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Activity Reports

International Volunteers

May 18, 2011

People-to-people exchange. Grass-roots cultural exchange.
Pillars fundamental to Peace Boat.

Over the years, Peace Boat has established a worldwide network of partners transcending national borders and cultural differences. In the week following March 11, Peace Boat received messages of support and relief goods from hundreds of individuals and groups from a total of 60 different countries. This show of international support and solidarity was very much needed in the confusion and fear that followed the quake and tsunami.

Since then, a had a total of 180 non-Japanese volunteers, or ‘International Volunteers,’ have joined Peace Boat’s relief activities, and each week since March 23 there have been an average of 20 International Volunteers travelling to Ishinomaki.

There are so many non-Japanese persons eager to volunteer, however it can be difficult for them to participate in efforts in Japan. There simply isn’t much of a platform or infrastructure in place for people who do not speak Japanese language, and many organisations do not have the capacity to provide translation or interpretation for volunteers.
As an international organisation, Peace Boat is utilizing its multi-lingual faculties to its fullest extent to coordinate the participation of international volunteers. As many helping hands as possible is needed in Ishinomaki, and it is important to include non-Japanese in these efforts – both people resident in Japan and from elsewhere.

Here we have photographs from a meeting held in Tokyo on April 24 by returning International Volunteers to share their experiences.
Approximately 60 persons attended this event and listened intently to stories from Ishinomaki, and how non-Japanese persons in this country can still contribute.

This is Scott Asahina (UK). Scott shared with listeners what to expect in a day in the life of a volunteer. He also shared stories from his experiences with sludge and debris removal, as well as distributing hot meals. His photographs which accompanied showed the audience just how extensive the destruction was, and what a vast area of land it covered.

As a rural town, Ishinomaki does not see many non-Japanese visitors. So of course the presence of International Volunteers is a source of fascination and encouragement for the locals. Scott recalls whilst shoveling sludge local kids would come and join him.

(Scott went onto produce a large number of Charity T-Shirts. These shirts were printed with drawings made by local kids from the Minato Elementary School. In this photograph Scott can be seen back at the Minato Elementary School handing out these T-Shirts to the kids on May 5, Childrens Day in Japan).

At the event, a workshop-style discussion group was held to flesh out ideas on what and how individuals can contribute to relief efforts.
Charity English lessons? Corporate sponsorship? Sporting events? Art events? Food fairs?
All of the above and more were suggested as potential ways to raise donations for the relief efforts. With a collection of professionals from
various backgrounds, a diverse array of suggestions were made.
Marcus Yeung, a consultant by trade who is well-versed in corporate CSR, was inspired to approach Human Resource departments in various companies to promote stints of volunteering for their employees.

We believe in the great significance of providing a basis for non-Japanese persons to participate in relief efforts here.  Some International Volunteers have even flown in from overseas, since returning home. With them they take their experiences from Ishinomaki and
share them with people across the globe.
International volunteers who have returned to their home countries have since been working to raise funds and awareness locally as well.

Domestic news coverage of the destruction is on the wane. The presence of the international community still continues to be needed in Japan so that the devastation may not be forgotten, and efforts to rebuild can be continued together.

Photos by Tracey Taylor and Dee Green – 37 Frames / Peace Boat