It’s Not Just Mud

INJM Working on a landslide-relief project in Onagawa town.

This is one of the groups in Tohoku that has playedgracious host to Foreign Volunteers Japan members on several visits up to Tohoku so far. The group was originallyformed in the famous “Tent City” in Ishinomaki, that ran frommid-March until September 30th, on the grounds of Senshu University inIshinomaki.
The founder of the group, Jamie El-Banna, is known as thego-to-guy for information regarding local conditions in Ishinomaki. He has workedclosely on projects with the British Chamber of Commerce, Ishinomaki 2.0,Samaritan’s Purse, and several others. 
Jamie (far right) welcoming a new group of volunteers to INJM HQ.
While working in Osaka, Jamie travelled out toHigashi-Matsushima on a volunteer trip in mid May. Although that was well afterthe initial rescue phase of the tsunami relief efforts, the level ofdevastation and unmet needs of the refugees that Jamie encountered, made himrealize that there was still tremendous amounts of work that had to be done forthe relief efforts. 
After returning to Osaka, he didn’t feel right settlingback down in the city. There was still so much to be done in thetsunami-affected regions. After a few weeks, he made the dramatic decision toquit his job, sublet his apartment, and moved out to Tent City in Ishinomaki. Thatwas where the core organizational group behind the It’s Not Just Mud projectwas formed.  
Long-term volunteer Manish already muddy by 10:00am.
The name for the project of course, comes from theinitial challenge facing anyone getting involved with post-tsunami clean-up andrelief work. Not only did the devastating force of the tsunami destroy much of what it came into contact with, it also covered nearly everythingelse with a thick layer of toxic, bacteria-breeding, noxious and thick mud. 
Much of theclean-up efforts have been focused on removing this mud… but, as Jamie puts it”it’s not just mud. It’s about the people who are living throughthis terrible tragedy, and helping them get back to a normal life.” 
Although theearly days of the project revolved around clean-up projects coordinated throughlocal volunteer centers, INJM has since expanded their projects. 
As of the endof September, the It’s Not Just Mud project has now moved into two neighboringhouses in the Watanoha district of Ishinomaki. Impressed by their volunteeractivities, the houses were actually offered to the group by refugees who had beenable to move to another district of the city.
Half-restored INJM house in late-September
 When the groupfirst moved in, the first floor of both houses were hollowed-out. The walls andfloors had been badly damaged, festering sludge under the floors, and rottinginsulation in the walls all needed to be extracted, and shattered windowsneeded to be boarded up. 
Over the lasttwo months, Jamie’s group has worked on-top of their other volunteer projectsto restore the house to working shape. By the end of September they hadfloorboards and walls extracted, and removed the tsunami sludge. Soon afterthat they put up new walls and floorboards (generously provided by Samaritan’sPurse), as well as restoring the water and gas. By early October they replaced theelectrical sockets, and soon will have a water heater installed. Even withoutthe water heater, Jamie explained that volunteers are able to visit the localtemporary hot-springs facilities for a hot bath.  
Knocking down a wall on a recent project.
As for the specific projects of INJM, here are theircurrent four main aims:
  1. Encouraging volunteering – They do this by offering assistance in coming in terms of advice and logistical support.
  2. Salvaging homes in the Ishinomaki area – In many cases, only the ground floor of the home was flooded, and in some cases soaked in sea water for up to three days. Months later, the building materials are waterlogged and rotting, and must be removed. This means removing the walls, ceiling, insulation, and flooring, then the 3-5cm layer of mud that is under everything.
    Normally, this kind of work would be undertaken by a professional builder, but because of the enormous number of damaged homes, the waiting list to get a professional builder is extremely long, and the process is costly. They work with experienced volunteers (several of which are trained builders) to perform this manual labor and gut houses, taking them one step closer to being liveable.
    For some families, they have been living on the second floor of their damaged home for months, passing through the rotting and hazardous first floor daily. Making it safe and clean is a significant improvement for these people.
  3. Salvaging homes further afield – INJM work with both local groups in central Ishinomaki and in more remote areas of the region. They have identified the need for this kind of service in towns across the Oshika Peninsula.
  4. Delivering fresh fruit and vegetables to areas that don’t have accessto such things. Now that the Winter is coming, INJM has begun focusing on thedistribution of Winter coats, kerosene heaters, and running a ‘kerosene pickupand delivery service’ for residents of refugee shelters and temporary housingunits without access to a car.

