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Activity Reports

Volunteer accommodation facility Assistant Director (AD)

November 14, 2011

Matsumura Junichi has been working long term as a volunteer in charge of one of the volunteer accommodation facilities – a vital aspect of Peace Boat’s volunteer programme. Initially, volunteers were asked to bring their own tents during their stay in Ishinomaki. In conjunction with volunteer activities becoming long-term, more diverse and increasing in scale, volunteers are now provided with accommodation facilities with a roof and four walls. It is from these facilities that they depart each day to carry out volunteer activities.

“Mattsun” (Matsumura Junichi) has been in charge of operating one of the volunteer accommodation facilities located in a store called “Kaska Fashion.” This entry tells of the facilities provided and Mattsun’s experiences in Ishinomaki.

The main duties of an Assistant Director (AD) in charge of an accommodation facility are:

  • Check-in and check-out procedures of short term and weekly volunteers
  • Holding meetings and chat sessions
  • Administration and borrowing of work equipment
  • Sharing information from head office meetings
  • Administration of the safety of the accommodation facility and its environment
  • Other duties as required

This photo was taken near the entrance to the Kaska accommodation facility. You can see work clothing and gloves ready for borrowing.

There are of course many female volunteers so as well as Mattsun, there is a female staff member assigned to the facility.

Q: Please tell me where you are from, your age and what you were doing before coming to Ishinomaki.
: I am 25 years old and from Tokyo. Up until the end of March this year I was working for Co-op (Japanese Consumers’ Cooperative Union) and drove a Pal System delivery truck.

Q: How did you find out about Peace Boat’s disaster relief volunteer activities? In what way were you involved at the beginning?
: My job was already finishing on March 31 and after the disaster occurred I decided to volunteer from April. I searched online for “Volunteer Tokyo” and that’s how I heard about Peace Boat’s activities. I happened to be sitting up the front at the information session that I attended, and I remember being moved by the passionate words of a Peace Boat staff member who spoke about the situation in the disaster-affected area. At the time, however, I had a part-time job at night so I couldn’t go to Ishinomaki for more than a few days at a time. I started working as a Tokyo-based volunteer at the Peace Boat office from April 2, and in-between shifts at my part-time job I also had the role of driving a truck to Ishinomaki about once every two weeks.

Q: When did you start staying in Ishinomaki long term? How did you become the AD of the accommodation facility?
Since May 26. I just stayed on at “Kaska Fashion” and the AD in charge at the time (Umano Makoto, who was in charge of improving the environment of the facility) was going back to Tokyo temporarily. After 2 days of handover I was put in charge as the AD. This was around the same time as the short-term volunteer program was started, and so it was a pretty busy time preparing for that.

Q: I imagine that the number of volunteers increased suddenly. What was it like at the time?
At the time the ratio of men to women was about 7:3. The number of female volunteers gradually increased and so we altered the amount of accommodation space assigned to men and women as necessary. The building used to be a factory and so the power outlets were all 200V. The power adapter was destroyed in the tsunami so we had to rely on a generator for power for a while. We had 3 halogen lights inside and there were only small light bulbs in the area being used for a kitchen. We started electrical work after getting permission from the owner and finally by mid-July we got electricity. This was a big step forward.

The male accommodation area is on the left. The female accommodation is behind the green colored sheet. There are mosquito sheets at the entrance.

Q: I am sure it was especially difficult in summer. Did you receive any opinions or requests from volunteers about the accommodation facilities?
Of course people come here prepared for certain conditions, but yes, there were things that people suggested for improvement as they spent time staying here. The biggest problem that we had to deal with was the rapid increase of flies once the weather got warmer. This was a problem in all of the disaster-affected areas, and the flies were keeping people at Kaska from sleeping too. It’s not possible to keep them out completely, so we tried to keep out as many as possible by attaching wooden frames with fly screens to the windows. Once the electricity came through, we were able to turn on exhaust fans in the toilets which helps to keep flies out. As for the heat, we asked for donations of fans and received more then 10, including from people who had volunteered in the past. And finally at the beginning of August the installation of temporary shower rooms was completed. This could be called the “Kaska miracle” if you like – being able to shower at the end of working and sweating all day really helped volunteers to feel refreshed for the next day’s work.

The shower rooms at Kaska (4 for men and 6 for women). The construction work was primarily supervised by the previous AD Umano Makoto.

Q: What do you think has been the most important thing about your job as AD? And please tell us about how you plan to be involved from here on.
The end of May (after Golden Week – a holiday week here in Japan) marked a time when the numbers of volunteers decreased rapidly. I thought it would be difficult to increase volunteer numbers easily, so I concentrated on encouraging the volunteers who were leaving to want to come back. I looked to other working teams and team leaders for ideas on how to do this, and that is how chat sessions where everyone could express their opinions and discuss issues began. It is necessary for volunteers to have some enjoyable time also, so they would want to come back and not just be satisfied by coming to volunteer. Each volunteer only comes for a short time, so I decided that it was important to maintain contact even after volunteers had returned to their home towns. I have been in charge of checking in and out many volunteers so far, but it has been so worthwhile to see the change in each person from the time they arrive to when they leave, and their expression when they return to volunteer again.
Now I am part of the team producing the newspaper being distributed to residents in temporary housing (see here). The only change is that instead of working with volunteers I am now working with residents. I am still carrying out the same role of helping to facilitate relationships and connections between people. I believe that this is what I was meant to do. I will keep working hard until the right time, whether that is the end of the calendar year or the end of the business year.