Peace Winds Japan (PWJ) has been helping local chambers of commerce in Miyagi and Iwate Prefectures to get up and running again as an important first step toward the recovery of the local economies. Last week, they delivered supplies to the Rikuzentakata Chamber of Commerce, which is setting up a temporary office. They delivered 4 laptop computers, a TV, an antenna for receiving digital broadcasts, steel cabinets, and other items. They also got them connected to the Internet, which is a major step since information has been difficult to come by. (Newspapers are still not being delivered to the area.) PWJ is also working with the chamber of commerce to promote “mobile sales.” Given the limited transportation available to shoppers and the damage and destruction of shops, they hope to provide the necessary cars, insurance, etc., so that local merchants can bring their goods directly to the people.
Another PWJ initiative undertaken with the local governments is the launch of a free “Compassion Bus” that stops at various evacuation centers in Rikuzentakata and then travels to the supermarkets in Ofunato as well as other spots. The lack of public transportation in these towns since the earthquake struck has meant that many people have had no way to leave the evacuation centers, so the bus allows them to go shopping or visit the doctor. It helps the physical and emotional health of evacuees, and at the same time it helps the local economy recovery.
The Association for Aid and Relief (AAR) is offering much-needed transportation services to those on the Oshika Peninsula in Ishinomaki (Miyagi Prefecture). They have begun operating bus services for the communities of Oginohama and Ayukawa. The Oshika Peninsula was the closest to the epicenter of the quake, so the roads have sustained enormous damage and have only recently become passable (and still it is often only one lane). In addition, many cars were swept away by the tsunami, so mobility has been severely limited. AAR is working with two local bus services to operate three 10-person vans in these communities. The vans make two loops each daily, and the stops include the Ishinomaki Station, hospital, and shopping center. In some cases, the buses are serving as school buses, but people of all ages are making use of the service. A 75-year-old woman told the AAR staff, “I haven’t been into town since the earthquake, so I was thrilled when I heard the news about the buses on the radio!”