Ofunato, Iwate, Volunteering ~ Into the Fray

continued from here

The first day had us zombified yet amped for duty. We headed out to the Ofunato City Volunteer Centre at the City offices and signed up.


We got an insurance card and name tags and thanks to the hard work of the Gunma group who was there before us, we got ourselves some proper manual labour. Well the boys did. 3 of the girls had to sort donations. The rest of us were sent to the river to help clean up the remains of a park. Along the way we got to see some of the actual damage…


Everyone knows water is a powerful force, but nothing can prepare you to see destruction like that. and knowing that vast tracts of city were destroyed in minutes only added to the shock and awe. of it all.


Seeing it however only made me want to get in try make a difference faster. The co-coordinators were handing out garbage bags and asked people to do basic trash collection. We found a tangle of buoys instead and set about hauling hem out of the river.


After the mandatory drinks break, we got split up amongst other volunteers and did our own little bits. I did some spade work and helped shovel silt off the paved areas in the park. As things started to take shape I realised that all the dried muddy areas were once rich grassy areas where people would likely have picnicked or relaxed on warm days like the day we were cleaning it.


We broke for lunch and headed back to the parking lot for an hour of rest and refuelling, and had a great chat with a police officer from another city nearby. We also met some dead seafood. In fact the entire area reeked of 2 month old seafood.


After lunch we moved a little downstream and had some harder work waiting for us. There were a lot more dead fish around here. A LOT! Regardless, we pushed on, shifting garbage and shovelling seafood into bags. We also cut up a fallen tree (as well as we could) with hand saws and shifted it out of the way, so people could get at the dead fish piled and rotting under the trunk.


Another group of us cleared the sidewalk and filled up a bunch of holes that were washed out by the waves. Hard, but good solid work. When compared to the scale of damage in the area it was but a tiny drop, but as the area knows too well, every little bit makes a world of difference. Hell. Every fish we shovelled is one less fish for the people of the city to clean up over and above the trauma of simply being there.


At around 4 we wrapped up and packed the cars. After that, we took a drive to see how bad it got in the areas that the army was working in.

The sheer scope of the total destruction is beyond any picture or word’s ability to truly describe.

to be continued…

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