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MIGHTY HARAJUKU column「Visiting the victimized areas #3」 #m_harajuku

  • 2011.06.12 Sunday
  • 15:04

MIGHTY HARAJUKU special column

"Visiting the victimized areas"

3) The Volunteer center

It is difficult for an average person to do large-scale volunteer activities, like the ones that celebrities sponsor, and are shown on TV every day. 
We have our own lives, and the reality is, that there is a limit to what we can do. 

I wondered if there was anything I could do to help, and headed to the volunteer center, located in Minamisanriku-cho. 

I was surprised at how organized the system for accepting volunteers was when I got there. 

As you get to the reception desk, you enroll in an insurance (all you have to do is write your name), and right after that you are assigned to a task.
So as long as you have the willingness to do so, you could easily go there and help out, even if it is only for a few hours.
There were people who came as teams, people who stayed there for a longer period of time, and people like us, who came to help out for the weekend.  There were about 300 people who came that day to do volunteer work. 

We were expecting to help out with removing rubble, so we were dressed appropriately for that task. However, we were given the position of "Finding Memories corp"; our job was to clean photographs and albums found in the rubble, and return them to their respective owners. 

This activity was started by the town mayor, who had lost all his albums and memories after being a victim of the tsunami that happened during the great Chili earthquake.
He did not want any more people to be victimized in such way. 

Huge albums covered in dirt, stretched out photographs, photo stickers(PURIKURA)… Time has passed since the earthquake, yet numerous soaking wet photographs were brought in front of the volunteer staff.  

We pick up a stack of these photos, and using various equipment such as paint brushes, tooth brushes and sponges, we begin removing dirt from them. When opening up the albums and opening the pages sealed together with sea water, a strong stench of salt and sludge comes from the them.  

When cleaning the albums one by one, I begin feeling as if I am getting closer to the owner's life.
A album documenting a baby's growth,
a photo of a father when he was young,
albums containing photos from weddings and family,
an album full of photos from a trip grandma had with her friends,
albums packed with photos of a pet cat…  

I try to put as much care as I can when doing this.
One of my staff members that had come with me quietly said;

"Isn't this is similar to what we do at 6%DOKIDOKI?"

The task that we were given were not obvious jobs that helped recovery such as removing rubble, but supporting important things like "memories".
When you think about it, items from 6%DOKIDOKI are not physically necessary for someone to live. 
However, the feelings people hold against the items sometimes save them, and make them happy.

I almost felt as if I was destined to get this task.
I wanted as many photos to return to their owners… 

When I was leaving the volunteer center, I decided to ask if I could directly hand the donations had collected all over the world to someone.
I was originally thinking of donating the money to Red Cross Japan, but I thought that it was a better idea to directly give the money to someone so I could see where the money was actually going, and what it was going to be used for.
I decided that I was going to deliver the donations directly to the locals. 

Fortunately I was able to meet someone from the public office, so I handed the donations I had collected during our west coast tour, 23356 Japanese yen. (I collected the donations in dollars so it may seem a little lower than what I had collected…)

The staff of the volunteer center kept bowing down and told us "Thank for coming from os far away!" 

This is a letter that was sent to us later on. A very courteous thank you note.  I am deeply touched when remembering about the site. 

After looking at the victimized sites, I started thinking, Now what do we need for recovery?

Fortunately, Tokyo was not affected too badly.
What is the thing we can do to step in a little deeper into the situation? 

On simple terms, there are a number of things that can be simply be solved by man power. The effect of man power, in other words, can help recover the victimized areas sooner as long as there are more and more people helping out. I believe that one of the ways of helping is by going to the site, and helping literally helping out with your own body. 

The reality is still going to continue.
It is going to continue for a very long time. 

There are problems with the nuclear power plants,  and I cannot irresponsibly tell people to go to the site. And I don't want anyone to go half-heartedly, or go there just to be curious bystanders.  

However, through this experience I did notice that what we can do is not to waste time, and becoming hysterical looking at news shows and informations coming from the internet. There are ways to be more productive and efficient, even for yourself. 

I hope that my report becomes useful for someone who is ready to take the next step. 
I myself intend to think about what I can do from here, now, as well…

ーSebastian Masudaー
Thank you... Thank you so much
  • rayko
  • 2011/06/14 4:55 PM