INJM volunteers helping a local sake-shop owner restore her business. 

A popular aspect of the group, is the members’ great sense of humor, andthe openness to new volunteers. The INJM page documents various F.U.Es. Thoseare the “Frequently Used Excuses” that unfortunately have beenpreventing many potential volunteers from making the short trip to Ishinomaki. Hereare the official F.U.E from the INJM webpage: 

F.U.E – Frequently Used Excuses

Below you can find some of the most common reasons peopleuse to not come. They all have a valid basis, but after reading below, I thinkyou’ll find that in actual fact, there’s nothing to worry about!
I’mworried I’ll find something really scary in the rubble!!
 The Self Defense Force has cleared most of the largedebris in Ishinomaki. Most of the work we do is clearing mud that is 2-4cmthick from homes and properties. You might find something that is emotionallytroubling, for example people’s personal belongings or photographs, but it isunlikely you’ll find something truly troubling with the kind of work we do.
I don’thave any experience!!
 Everyonehas to start somewhere! You will always have someone experienced working withyou who can answer your questions and tell you what to do and how to do it.It’s not too difficult, and after a day you’ll quickly learn what needs to bedone, and will be able to teach new volunteers yourself.
I’m notvery strong!!
 Youwon’t be asked to do anything you can’t do. Some jobs do require strength, butif you aren’t cut out for that, there are plenty of things you can do. Plentyof women and older people work with us!
I don’thave any equipment!!
 Allthe professional building equipment will be provided. Please look here for what you shouldbring!
I can’tbook a bus, I don’t read Kanji!!
 Contactus with your dates and we can arrange someone to do that for you.
I don’tspeak Japanese/English!!
 That’sOK! On the work site we will always make sure you understand what you’resupposed to be doing, and there are plenty of people around who can help out ifyou don’t understand. 


If you would beinterested in joining the INJM project, please feel free to contact Jamiedirectly at: jamie[AT]itsnotjustmud[DOT]com


Or visit theirFacebook fan group to ask for more information: 

 Foreign Volunteers Japan has begun campaigning with Kanto-based International Schools to collect coats for children affected by the disaster in Tohoku, who will soon be facing a harsh Winter. If you work at, or are involved with a school that might be interested in getting involved, please feel free to contact us at foreignvolunteersjapan (at) gmail (dot) com.

The initial campaign will be centered around allowing students to help students, but will soon to expanding to a larger campaign for collecting halogen and kerosene heaters, heat pads, heated blankets, and other Winter essentials, depending on local needs and requests in the Temporary Housing communities across the Tohoku coastal area.

Please stay tuned and further details will be posted as the campaign evolves.

Thank you sincerely for your support!

Foreign Volunteers Japan – Face To Face

Foreign Volunteers Japan – Face To Face

Come and enjoy an evening of fantastic music and guest speakers, whilst raising money for Tohoku. We welcome everyone interested in learning more about volunteerism.  It is also an opportunity for FVJ and other NPO/NGO volunteers to meet face to face beyond the confines of Facebook.

Let’s come together and discuss the successes, failures, joys, frustrations and aspirations of all those trying to help the survivors of March 11th.

Admission fee is 2000 yen (includes 1 drink).
Tickets available at the door.


*Zazushii Monkey*
*The Dead Flower Children Unplugged*
*Chris Grundy*

Prudential Tower 1F, 2-13-10 Nagatacho,
Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo 〒100-0014

Akasaka Mitsuke Station
Exit 11 (Sanno-shita District Gate) 1 min

Akasaka Station
Exit 1 (5 min)

Nagatacho Station
Exit 8 (2 min)

Tameike-sanno Station
Exit 8 (2 min)

Advanced-Tickets available via Wazoo:

For further enquiries contact

Collating listing of NPO/NGOs focused on longterm Tohoku Recovery.

