July 13, 2012
The Onagawa Temporary Shopping Avenue consists of eight shops that provide support for local residents’ daily life and employment. The shops include a florist, beauty salon, electrical shop, grocery shop and others. Peace Boat’s volunteer carpenters provided support to complete the expansion of the shopping avenue.
AARJ (Association for Aid and Relief Japan) initially provided the building, and the Shopping Avenue began operating in July 2011. As time passed, additional needs for things such as outdoor display shelves and a more cheerful interior so that more customers will visit have risen, aiming for the Shopping Avenue to sustain its business.
Initially, Peace Boat was concerned to accept this support, for fear of depriving local construction businesses of employment opportunities. After purchasing timberfor making a wooden deck, however, we have come to realize that sufficient architects and carpenters are not available locally. This has been apparent in the Tohoku (northeast) region of Japan since even before the earthquake and tsunami, as younger generations have moved away to larger cities, creating a chronic shortage of labor force and specialists for Tohoku’s recovery work.
Although it is “temporary,” the Shopping Avenue will be used for months or even years to come. Care had to be taken for the details of the construction job, as even a small misalignment or timber distortion could result in damage to people and the building.
The volunteer carpenters continued to communicate with the shop owners and customers as they proceeded with the work, while paying extra attention to details. Their work extended to adding roofs and gutters above the wooden deck, building slopes towards the shop entrance for elderly, and advising when to reapply the wood preservative agent.
A strength of the volunteer workers us that they proactively take time and effort to hear from the users and reflect this in the outcome, instead of and only precisely following instructions given.
Little by little the work was done daily, and after a few months, the Shopping Avenue is now looking like a tiny shopping mall, with even a courtyard for holding small events. Peace Boat will continue to provide regular maintenance work, as well as installing solar power panels and insulation.
Signage drawn on a concrete wall nearby reads, “Open with smiles for recovery!”
Peace Boat sincerely hope that the shopping avenue will flourish, and be filled with smiles of the town’s people.
TAGS: carpenters • community • Onagawa • Peace Boat • peaceboat • recovery • shopping • Volunteer • volunteering