Editor’s note: The following note is from Mitsuko Sobata, World Vision Japan communications and advocacy officer, on the ground with World Vision relief and assessment teams.
For more notes from Mitsuko, read Notes from a Japan aid worker
March 18, 2011
Yesterday, World Vision Japan relief teams along with Nobuhiko Katayama, World Vision Japan National Director, arrived at Miyagi prefecture to continue assessments about the disaster response situation.
Today, Nobuhiko visited one of 40 safe shelters in Minami Sanriku, where 9,600 townspeople have been displaced, to listen to survivors’ stories. One woman, who is staying here with her mother, husband and two sons (a high school student and elementary school student) shared her experience with him.
“My house is upland, but I saw the wave was reaching to my house so I just grabbed some foods and waters for my children, and evacuated up to the mountain. I saw the tsunami washing out the town. It was terrible but I could keep running for my children–I couldn’t die for my children.”
Her 7-year-old son says, “At that time, I was at school, which is upland so I was safe. But we couldn’t go back home that night so I slept with at school with my teachers and friends. We used a piece of newspaper as blanket. My father came to the school the next day.”
His mother continues, “The situation here is very hard. We don’t have enough food and water, and I’m worried about my childrens’ school, which is closed now. However, it’s the same for all the people. I just appreciate that my children survived. Without them, I can’t find any meaning to live. Because of this experience which I have never imagined, I have come to understand people’s feeling in difficult situations. I also hope my children will be able to feel the pain in other people’s heart.”
We also met 18-year-old Natsumi Sugawara. “Because of the tsunami, I cannot do what I usually do, [things from before] the earthquake. I was supposed to go to the university to study welfare. I have never imagined that it would be like this. However, this experience makes me want to do something for people who are in hard situations, because now I’m supported by many people inside and outside Japan.”
Her 15-year-old brother Yukihiro told us, “On March 11, I was at school. We evacuated to the field because of the earthquake, [and then] we evacuated to the rooftop [because of the tsunami]. The water reached unto my chest, but I managed to run to the rooftop. Some of my friends, teachers and grandparents are missing now.”
Regarding the support from inside and outside Japan, including the World Vision partnership, Yukihiro said, “I really appreciate that they’re supporting us despite they don’t know us. I hope I can be an honorable person in the future to repay them for their help.”
After his visit, Nobuhiko Katayama said, “After visiting Minami Sanriku and many of the survivors, I deeply feel the scale of not only the physical damage, but also the damage for people’s lives and hearts. However, I found there is hope also. At the safe shelter, I saw many children playing together and encouraging each other. Children are our hope. We must never eradicate this hope and the lives of the children. We’re going to take the utmost efforts for those affected, especially for children.”
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Read related post: Notes from a Japan aid worker