Sarajean Rossitto of JapanVolunteers is currently compiling an updated listing of organizations focused on the longterm relief and recovery of the Tohoku region. 


She is compiling the list on her JapanVolunteers NGO advisory blog, under the heading “Your help needed – Tohoku relief and recovery org listing.”I have taken the liberty of reposting the tentative listing here as well. 


If you see any missing links, or any other groups that you feel should be included. Please feel free to comment directly on her blog, or to post your comments here and I will share them with her. 


Please send the names of the organizations in English and Japanese if possible, and include any relevant links to their webpage, or a bio of their activities if available.


The tentative list is as follows:

Romeo for Tohoku (Aroma Rich Juliet contest – I need your vote!)

Posted on behalf of hard-working Tohoku Volunteer Dean Newcombe, in support of his work with Intrepid Model Adventures and their long-term volunteer project in Ishinomaki:
Romeo and Juliet. We all know the story, but perhaps most of us don’t get the chance to be labeled as ‘Romeo’! That’s exactly where I have found myself though.
Living in Japan has granted me many opportunities, and many of them very surreal. I certainly didn’t expect to be standing as 1 of 8 gentlemen hoping to become the image of Romeo here in the land of the rising sun, and further more, I didn’t realise how passionate I would become at taking the 1st prize!

Agencies searched Tokyo for talents that stood out, who did something a little bit special. Guys who present sport on TV, guys who perform magic and dance, but I had other ideas…to further establish the ‘Volunteer / Model’!
So here I stand, the ‘Sweet Passionate Model’ (not self labeled I should state! ;) ). I won’t be calling up to any balconies, or delivering romantic lines, but I will be doing something which I believe is much more important! I will be taking Romeo’s spotlight to Tohoku, and I will be showing what a modern Romeo would really stand for! I will donate all the money I get from winning this contest to those in Tohoku!
If you believe in this cause…
  1. Visit – – From anywhere in the world you can register a vote. You don’t need to speak Japanese. Just hit the gold button and when the box with Twitter and Facebook links comes up, you have voted. Thank you!
  2. Visit – – This is the event on Facebook and has more information. Join the group and invite others explaining why they should care.
  3. Keep voting. This is not a one off, you can vote daily! Each device you have and each browser (Firefox, Chrome, Explorer) can register a vote, and I need them all.
  4. Spread the word in any other way you can, and let me know that your there supporting me so I can thank you personally!
Against all the odds, can the Volunteer Model pull this off? With your help…yes!

Fashionista’s Romeo – By Nathan Berry of ECA Photography – Tokyo 2011

Modern Day Romeo By Anatole Papafilipou of Moonlight Studios, Hiroki Takeru of Studio 47 and Chanyn Kirtman of Chanyn Cheree Styling – Tokyo 2011

See more from ECA photography.
See more from Moonlight Photography
See more from Chanyn Cheree Styling

Reflections and Narratives of Relief Work for Japan

* by David H. Slater

The measure, experience and meaning of a “disaster” is in large part a function of the relief that is, or is not, provided to those in need.

Focus: This is an open call for short (less than 700 words) pieces on the topic of relief and volunteer activities around the events collectively known as 3.11. We understand “relief” to include a wide range of support: from asking for donations on the street corners of London to digging mud in Ishinomaki; from running up food supplies to Fukushima to housing displaced kids in Kyoto; from fighting the April snows to the August rains; from acting as a part-time counselor to victims to leading corporate social responsibility programs at multi-national companies. Japanese and foreigners, students and adults, professionals and amateurs, practitioners and volunteers of any sort are welcome here.

Send your entries NOW in attached MSWord files to:

Goal: We want to document the relief effort as it is going on. At a time when 3.11 has been largely pushed out of the news cycle, even in Japan, even though huge amounts of work still need to be done, one of our goals is to let others know about the work being done, the work you have done, and maybe the work still needing to be done. This is direct and maybe intimate, but it is not voyeurism. It is also not promotion for a single group, but please feel free to tell us the groups you are working with.

