Wednesday, May 18, 2011

We Went to Minami-Sanriku to Run a Soup Kitchen!

Two 2HJ's regular volunteers and I went to Shizugawa area in Mimami-Sanriku town in Miyagi Prefecture to run a soup kitchen four times from 25th of April to 27th.

2HJ runs soup kitchen in Ueno Park in Tokyo every Saturday, but these soup kitchens in the affected area, which we decided to run because of a firm request from local people, were our first "on-the-road" soup kitchen.

Most buildings in Shizugawa area were devastated by the 3.11 earthquake and tsunami, but the community center on a hill remained intact.

Now the community center plays an important role not only of relief supply distribution or soup kitchen, but also of information exchange or resting place.
The area has not recovered from water service destruction and power cut yet, so the local people get breakfast and dinner in the center every day.

Some twenty people actually eat meals in the center, and some 200 others bring meals back to their homes, shared houses, or another evacuation center.

Since the 3.11 earthquake local people have persevered in cooking some 200 servings of meal in turns every day with a limited amount of foods and supplies.

2HJ team had brought here less-commonly-available vegetables, fish, natto, desserts, and fruits in our truck.

The local people were especially delighted with cakes for afters.

One of them said, "I couldn't celebrate my birthday because of the aftermath, but I felt I could make it today with the cakes I had."

Elderly women who were brought up in Shizugawa area said that they ate "for the first time in their lives" a cream soup with onion at breakfast, and went on to talk about the powdered skim milk they had had at school lunch many years ago.

Although we could do for the local people only a little, I was delighted to see them talking about foods, taking their minds off the aftermath.

People in Shizugawa have historically socialized with each other in the community center. This is why they can live cheerfully by cooperating with each other in the midst of a disappointment of having lost everything.

I'd like to thank all the people in Shizugawa area for having welcomed us to one big family.

Megumi Takahara, volunteer coordinator of 2HJ

* No volunteer is recruited any longer for this soup kitchen.

Mr. Sonoda, a 2HJ volunteer writes:

My deepest sympathies go out to the people who were affected or those who have lost their loved ones in the Great East Japan Disaster. This had been my third involvement in the disaster relief aid project but my first time to actually meet the victims in person. At first I was unsure how to act or speak to them, but was put at ease in no time.

The facility we were welcomed into was like a town hall, with small rooms for meetings and a kitchen as well.Water and power were down but at least gas was supported through the propane system. Several times I would reach out to turn a tap or flick on a light switch without thinking, despite already knowing that neither were available. 

It was a big reminder on how I had been completely dependent on an overly convenient lifestyle, and spending some time with the people there really brought home that realization. 

I had the chance to listen to many housewife told me how she had been shopping on the Internet just 7 minutes before her car, her home, her town and her family were taken away from her. 

An old woman stood aghast in her field overlooking her house as it was swept away by the waves.

Everyone who gathered at that hall all lost their normal everyday lives and had nowhere else to go. They all shared horrific stories that even our wildest imagination cannot comprehend - and yet they were all so cheerful and friendly to us that we couldn't help but be drawn into that vibe. 

We were only there for three days, but I hope we were able to share some of our energy with them. The villagers had set up a strong and tight-knit community and were calling each other by nicknames.

There are many opinions regarding this matter, but I sincerely hope that they will continue to care for each other and be able to rebuild their homes.

I also plan to continue my support for these areas in the future. 

Mr. Watanabe, a 2HJ volunteer writes:
I was able to spent the 2 days and 3 nights with good company and meaningful work. 

The people who warmly welcomed us with cheer despite all the struggle they faced, and the few days without electricity or running water gave me a good opportunity to review myself and my heavy reliance on a convenient lifestyle. 

Using a well for the first time in 50 years brought back nostalgia and fun too. I would very much like to visit again. 


  1. This is really touching.
    Thank you SecondHarvest for those updates!
    And of course for delivering food and stuff to those affected areas. I can just donate money from here in Germany but I see that you really make something out of it. I really appriciate that! Thank you so much.


  2. Thanks, Carolin. It is great for us to see their smiles when receiving food. Your support is making a difference in their lives through 2HJ! Thank you very much!