October 3, 2012

MiyakoTeamJCIE staff recently visited with the Miyako City team of JCIE grantee Sankaku Planning Iwate’s “Mederu Car” Project, and spent the day accompanying the group on their delivery rounds and daily activities. The Mederu Car project currently has four teams delivering groceries in the cities of Miyako, Noda, Ohtsuchi, and Ofunato, and in certain cases such as in Miyako, the team has expanded coverage to include neighboring townships as well.

The Miyako team began its activities in August 2011, with two staff members working out of their “Mederu Car,” and it has since expanded to a staff of five. The team members include one “leader,” Ms. Yokota, who is the main coordinator and contact person between Sankaku Planning headquarters and the Miyako City branch; two middle-aged mothers, Ms. Ishisone and Ms. Nakajima, who live with their extended families in temporary housing units; and two younger women, Ms. Matsumoto and Ms. Oomukai, who are in their early 20s and have also been struggling to deal with the impact of the disaster on their lives and their local community. While the word mederu means to cherish or to admire, the character used for the name of the program is a homonym meaning the sprout of a budding plant. The idea behind the program that drives and distinguishes it from a simple grocery delivery service is the critical and transformative importance of communication to the lives of both those who utilize the service and the women working to carry it out.

IiokaDeliveryThe Mederu Car staff took us to meet some of their regular customers living in one of the temporary housing lots in Miyako. Judging from the way they chatted with each other one would assume that they had been friends for decades. In fact, this time last year, the women they were talking with was among their first customers. For the first few visits last year she was withdrawn and very quiet, hesitant to open up about the health problems she was facing or to ask for the help and supplies that she needed. During this recent visit, however, she was extremely bright and upbeat and spoke about how lucky she was relative to her neighbors for having the support of her children as well as a steady income from the pensions that she and her husband had worked toward throughout their old age until the disaster hit. Though initially this had been a courtesy call and not a delivery, by the end of the visit she had put in a simple order for a few household and grocery items such as soda and ice cream for her daughter for when she returned after a long, hard day at work. Read more…