There is a strategic element to this call: to spread the word, to encourage others to contribute, to keep it going.

The single biggest reason that people do not volunteer is that they do not really know what it involves. Let’s tell them.

Format: These pieces must be short (less than 700 words) and to the point, vivid and direct, taking a single aspect of relief that can be captured and made meaningful in this format. No footnotes or bibliographies, but you could include links. The format is somewhere between an essay and a blog entry: it is shorter and more informal than an essay, but more focused on a particular topic or aspect than a blog entry.

Source: Your topic can be based on some sort of local practice, but your piece should be directed to a wider audience, beyond your academic discipline or professional context. First-person narratives are very welcome. This is a chance to digest and present some parts of your experience in ways that communicate to others.  It could be sad or funny, desperate or hopeful–all important parts of the relief experience.

Time-frame: If at all possible, review your older notes so we can include something from the earlier months: clearly, working in April was much different from working in August. Send both.

Your entry: We ask you to do your best to present a finished copy, but we will have the resources to proof-read your work when necessary. Japanese or English are both welcome. We encourage non-native English speakers to write something in English, and we can give it a “native check.”

Collective Product: In the end, we will collect, proof-read and present your entries digitally.  Pending some more funding, we will translate Japanese into English and English into Japanese. We are now arranging for newspapers, journals, universities, relief sites, and others to feature your work and offer links to your work. We will have a web-designer—not me—to make your good work accessible to others.

Clearly, we cannot tell the “whole story’ in 700 words: our intent is to provide enough different pieces to allow readers to understand some of the range and complexity behind disaster and relief.

Note: Multiple submissions from the same author are welcome. Selections from larger pieces are also fine (and might be a good way to draw attention to other related projects). You can use your blog entries if they are suitable or any other source that does not violate copyright.

Deadline: October 1st.  

Check Out Some Others’ Sample Entries Here

posted Oct 19, 2009 10:41 PM by David H. Slater   [ updated Aug 10, 2011 2:52 AM ]

Here are some examples of  others’ experiences. As you can see, they are of vary different styles and focus–which is just what we want.  Of course, since all of your expereinces are different, your entries will be different also.

Attachments (4)

  • Approaching a house.rtf – on Aug 8, 2011 4:04 AM by David H. Slater (version 1)
    3k Download
  • Fieldnotes from Iwanuma.rtf – on Aug 8, 2011 4:13 AM by David H. Slater (version 1)
    11k Download
  • Unstable Ground.doc – on Aug 8, 2011 3:30 AM by David H. Slater (version 1)
    28k View Download
  • What I saw in Tohoku.doc – on Aug 8, 2011 3:41 AM by David H. Slater (version 1)
    29k View Download 

More information can be found directly at the project page:

David H. Slater is an associate professor of cultural anthropology at Sophia University, Tokyo, Japan. He has been active in the relief effort from the start. He has also been collecting narratives and reflections from volunteers, and now wants to put them together and bring them higher profile.

You can find out more about him here:!/david.h.slater

Please feel free to contact him with questions or suggestions for improvement directly at:

Smiles & Dreams: Tohoku Kids Project

Hi my name is Paul Yoo, Co-founder of volunteerAKITA and The Fruit Tree Project (  Along with our on-going activities, we are also involved in the “Smiles & Dreams:Tohoku Kids Project” led by Living Dreams/SmileKidsJapan ( and Right now, we are working as Home Communication Managers (HCMs) to two orphanages in the Sendai area.  Our role is to act as contacts for the orphanages, and relay any needs they may have.

What we need right now:  A boy, in his 3rd year of high school (his final year), at one of the orphanages we are in contact with, has become the first orphan there to ever express interest in going to college.  He wants to attend Yamaguchi Hukushi Bunka Daigaku (University of Human Welfare and Culture) and study hoiku ka (child care).  It is a four year program and the university will cover tuition for the first 2 years of the program, along with 50% of the 3rd and 4th years.  Our goal is to raise¥1,154,000 which includes ¥970,000 in tuition costs for the 3rd and 4th years, along with an ¥184,000 mandatory insurance cost over 4 years.

