May 10, 2011


On April 29, after a one-month delay, the Isatomae Elementary School in Minamisanriku (Miyagi Prefecture) finally held its graduation ceremony. They were joined by students from the Natari Elementary School, a school located 2 kilometers away that was heavily damaged by the tsunami and is not usable. Volunteers from the Association for Aid and Relief (AAR) were invited to attend the ceremony and presented each student with a stuffed animal and candy to commemorate the day. One student who spoke at the ceremony thanked the volunteers, saying, “I was so scared after the disaster struck. But after a few days the volunteers came, they delivered relief supplies, and they saved us. Now that I’m in middle school, I want to help people who are frightened like I was.”

rpt1105_638_3studentsWhen the ceremony ended, the teachers led the students out to the schoolyard, which overlooks the tsunami-ravaged towns of Isatomae and Utatsu, and one teacher told them, “Never forget this scene. This is your town. We have to rebuild it ourselves.”
After the graduation, AAR volunteers headed to the nearby Utatsu Middle School to serve meals to the 250 evacuees living there (including some of the students who had just graduated). To celebrate the graduation, they served a special meal of steak, minestrone, and oden (a Japanese stew of vegetables, eggs, etc.).

PastedGraphic-1 copyThe Institute of Cultural Affairs Japan (ICA) is a member of Japan Platform that has been providing relief in 10 cities since mid-March. Among its worldwide programs, this nonprofit organization has conducted relief work in Haiti, Chile, and Indonesia following earthquakes in those countries. They are covering an area that stretches from the city of Kesennuma in the north to the town of Yamamoto in the south. In close coordination with the Tohoku regional disaster countermeasure headquarters, Japan Platform, and other NGOs, they began distributing food and non-food items to the area on March 19 with help from a trucking company. They are currently in the second phase of their work, continuing to deliver supplies to the area.

ICA staff delivered supplies donated by companies such as Kao and Shiseido to the city of Natori and other hard-hit areas.