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Volunteer for Japan

October 16th, 2011 by Jeff Aasgaard

On October 7, 2011, I joined a group of 41 volunteers to with the the clean up and reconstruction of Rikuzentakata-shi in Iwate Prefecture, Japan. This is one of the coastal towns most severely hit by the March 11 tsunami.

Our Group of Volunteers who Helped After the Tsunami

Our Group Who Helped After the Tsunami

Yoko Matuura from WhyNot? JAPAN ( took on the difficult task of organizing the volunteer trip. Thank you, Yoko! The initial plan was to go to Ishinomaki, but when Yoko called Volunteer Center ( she was told that they only needed volunteers that could drive/operate heavy machinery. Thankfully, she didn’t give up, and managed to find a Volunteer Center with staff who knew of a location where we could be of service.

The morning of October 8th we arrive at Volunteer Center where we changed clothes and got the necessary tools. Before heading out, the Center staff explained the risk and safety procedures to be followed. For many of us, myself included, it was the first time to do such work.

Mr. Sato from the village explained that we would spend 2 days cleaning up a field so that it could be used for farming during the next planting season. Saito is one the survivors and he really was special person, kind person and very friendly. I personally was afraid ask him any question about March 11th and the only thing he told me is kowakatta mada shinjirarenai!, which means “I was scared and still cannot believe what happened”. You could tell by his hard work and dedication that he would not rest until his village was back to the way it was before the tsunami. Please never give up Saito-san we are all with you!!!!

Mr. Sato and Sawako

Mr. Sato and Sawako

While in Rikuzentakata-shi we met Jamie El-Banna who has been working on the clean up and rebuilding efforts since June 2011. He has been living in a tent in Ishinomaki, where we were originally planning to volunteer. Jamie was very helpful and we cannot thank him enough for all of his hard work, Thank you, Jamie!!

Jamie El-Banna with Us

Jamie El-Banna with Us

As part of our volunteer service, we were asked to attend a festival at a local shrine that happens once every four years. During the special festival, men climb up a large ladder to battle with a makeshift dragon. It was truly inspiring to see the city coming together in celebration while they are still trying to heal from this year’s tragedy.

Rikuzentakata Festival, Iwate, Japan

Rikuzentakata Festival

This trip was wonderfully organized and I hope that I was able to help the people of Rikuzentakata even if it was only a little bit. It’s been 6 months since the tsunami and earthquake now, but they could always use more help so please volunteer!

Marco Ferrari

Me (Marco Ferrari)

Me (Marco Ferrari)

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