October 12, 2014
Dear Family and Friends,
Last year I witnessed the start of a charity walk. It was sponsored by an NGO that goes by the same name, Charity Walk. This year they held a second such event, which I also was privileged to record.
(Justin Velgus and Wataru Takahashi)
Charity Walk’s efforts are supported by local businesses. One is called Aobaya Design. The founder of that company, Tsutomu Takahashi, and his son, Wataru, in particular wanted to contribute to the renewal of this region.
They wanted to help because, like many others, they lost family and friends in the 03/11 disaster. They felt this Charity Walk was one creative way to honor their loved ones who perished. Japanese think long term, so this project is scheduled to continue for ten years. Hopefully by then, people will indeed be back on their feet, fully involved in their productive and meaningful lives.
This year was a bit different from last in several ways. First, there was twice the number of participants. They came in all shapes and sizes. The human variety added much to the upbeat atmosphere of the day.
So did the local idols and talents, who set the beat with their cool demure, peppy dances, music, and songs.
a local celebrity
Another reason this year was different was one member of the volunteer planning team was a foreigner, Justin Velgus. He is devoted to this area, and therefore wanted to contribute all he could. Among many other duties, he translated the website and fliers for this event. He also drummed up a few other non-nationals to participate. “I’ll be here next year, too,” he told me. “I think it’s important to give where I can. That way I feel more rooted to this place. I want Sendai to be my long term home, and this is one way to help make that happen.”
This year the walk was 28 kilometers, up the coast of Miyagi. The route was well planned and manageable with specific places to stop, to observe changes since 03/11, and to rest. Useful maps were given to all participants. They had photos taken just after the tsunami, so it was easy to see what progress had been made in the past three and a half years.
Next year they may make the program shorter, even as few as five kilometers. That might encourage families with kids and also oldsters to join, too. It is wonderful listening to their evolving ideas. In fact, the Charity Walk itself seems to parallel the ongoing changes in this entire area.
Watching the participants enthusiastically setting off was indeed encouraging. Their strong spirit and positive intention will surely add to the uplifting of life here, something everyone deeply appreciates and still greatly needs.