Day Three: 30 March 2011
Ishinomaki, Miyagi Prefecture
Today we all go to the peninsula where lots of villages were washed away by the tsunami. The area near the port has a very strong smell, like something rotten. We stop by a small shelter for about 80 refugees. We give them boxes of long sleeve shirts, pants, some medicines, toilet kits, and snacks, and we ask them what else they need. They say they want notebooks and pens; they want to make to-do lists for what they need to do to get back to normal life. They need footwear—both sandals, as well as long rain boots to wear when they do heavy-duty work cleaning up the damaged areas. And they need underwear, and brassieres as well. They said there is not much need for women’s hygiene products—most of the people in these villages are elderly, and the women have already reached menopause.
They said the SDF brings rice, drinking water and another organization brings them bring rice balls every day. They received some wood stoves from a group in Hokkaido. These have been very useful as they don’t have to depend on gas or fuel. The stoves have given them a measure of independence; when we arrive, women are busily preparing breakfast with these stoves. They are friendly and welcome us with big smile. Even though they lost everything and their hearts are clearly filled with pain, they are still so cheerful in their interactions with us. I don’t know why but I am reminded of the sweet smiles on the faces of the people in Karnataka who lost their homes in the 2009 floods, when our team went to build houses for them. Why is it that the nicest people are the ones who have lost everything? Maybe once we let everything go, we can become what we are supposed to be.
I spend some time with the leader of this shelter. I ask him to please take care of his health, as it is still so cold. He assures me, “I have already reached the bottom. All I can do is walk up.”
Later we return with the promised supplies. All the elderly ladies are so excited to choose nice underwear from the big box, it is so nice to see their joyful happy smiles. The old men are jockeying around the box, too, calling out to their wives, “Hey, Kaachan (Mom), what do you think??” Everyone is laughing.