreign Volunteers Japan is now focusing on securing large-scale bulk supplies for the affected areas.

FVJ - Ishinomaki

We’ve found that randomly sending up shipments often causes more harm than it helps. The sheer devastation of the tsunami has destroyed a large percentage of the habitable buildings in several towns, so the refugee shelters have been established in schools, town halls, auditoriums, company buildings, community centers, etc…

This means that refugees themselves are now occupying buildings that may have once been able to provide storage facilities for each community. When we send up supplies that are not immediately needed by the community we deliver them to, they do not have the ability to store those items until a need arises. So many of the smaller aid groups have actually had to return to Tokyo or Nagoya with trucks only half-unloaded.

Supplies that have been rejected have included rice (no way to cook it), clothes (not seasonally appropriate, or not in the right sizes), random boxes of donations (too difficult to sort), other supplies that they had recently received in bulk, and even items that were received in small numbers (since it is important to distribute donations evenly among the refugees in each shelter.)

Currently, various aid groups have begun working together to better coordinate the needs in each area. Damian Penston of Refugees Japan has been helping NUC (Nihon Univa Counter Crisis Team) convert their database of local refugee needs into a Google Document for keeping the various supply teams up-to-date with the latest needs of each community. As Foreign Volunteers Japan heads into the affected areas, we also interview each center on how their needs have changed, and relay that information back to Damian, who in turn helps convey it back to NUC.

In order to secure large-scale bulk supplies, we have been negotiating with industrial-scale wholesalers, and even supply chain providers for hotels and hospitals. Of course we only order items that will fill an immediate need for the refugees up north, such as bottled water, sanitary products, canned foods, specific clothing items, cleaning supplies, etc.

FVJ-Ishinomaki-5039

Once an order is negotiated, we can channel donations towards covering the costs involved. For our second trip, we were able to secure an order of 7000 half-liter bottles from a large wholesaler, and courteously Kevin Yu of Tesla motors offered to sponsor the bill for the water.

Following the tsunami, the focus of relief efforts has moved from 1) search and rescue operations, to 2) meeting the immediate needs of hundreds-of-thousands of refugees resettled into emergency shelters.

Now is the time to focus on stage 3) meeting the long-term needs of those refugees. Only once that is taken care of, will it be possible to begin the long and arduous process of 4) rebuilding the devastated towns along the coastline.

Foreign Volunteers Japan is committed to aiding and contributing to the relief efforts focused on the recovery of the tsunami affected areas of Tohoku. Thank you sincerely for your support and involvement.

To participate in the discussion, offer logistics support, loan us a truck, join in as a driver, help sort goods, help run this web-site, write blogs about volunteer efforts, etc…   Please consider joining the Foreign Volunteers Japan group on Facebook. 

2011-03-27 FVJ - Ishinomaki Local Conditions 232

>Ongoing Volunteer Opportunities

>

Second Harvest
http://www.2hj.org/index.php/get_involved/donate_time (Info about regular volunteer activities)

Mizuta Building 4-5-1 Asakusabashi, Taito, Tokyo
Contact: volunteer@2hj.org

Second Harvest is sending trucks with food and material aid to evacuation centers in Tohoku. They need volunteers to collect, sort and load donated items. They also need drivers. Please contact them at the above email address for more information.



Peace Boat

B1, 3-13-1 Takadanobaba, Shinjuku, Tokyo 169-0075
Contact: arataotake@peaceboat.gr.jp

Peace Boat needs volunteers both to help with relief efforts in Ishinomaki City and to raise funds and sort donations in Tokyo. They ask volunteers to attend an orientation seminar first. Please contact Arata Otake at the above email address for more information. Please provide personal details (Full name, Age, Gender, Address, Telephone number, E-mail, Availability, Language ability) and specify whether you are interested in volunteering in Tokyo or Ishinomaki.

Volunteer Opportunities with NGO JEN 

NGO JEN is looking for volunteers for its soup kitchen and sludge removal projects. 

Soup Kitchen Volunteers: 

JEN dispatched its first team to Miyagi prefecture immediately after the earthquake, and conducted damage and needs assessment and assessment of transportation and procurement routes. Along with these assessments, JEN distributed emergency supplies of clothing, hygiene kits and food for soup kitchens. They also provided hot meals for 600 people in evacuation centers with the cooperation of earthquake/tsunami victims. They have decided to organize soup kitchen in Ishinomaki to provide hot meals for those who have difficulties securing food.

Now they are calling for volunteers to support them in their soup kitchen.
The details for the soup kitchen volunteer opportunities, and application forms can be found here: 

Sludge Removal Volunteers
Sludge, brought by the tsunami, is now emitting disturbing odor around communities. It has been more than three weeks since the incident, and the sludge is drying up and hardening. Gradually this sludge will turn into dust. The dust will be blown up into the air which can have perverse effects to our health. The tsunami brought heavy mud and sludge inside houses. Tatami mats and furniture have absorbed water (one tatami can weigh up to 100kg), thus women and elderly cannot even clean up their houses. Most of the people staying at their homes live on the second floor because the ground floor is covered with mud and sludge. There are also evacuees who could return home once mud and sludge is cleared.

JEN is now procuring equipment and preparing to receive volunteers while coordinating with other organizations. They are now calling for volunteers to help them remove mud and sludge from houses.
The details for sludge removal volunteer opportunities can be found here: 

EARTH DAY MONEY: Calling for Host families for Earthquake Evacuees
Please offer your “home” to ease hardships of the earthquake evacuees.http://www.earthdaymoney.org/topics_dt.php?id=391

Tokyo English Life Line (TELL) are looking for volunteers who can provide counselling over the phone.
http://www.telljp.com

For more volunteer opportunities, 
please follow the Japan Volunteers Blog:
http://japanvolunteers.wordpress.com/volunteers/