The Great East Japan Earthquake Support Activities

Volunteer Activities Vol.12

During the four-day period between November 8 and 11, employees of the ITOCHU Group participated in the twelfth volunteer action by ITOCHU Group employees to support the victims of the Great East Japan Earthquake. Thirteen employees worked hard for clearing ditches, sorting debris, etc. near the former city hall of Rikuzentakata. While the employees were working, a person from an affected area said “Thank you” to them. After their three days of efforts for clearing ditches, which had been buried in soil and sand since immediately after the disaster, water finally started running again through them.


How Every Bit of Effort Adds Up

On the first day of my volunteer work, I remember the sun was so bright it was almost blinding. Standing there next to the calm, glistening ocean, I could see where the earthquake and tsunami had left their mark. Over a year and a half later, the enormity of the damage is still painful to witness.
As for the work, I cleaned out dirt and debris that were clogging ditches. As I cleaned, what came out was broken little pieces of everyday items, too numerous to count. There were shards from a broken bowl, small spoons, bathroom tiles and other remnants. This spot, which seems so barren now, was once a place where people were leading normal lives. In a way, the cosmos flowers in modest bloom all around felt like a metaphor for the many people working bit by bit to move recovery and reconstruction forward.
One of the local residents I met said to me, “We are just glad that you came.” Those words really stuck with me, and I hope to visit the area again someday soon.

Joining in Efforts to Support Victims of the Great East Japan Earthquake

Conditions on the ground after the disaster first struck were shocking. It's been a year and eight months now, but still townscape and homes that once stood in the area have all been lost, washed away by the waves along with everything else.
Our job as volunteers was to clear mud out of the roadside ditches. At first, I didn't think this would be very hard, but I was in for a big surprise. All of the stuff that had been washed into the ditches was now packed in so tightly that no matter how hard I dug, the bottom was never in sight. While it was cold enough out to give you shivers, the work easily made me break a sweat.
Although my 12 fellow volunteers and I had never met each other before, we naturally divided the work between ourselves, and soon developed a strong sense of camaraderie.
Recovery after the disaster is not likely to happen overnight. But I want to continue to do my small part to move things forward.

Bringing Impetus to the Next Phase of Recovery

I had the chance to meet and talk a lot with a good number of people living in the disaster zone. But no matter how much we talked, as someone who hadn't lived through the disaster, I knew I could never quite understand exactly what they must feel. And yet, despite this gap, they still did their best to share their stories with me, and always thanked me for coming. This left me feeling conflicted and frustrated at the paltriness of my own contribution.
Out of this frustration, I began to think hard on what I could do to make a difference. In the end, I recognized that while our individual acts may seem insignificant, when taken together they really start to add up. I also realized that coming to the area again, as well as sharing this feeling of mine with others, are both important for helping move to the next phase of recovery.
If you have any interest in doing so, I urge you to experience for yourself both the conditions in the region and the feelings of those living there, and to hold both close to your heart.

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