Director Mr. Hiroshi Urushibara
On 11th March an unprecedented disaster attacked Japan. The whole picture was getting clearer day by day and JLMM sought the way to support the disaster-stricken areas. We contacted Sendai Diocese and collected the information. Sendai Diocese Support Center (SDSC) started on 16th March and two JLMM staffs left for the disaster area on 19th March requested by Caritas Japan which runs the SDSC admin office. Most of the shops were closed in Sendai and there was three km's queue at every petrol kiosk.
We helped to set up the SDSC office and system to send volunteers to the Volunteer Center of Social Welfare Council. The project started in Shiogama, Ishinomaki and Kamaishi based on each church as lodging. The main activities are clean-up of mad from damaged houses, shops and factories, soup kitchen and sorting of the relief supplies.
When we went along the disaster-stricken coasts of Shiogama, Shichigaham, Ishinomaki and so on, we were shocked by the terrible situation of the areas and natural violence. We saw some people stare at mass of rubble with their stunned eyes and droop.
There was a big gap between the passionate message outside world "Gambaro Nippon" and the atmosphere "not motivated to work harder" of people in the ashes as far as they could see.
A month later we went to the disaster areas again. We visited the disaster areas and shelters in Watarimachi and Minami-sanriku where the tsunami had caused tremendous damage. Though a lot of relief supplies gathered there, they were not distributed to the places and people in need. Information, sorting and systems to control and adjust transportation got stacked for short of manpower.
During our stay there Catholic Tokyo Volunteer Center (CTVC) started on Easter Day. Tokyo Archdiocese, JLMM and Shinsei-kaikan operate it as core members and implement in cooperation with SCVC ① continuing dispatch of volunteers to the CTVC cooperation bases and support of aid ② support of evacuees staying in the suburb of Tokyo and ③ facilitating to collaborate with other organizations. JLMM is in charge of the administration. The first CTVC meeting was held on 28th April and fifty eight people wished to help and attended the meeting. The participants exchanged the information and started to form the cooperation systems.
We paid the third visit to the areas on 22nd May. We looked around the new projects such as a coffee house for "mental healthcare" at the shelter in Minami-sanriku and proposed CTVC's plan for the future to SDSC. The mental healthcare for the victims will be increasingly necessary now on. I think that the church members can make use of their ability of "listening." We went down the ria coast from Minami-sanriku to Kamaishi. All the towns along the shoreline had turned into ash and we were overwhelmed by the great damage. Some of the areas still remained untouched and Self-Defense Force and Police were searching the missing people. The number of SDSC volunteers exceeded one thousand on 27th May. Most of them are non-Christians. It is significant that the church could mobilize a big number of volunteers to respond to the needs of the areas. The support for the suffering people requires a long-term involvement and it should be done by integrated efforts of many people and groups as possible.
The evacuees started moving to the temporally housing and the support is now at the new stage. In the process from emergency to reconstruction we can make use of the knowhow and the local network of support which JLMM has accumulated in its overseas projects. The sales promotion support of made-in-Fukushima products which are damaged by harmful rumor is spreading through the network of JLMM supporters. JLMM aims the society "Living together" and I feel that we are now called to the new missions which are to stay with suffering people and to link the thoughts and efforts of supporters. Your support is appreciated.