September 1, 2011

img_0411In the central section of the Oshika Peninsula are 5 coastal fishing villages, Takenohama, Makinohama, Kitsunezakihama, Sudachi, and Fukkiura. These villages are tucked along the coastline, well off of the main highway that runs along the peninsula, and the roads connecting them to the highway were torn up by the earthquake. For that reason, the only way to safely approach the villages initially was by sea. Prior to the earthquake, the villages were home to 100 households where 400 people lived, but that number has dropped to 80 households with just 260 people. JEN first became aware of these villages in mid-April, when it was surveying the aid situation on the badly damaged peninsula. It learned that these villagers made their living as farmers and did not grow many crops because the large deer population inhabiting the peninsula would eat them. As a result, JEN began distributing fruits and vegetables as emergency aid to the area to ensure that the residents have a balanced diet. As of the end of August, they had made four deliveries, covering all of the household in the villages. The fruits and vegetables were purchased from a grocer in Ishinomaki whose business also sustained damage in the disaster, so the project is helping the local economic recovery as well.

Over the past four months, the number of households in the villages has decreased, and people are concerned that without access to the main road, they will be forced to make the difficult choice to leave their villages and move inland. As long as they remain, however, JEN will be there to help.

Since August 21, JEN has also been holding gatherings at the assembly hall in the temporary housing complex on the Oshika Peninsula. The gatherings are intended as a way to create a sense of community among the new residents of the housing units. It also gives the JEN staff an opportunity to hear from the residents what they need. In Ishinomaki, JEN stopped serving meals as of July 22, having provided nearly 25,000 meals with the help of 164 volunteers. The space that they were using for meals is now being used as the Nakayashi Community Space, where various activities are being held. Some of the college students who have been volunteering since April have set up a tea room in the community space as a way to bring the community together. It has become a center for volunteers to listen to the local residents, distribute relief supplies, and offer other assistance—the volunteers are even helping the local kids with their studies!