Ishinomaki Report 2011.4.2

April 2

6th Truckload of Supplies Leaves Takamatsu!

For our 6th shipment, Hayashida Distribution Service, a local Kagawa company, covered all shipping costs and supplied the truck and driver. From the moment the extent of the disaster became clear, the company president, Mr. Shiota, had repeatedly told his employees, “If Second Hand calls to request a truck, be sure to say ‘yes!’” When we offered to at least pay for fuel, Mr. Shiota responded, “Use that money for something else instead!” We were very grateful for this generous act and for the reminder of how fortunate we are to have local companies like this to help us. The money saved on gas will be used for the next stage of assistance.

This trip, Yasuko Nitta, the founder of Second Hand, accompanied the supplies. On April 2, at 6 AM, she helped load the truck and headed off with the driver for Ishinomaki in Miyagi. Here is her report.

~A Series of Coincidences and Little Miracles~

To avoid traffic jams, we traveled via the Japan Sea route. We were just entering the prefecture of Toyama on the Japan Sea side when I received a phone call from a Second Hand volunteer living near Tokyo. He said he had ordered miso and soy sauce from Toyama for the disaster area and was having it sent to Second Hand in Takamatsu. A quick detour brought us to the shop and we reached it just as the owner finished filling out the delivery form – a little miracle that saved time and money. When he learned we were taking this order to the disaster area, the owner, a true gentleman, said, “I can’t possibly accept the full price for these goods.” He only charged 40% of the regular price and gave us many other things to take with us as well. One small miracle leads to another – something we experience often at Second Hand.

Packing miso and other supplies into the truck at Toyama

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Ishinomaki Report 2011.3.31

One other purpose of our trip was to cook hot food for the disaster victims. Volunteers from Kagawa set up a temporary kitchen at the Ishinomaki High School Shelter and cooked up a local Kagawa dish, bukkomi udon (noodles in hot broth with nutritious toppings). Everyone seemed very happy and relieved to receive a hot and hearty meal and many people thanked us for coming so far to help.

There are about 350 people at this shelter. In response to requests from the shelter, Second Hand had already sent 2 truckloads of goods (71 boxes). Thanks to the many different groups providing goods, including Second Hand, this shelter now has an adequate supply.

Preparing the food with the local people

Handing out the noodles to the crowd attracted by the delicious smell.

Delivering plastic tanks and cleaning equipment needed for recovery efforts.

In the town of Ishinomaki. The main roads have been opened by the Self Defense Forces but many smaller roads are still obstructed. Disaster volunteer centers are being set up by the Social Welfare Councils in each prefecture and these centers are now accepting volunteers. People will be needed to help with reconstruction efforts such as cleaning the mud and debris out of the streets and houses.


<Thoughts from Our Visit to the Disaster Area>

On our way up, we unexpectedly encountered a “caravan” of cars transporting policemen from Kagawa. As we drew closer to the disaster area, we saw ever more emergency vehicles with number plates from all over Japan including Shikoku. Somehow seeing them gave me courage and alleviated the tension that had been building up inside me as we approached. I was buoyed by a great sense of connection with the Japanese people – something I have felt many times since we began collecting funds and goods for the disaster area. The donors who bring in goods, the volunteers who come to help, everyone everywhere in Japan sees this disaster as their own and they are arising to act.

In the disaster area, I was also struck by the crucial role played by leaders and coordinators. Many were not necessarily in leadership roles before but they have arisen to respond to a need in their community. They are being required to objectively assess the situation, foster unity and cooperation within the group and channel people’s actions and energy constructively. Those at Ishinomaki High School where we delivered our goods have done an amazing job. Everything is very organized. The refugees only take the bare minimum of what they need from the donations delivered so that the rest can be distributed to other areas. A child space has been set up in one corner of the shelter to care for the children and fuel, electricity and other resources are being carefully conserved. The people’s faces in this shelter seemed surprisingly cheerful. In contrast, the leaders and coordinators at another shelter I visited were still in the process of developing their skills and I saw a noticeable difference. The shelter was more disorganized and the people looked more depressed.

Volunteers are beginning to flow in from all over Japan. Social welfare councils in each area are matching teams of volunteers to different areas and sending them out to help. These teams also need to have leadership and coordinating skills because once in the field they will have to gather information, assess constantly changing conditions, solve any problems that arise and identify key people in the community.

This experience reminded me of something Yasuko Nitta, the founder of Second Hand, frequently told me. “Coordinating skills,” she said, “are essential for the daily operation of organizations involved in international cooperation.” She has always maintained that NGOs represent an invaluable training ground for young people to acquire essential leadership and coordinating skills. This is one reason Second Hand started up its own student organization.

We are a small NGO but it is this that gives us the flexibility to respond quickly to small-scale needs in the affected areas. We will continue to transform the compassionate generosity of our supporters into concrete, direct and reliable assistance. Thank you for all your help to date and please keep the support coming.


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Ishinomaki Report 2011.3.30

Several people have taken refuge in a small store. We took about 2.5 tons worth of goodssuch as futon, daily necessities and food to this shelter at the request of the store’s owner. When I checked the status today (April 1), they told me that already 90% of the goods were gone as people within the community were coming to get what they needed.

Many people are still desperately struggling just to survive. Many have lost everything in the tsunami. The things they need for daily life are not available without traveling long distances and they either have no car or no gasoline to get there. Even when there are goods available in stores, they are too expensive for many people to buy. As people are still obviously in need of basic necessities, Second Hand has sent another 6-ton truck shipment today (April 2) to Ishinomaki. Hayashida Distribution Service, a company in Sakaide, is providing the truck and driver and covering all shipping costs.

Local people with Second Hand and TICO members in front of the truck


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