Finding hope in my home town after the tsunami
I have just returned from Japan. My home town of Kamaishi
was hit by the tsunami on March 11 while I was in Vancouver. Seeing how serious it was, I thought I should be back there to help.
I visited about a month after the tsunami hit, but you could still see a lot of damage around the city, even a month later.
My parents' house is about four kilometres from the bay. Some parts of the town are as much as 10 kilometres away, and would you believe that they had been hit hard by the tsunami too? Considering this, I think it was very lucky that our house was not damaged.
I did not realize how sad and shocking it would be to walk around the town I grew up in, and know that many people died and are still missing.
At first I visited my relatives and friends at a shelter, where they were staying since losing their homes.
My aunt was really happy and seemed to have peace of mind after seeing my sister and me. She talked about how she escaped and how people died when the disaster hit.
In this photo, a 6,000-tonne cargo ship had been pushed ashore. It was still a huge mess and you can see how tiny the cleanup worker looks. The ship destroyed the roof of the blue building in the distance.
In my city, there were quite a few people who lost their houses but were economically OK or did not lose their jobs. They were able to move to an apartment or house without waiting for a free temporary house.
Last week, the prefecture government announced it would help with rent for those people who are paying their rent themselves. The Red Cross has also donated electric appliances to individuals and families.
Still, most of the park in the city was filled with temporary homes. But that's because our city is lucky: We have flat, safe land to put them on. Some of the towns do not have enough safe land to use even for the temporary houses.
While I was there, I was helping with a non-profit organization, Kadatte, in my home town.
Kamaishi has a big port and is famous for its iron industry. Yes, the iron industry. It is kind of dead industry, so the population is now only about half of what it was when I was a kid.
The non-profit I worked with was originally formed for the merchant people to promote their economy and town. Since March 11, they have been not only promoting the economy, but also helping people -- especially the elderly -- who are staying not at the shelters but at home.
As part of my work, I visited three fishing villages to deliver food and supplies.
Most of the people who were displaced by the tsunami are staying in shelters. Often, we use the local school or community centre in emergencies, but in the fishing villages, the community centres and schools were wiped out by the tsunami. Most people ware delivered to other shelters by helicopters, but some people whose homes were not hit remained in them.
People sharing food at a shelter.