We are currently accepting PLEDGES to donate to this fund because he still needs to pass his college entrance exam.  Once he does, we will move forward in collecting funds and transferring the money into an account that will be handled by the orphanage.

We welcome any grants, scholarships, or personal donations to get this young man to college, and most importantly doing it without leaving him in debt after he finishes school, since in most cases, once an orphan has finished high school, he is on his own.

It is truly inspiring that he plans to go to college and is the first from his orphanage to show interest in doing so.  Successfully sending him to college would be such an amazing gift, and would inspire other orphans to follow in his footsteps, knowing that they too can receive a college education, and strive to become whatever they want to be in the future.

If you have any questions regarding this proposal or can help us out, please contact me.

Much Love,

Paul Yoo

Paul Yoo
volunteerAKITA / The Fruit Tree

Aussie Beef

*Written by Jamie El-Banna

The day started quite differently to others, as I had the morning off. I had stuff to do in the afternoon, but was free in the morning. I opted to spend my free time catching up on emails, listening to some beats and enjoying the breeze from the sanctuary of the shade. And taking a dip in the river. I honestly can’t get enough of it. 
I knew that all my friends back in Osaka would be hitting the beach today. Even though it’s an incredibly dirty beach, it made me feel a bit lonely. But swimming in the river and looking up at the blue sky made me feel a little bit better. 

I would be assisting at a 炊き出し (if you forgot, this is giving out food) and festival type event in Watanoha, which is in East Ishinomaki. I went with Chiyomi, Michi, “A-chan” and CKD. We got there a bit early so we looked around.

This group was making mochi, which is pretty fun. First the rice gets crushed by two people walking around in circles pressing it with the big mallets. After a while, one guy starts hitting it, while the other one puts it back into place. 
So it’s WHACK reset WHACK reset. When pros do it, the guy resets it after each hit, and they have a good rhythm going on. When amateurs do it, they don’t reset it each time, because it’s just too dangerous. The mallet Yuki-kun used is still enough to break a finger or two, although maybe not with his strength. The one I used would do some serious damage.

As well as this, there was some live music, several food stalls, some stalls giving out clothes, shaved ice, and drinks. I tried some mochi and shaved ice, but didn’t have anything else, as it was too hot for food! When I was pounding mochi I noticed one person looking at me very intently, and it turned out to be someone I had met about 3 weeks ago. 
She was surprised to hear I had been in the area the whole time (she had returned to Chiba, but came back for this event). The group started packing up at around 1/1:30, which is when the other groups arrived. They would be doing their 炊き出しand festival from 5.

I first heard about the activity going on here from Foreign Volunteers Japan. Their blog is updated with stuff they are involved in, but much more active is their Facebook group. They have created a great network of people who are eager to help Tohoku.Through this group I have got into contact with lots of very active people, and it’s been invaluable in the spreading of information. Anyway, Mike Connolly contacted me about helping out with a BBQ. He had, with the help of some contacts, been able to procure a large amount of Aussie Beef, in the shape of 200+ steaks. *drool*

There were people from two groups here (not including FVJ), Grace City Relief, a church based group from Chiba and another group that GCR have some sort of connection to, Help Tohoku (in Japanese). There were a lot of high school kids from an International High School with them. It’s been AGES since I’ve talked to foreign teenagers, I forgot how funny they are. In some ways they seem more mature than their Japanese counterparts, in others ways less so, but they are just as amusing.

As we would just be frying steak, there was very little in the way of preparation to be done. Once the tent was up and BBQ in place, we had nothing to do, so helped out where we could.

These are pretty typical Japanese Yo-yo’s, often found at festivals.

They are small water filled balloons with some elastic attached to the end. You make a loop in the elastic and put your finger through, and bounce it like a balloon.

You put the water into the balloon using the pump, then fill it with air. There you attack a small pink clasp and some elastic to it and then you’re done.

Of course, this is assuming you don’t get distracted by the huge temptation of spraying someone with water.

There was also a small raised area, upon which two drums were placed. Two girls would be playing the drums, as well as a very cool old man, who could dance while playing the drums.

I had a go as well, and failed miserably. But it was still fun!

