Dear Family and Friends,
Hikaru Kamada is my student. She is exceptionally eager and motivated in whatever she undertakes. She always wants to learn and to expand her experiences, so she takes on projects and volunteer activities whenever she can. Before the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami, for example, she tutored a junior high school student, taking her from near failing to a strong A in all subjects. Since then she has been involved in volunteer work in temporary housing units. She is also the one who organized the international event that was held at Miyagi Gakuin Women’s University a few weeks ago. She did that part of the Kizuna-Project program almost single-handedly. As you can see, she is a truly amazing person.
Since the earthquake Hikaru has hooked up with a program in her university called MGLac. That means Miyagi Gakuin Liaison Action Center. This group is connected to an NPO called Miyagi Fukko Shien Center, which is Miyagi’s Restart-Support Center. MGLac links volunteers with people living in temporary housing complexes. It seems many other universities also have volunteer programs.
It seems that ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) is on the rise among kids in the Tohoku area. This is especially true of children who lost their parents or homes in the disaster. “They have a really hard time concentrating,” Hikaru told me. “So they are really difficult to teach. But it is important to keep trying.”
Many volunteers, often students and housewives, go to areas where people are still suffering and feeling unsettled in order to give support. They also provide various activities. Hikaru has taught music in one complex and now she instructs youngsters in English in another. An older woman I know is connected to another university’s branch of Lac. She is involved in a choral group for adults. She says it helps everyone in the community very much. People in temporary housing feel cared about and enjoy the carefree social occasions the volunteers provide. And the volunteers feel better, too. They know they are helping others and making a difference in their lives. So these joyous times hold the community together and strengthen it in many important ways.
Hikaru is also involved in a camp for about a hundred children from ages 7 to 12. Volunteers are mostly university students, many of them from foreign countries. The ones Hikaru works with are from the Scandinavian countries, Denmark, Germany, France, England, and Chile. She is the one Japanese in a group of four volunteers. They teach basic English. She loves it. And like my adult friend, she says it gives her a sense of community and of purpose.
There are a lot of volunteer programs happening now. The Miyagi Fukko Shien Center has a webpage, so it is easy to get started. “You just have to get out and do it,” says Hikaru. “And the need is so great. The more you get out and get involved, the more you realize how unstable so many kids are these days. I worry about Japan. So I’m doing the best I can to help other people and my country as well.” And because of people like Hikaru, the future of Japan does indeed seem hopeful.
PS. Just after this essay was ready to send out, I got a very interesting e-mail from another friend. This is what she said:
I spend most my energy for volunteer job at Arahama area. In Sendai city, only Arahama area was severely damaged by Tsunami on 11th March, 2011.
I came across a group called “Wakamatsu-kai” through a person who graduated Miyagi University of Education several years ago. I am very ashamed that I had absolutely no idea what “Minashi Kasetsu” means.
So many people lost their houses and started living in temporary houses or apartment called “Kasetsu Jutaku.” Those people are under the power of country, prefecture and city (town). So they have been receiving food, goods, volunteer people and all sorts of concerts by famious musicians or artists.
However, people who rent apartments or houses with their own money are considered that they live in “Minashi Kasetsu. (Presumptive Temporary Housing) They have received absolutely No food, No goods, No volunteer people and Concerts were out of question!
I started gathering students who are interested in supporting the people from “Wakamatsu-kai.” First, students started teaching 6 children every Thusday night. Then I started attending Wakamatsu-kai’s monthly event with some students. I went to their Christmas Party on 23rd December for the first time with 4 students. The party was gorgeous as the organiser was a young president of 31 years old who owns two businesses in Sendai. Food was wonderful and a very famous singer came to have a live performance at the event. Besides a world famous teddy bear artist also came with a huge Teddy Bear and lots of middle-size bears. When I saw the young president called Hirotoshi Seki, I was surprised by his bright aura!
And also I forgot to mention that in supermarkets there are people encouraging us to make monthly contributions to provide uncontaminated milk for babies and children. So the work continues. And so many are participating in activities to get this area back on its feet, physically, economically, and emotionally.