Japan International Food for the Hungry (JIFH) and its national partners, with support from the FH ERU team, made the following response to the disaster in the Sendai region (ERU Report, Aug. 2011):
- Distribution of food and daily necessities through local churches and building of trust in predominantly Buddhist communities (distribution to 20,000 people)
- Cleanup, repair and rebuilding of homes and churches by local volunteer force under supervision of experienced craftsmen (800 volunteers)
- Pastoral seminars on grief counselling
- Establishment of center to promote interchurch cooperation
Beneficiary story (written by Mrs. Hideko Sato):
My home was just next to the ocean, in Arahama district, in the vicinity of where the JIFH storage facility is now located. When the earthquake hit, I was with my grandparents and my twin sister. My children were at school.
The quake was so massive that I urged my neighbors to run with us to Nanago elementary school, which was a designated evacuation center within ten minutes drive. I came to know about that evacuation center in the disaster drill last year. Later, I learned that many of the people who
went to another evacuation center nearer the ocean were engulfed by the tsunami with all the cars parked there.
About three days after the disaster, when I went outside the premises of the evacuation center, I was shocked at the hellish sight before my eyes. We saw numerous bodies along the beach and cars hung on telephone poles. I could not believe my eyes when I saw some people stealing gasoline out of abandoned cars. At the mortuary, where I went to identify my relative’s body, I saw about a hundred more bodies, which I could identify as my acquaintances. When I saw them just placed in coffins without any flowers or their photos, I was filled with sorrow and lost words.
During the first week after the disaster, the life in the evacuation center was very difficult because so many of us were crammed into a very cold school gymnasium. We were then divided into groups of 25 people, and each group was assigned to stay in a classroom. We shared whatever we had in
hand in order to survive. Later, my family and I were sent to another school gymnasium and we spent over 3 months there.
I first heard about the storage facility of JIFH in a school gymnasium, where I was taking shelter. All the things offered at the storage facility of JIFH, such as vegetables, summer clothing, rice, and daily necessities are very helpful to us evacuees. As there are people who have no means of transportation to get to the storage facility, I deliver necessary items to those: the elderly and my acquaintances near and far. I even drive to the neighboring Iwate prefecture to make a delivery to my acquaintances there.
When the earthquake and tsunami hit, we ran for our lives and did not have anything with us, not even a towel or toothbrush. So I used to go to the storage facility of JIFH every single day for daily necessities. I was feeling a bit ashamed, but volunteers and staff members always welcomed us with
warm smiles. I was almost into tears with joy.
I wanted to do something in return, and started working as a volunteer in the storage facility. I also invite my neighbors and acquaintances to join.
JIFH, Aug. 2011