Children are our hope -- notes from a Japan aid worker

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.

Displaced people sleep on the floor in a safe shelter in Minami Sanriku, a town completely wiped out by the tsunami. (Mitsuko Sobata/WV/2011)

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."

Nobuhiko Katayama, World Vision Japan National Director, in Tome. (WV/2011)

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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    My heart aches for all the people in Japan. One could never imagine all the devastation and emotions that so many are feeling. With so many material items one day, and in seconds it's all gone. We all know that we cannot take our treasures to heaven, however, the hurt and fear that one must feel cannot be measured. I pray that God gives each of them unmeasurable strength and hope, that together and through God all things are possible. Keep strong and know that here in Hawaii, we send our ALOHA to all of you.
    Kathy Nishimura

    @Linda- Thanks for your kind words, your financial support and your prayers. And for the reminder that while for many of us, our lives are the same today, for millions in other parts of the world, it has forever changed. Blessings to you.

    @Kathy- It is easy to see the deep compassion you have for those who are affected. We echo your prayer for immeasurable strength and hope for those in Japan. God bless.

    Prayers for the Japanese people. I go on with my daily activities and it occurs to me that as I am doing these things, so much has changed for millions of people. Thank you, World Vision, for all your great work. May we all support you with our finances and our prayers!

    You guys are doing a wonderful job! We have been reading about Minamisanrikucho and feeling terrible for the great loss it's experienced. Please tell us more details about what kinds of help are being conveyed from WV to all the people.

    We watch all that go on daily in horror...wishing there were something we could do..I lived in Japan for 18 months..such a beautiful place and such wonderful people.God bless you for all you do.Our prayers are with you all.

    It is such a blessing to read a joy-filled story in the midst of all the sorrow in Japan following their earthquake, tsunami, and continued aftershocks and other problems with radiation, etc. I am praying for all those who are hurting, especially those who are caring for elderly parents, grandchildren, and other extended families, as I know that places an extra burden on their shoulders.

    And a huge thank you to all those on staff with World Vision and other wonderful organizations who are working so hard to help as much as possible - I know it's often putting you in risk and we are so grateful for the opportunity to partner with you in this huge endeavor, knowing that our God is AWESOME and He is IN CONTROL! I've written about this today at SandwichINK and shared your site and am praying God will continue to use you to share His love with them. And I'm praying for you!

    God bless you all!

    @Kaye Swain- You are proof to me that God blesses World Vision with amazing, generous supporters who believe in His mission, our cause and are willing to partner with us to walk out our calling in faith. I will forever be grateful for your kind comment. THANK YOU. (PS: I just left you a comment on your blog to, hoping to hear from you soon).

    @Barbara- I love hearing from those who have lived and visited Japan. I have never been there myself so it's a blessing to me to hear the personal testimony of those who have. Thanks, also, for your prayers. Blessings to you.

    @John- Thanks for your support. Some of the other posts on this blog explain in more detail about World Vision's relief response. Check those out and let me know what other information you are looking for, I'd be happy to try and provide that.

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