At around 3:30 Chiyomi and Michi had to go, so we dropped them back at the University, bought some cold drinks and returned.

There were a few people around, and there was a slight smell of steak in the air.

We had talked earlier about how best to serve the steak. We had agreed that it should be cut up, and we were going to skewer it and give it out that way, but we hadn’t decided how to cut the steak up.

So John had done a trial run. It was apparently not that easy to cut up the raw steak, but it was very easy to cut the cooked one, so that’s what we decided to do.

The system would be:

  • John fries the steak
  • He gives it to me and I cut it up.
  • I give it to CKD, who would put skewer them.
  • A-chan would dip them in the sauce and pack them
  • Micah (17-year-old American from Chiba) would help A-chan with the packaging, as well as constantly fanning the area to keep flies away.

That last job sounds kind of dumb, but there was an immense amount of flies. I don’t think any other stand had the fly problem we did. Which just goes to show how tasty our steak was!

All the while, Mike would be taking photos and just doing other stuff, I can’t be sure, because I was busy, but I’m sure he did something!

Before things got heated, we took a group photo.

On an unrelated note, I really like the Aussie Beef logo. If you haven’t noticed, it’s a big A, but the centre of the A is a map of Australia. Very nice.

Our steak was very popular. So much so that we had to stop serving it after 30 minutes, so that those who were going to come a bit later would also be able to have some.

I took this opportunity to wander around a bit. There was another group who came to play some music, although I have no idea where they were from .

I also went to see how the Yo-yo’s were coming along, and they seemed to be very popular indeed. I played with the kids a little bit, which was very fun. I ended up having a small water fight with one of them, but he was some sort of ninja genius, as he would sneak up on me and get me whenever my back was turned.

I’m so used to playing with young kids now, it’s so fun. I’m going to try and spend a bit more time doing that, if I can.

Others were less naughty.

Mike and I made a quick trip into town, to pick up two other people.

They had been volunteering with Peace Boat. I had got in contact with one of them through Twitter, and they also wanted to see what we were doing. 
When we got back, the steak frying had restarted. And there was a very long queue (LINE) for it!

Most of the other food stalls had run out, but because of our break in the middle, we were the last ones left serving food. The drumming was really good, and we couldn’t help but dance a bit while we worked. Much the amusement of the people in line, some of whom joined in a little. 
While I cut up meat, I chatted with the people in line, who were very friendly!

I’ve mentioned it before, but I live in Osaka. The people there are known for being friendly, and speak in a dialect which is easily identifiable (many famous comedians are from Osaka). Not only that, the way they speak is very casual and maybe a bit rough sometimes. I learnt Japanese from speaking to people, and since I live in Osaka, my Japanese is heavily tinged with Osaka-ben (dialect).

So to the old women queuing up, it was very amusing to see this foreigner dancing around cutting up steak, while making jokes and flirting with the 70-year-old grandmothers.  A typical Osakan!

Eventually we ran out of food, but we made it so that everyone in the line was able to have some. Actually, most of the people at the end of the line were volunteers, one of whom was from Megumi, someone who I had met on my second day in Ishinomaki.

The BBQ had been a big hit. It was actually kind of a test run, to see how it would go down. I think there’ll be more Aussie Beef BBQ’s in the future, and I’m looking forward to helping out again.

I took a lot of nice videos at the festival, but as I have no access to a proper internet connection at the moment, uploading them isn’t currently viable. But when I can, I will!

After everything was tidied, we left and attempted to go and take a bath at the Sento, but they were about to close, and wouldn’t let us go in (even for a quick shower! *stingy*).

It was around 9pm by now, and we were hot, sweaty, sunburnt, hungry (the steak was superrrrrr popular. No left overs!), and had nowhere to bathe.

So we did the only sensible thing to do in that situation, and went to McDonalds.

While we were waiting for our order, someone called my name.

It was George-san, who I had done Photo Cleaning with. We chatted for a bit and caught up on recent happenings. He was now working on a different project, but told me that the photo cleaning was still going on, although they often lack people.

