May 31, 2011

The Association for Aid and Relief (AAR) reported on its activities and the current situation in Iwate Prefecture. On April 1, they set up a headquarters in the city of Morioka, and have been working from there to reach facilities for the elderly and people with disabilities, as well as those who are “at-home evacuees.” These people do not receive the distributions of goods that those in evacuation centers do, so AAR is trying to identify and assist these groups.
More than two months after the disaster struck, AAR staff noted signs of progress being made in terms of clearing the rubble, getting goods into the region, restoring electricity, and increasing the transportation options. Then there are other areas where the Self-Defense Forces are continuing to search for the missing, or where the water has not yet been restored and not a single shop is open. They also noted that the needs have been changing. They have received more and more requests for fresh fruits and vegetables (which are hard to store), spring and summer clothing, fans, and office equipment such as computers and printers. In short, the needs are no longer about surviving, but about trying to return to normalcy.

AAR is also assisting the Iwate Prefectural Government in its efforts to create a system that will allow it to confirm the status and whereabouts of the earthquake victims, provide them with monetary aid, etc. The prefecture is extremely large, so AAR noted that more nonprofits and volunteers are needed to reach all those in need.

Peace Winds Japan (PWJ) distributed gift cards for local supermarkets and shopping centers in the city of Ofunato for those starting new lives in temporary homes there. Some are in the newly built temporary homes, while others are in so-called employment development housing, or in housing where the government is covering the rent. PWJ is planning on distributing ¥10,000 (about US$115) worth of gift cards per person. Distribution began at an orientation meeting held in mid-May for those moving into the temporary housing, and they are continuing to reach out to those who did not attend that meeting.

JEN volunteers continue to help clean up the rubble and mud in the area around Ishinomaki. They noted that many people are asking for help getting the mud cleared away before the rainy season sets in. One volunteer wrote about his work: he and other volunteers helped clear a home of debris, removed large household items, then tried to remove all of the mud. The mud was allowed to dry outside, and then they separated the trash from the mud, placing it into bags. Occasionally they were able to retrieve photo albums and other priceless mementos for the home owners. Another JEN volunteer in Ishinomaki thanked JEN for giving him the chance to help out. He came to Japan from Morocco in 1990, and was glad to have an opportunity to give back by assisting and giving some comfort to those in need.