A-chan showed an interest in the photo cleaning, so I told her that I would take her and CKD (they come as a set) there the next day.

As we left maccas (McDonalds), I thought about some of the people I’ve met here.

In one day, I had seen three people who I hadn’t seen for quite a while. I’ve been here long enough that I can now greet people with 久しぶり!- Hisashiburi (long time no see!) and mean it.

Which is kind of nice.

Poster Bio: Jamie El-Banna
Jamie first took a trip up to Miyagi
prefecture for volunteering towards the end of May 2011. The trip left a deep impression on him. Shortly after returning to work in Osaka, he made the dramatic decision to resign from his job to become a full-time volunteer from June. Since then, he’s been building up a small-scale volunteer network based out of the tent camp on the Senshu University campus in Ishinomaki. He’s been an active member of Foreign Volunteers Japan, and has contributed immensely to the group’s discussions on Facebook. If you are interested in DIY volunteering, than please visit his blog and consider joining his crew.

Time to plant those seeds.

* Entry written by Dru Taylor
Dave Enright, who held a fundraiser and bought this tractor, posing with his son after a job well done.
I dont normally write stuff like this but this story is lovely. A couple of weeks ago we put an advert up in the BCCJ “We Care Japan” website for a tractor to help the people start growing their own fruit and vegetables in Minamisanriku AND within a few days a total stranger Dave Enright and his lovely family Mariko Sage and Airi from Hakuba answered to say they had organised a fundraising reggae event.
 Using the money they raised from the event, they went right out and bought a tractor which they delivered last week to OGA who are doing amazing things. After 2 days of talking and organizing with a lovely guy from the Joyful Honda home centre ( he worked all day thursday helping us even though it was his day off ) my wife Kyoko got a unbelievable price. 
On Saturday (actually 2 o`clock sunday morning as it became another epic journey/day) we managed to deliver 1400 seedlings to OGA for AID, 500 tomatoes, 500 peppers, 300 okra and 100 aubergine seedlings, along with the tools and poles for the tomatoes. 
We started planting on Sunday morning before having to leave to get the rental truck back to Chiba and now Peter of OGA, and the local people have been planting the rest. 
This story is the start of something fantastic in the rebuilding of Minamisanriku to get the people working making money but mostly seeing a future. Many people have worked hard to make this happen so I bow my head and thankyou all.

Announcing the FVJ Community Forums

 I’d like to take this opportunity to announce the Foreign Volunteers Community Forums. Although created by Max Hodges a little while ago, I have to admit that I’ve been a little slow on the ball to promote and encourage discussion on the Forums. 
Although most of the FVJ discussions have been taking place via Facebook, there is a lot of information that gets regularly buried under newer threads. That is why the FVJ Discussion Forums have been designed from the ground up to provide a much easier system to interact, plan and organize activities.

These forums are designed to be a friendly and valuable place for like-minded people interested in playing a role in Japan’s disaster recovery efforts to share ideas and opportunities and get connected to and inspired by others.

FVJ Community Forums run on a brand new platform with some snazzy features. We think the design and functionality is very contemporary and fresh and, most important, it feels more social than other systems. A few of the many cutting-edge features include:

-Social Engagement – An intuitive “like” system makes users feel appreciated for their contributions, while integration with Facebook and twitter allows easy registration and sharing.

-Recent Activity Stream – Allow you to easily see all the recent happenings on the forum, beyond just the messages posted. You can follow other members to get your own personalized news feed showing the content you want to see.

-Alerts – Make it easy for you to stay up-to-date with relevant updates. You’ll receive alerts when someone quotes your post or responds to a status update, when you receive a new trophy, and more.

-Private Conversations – are like private threads. Nobody can see your private conversation, not even the administrator. Now here is the cool part; you can invite as many people to your conversation as you like, sort of like three way calling. Go here to start a conversation or click on a persons avatar to invite them to converse. Or access conversations from your inbox above. You can also invite in more people from the conversation thread (you will see the Invite More link over on the right hand side of the conversation).

We look forward to your participation in making the FVJ Community Forums the most valuable destination possible for Tohoku relief volunteers.

You can register with your Facebook account: