In April and May, representatives of all companies talked with people in the Kesen District of Iwate Prefecture and, after asking about their needs, agreed to provide joint support through volunteer activities by employees of the Toyota Group companies. Activities began in June. In the affected areas, activities focused on clearing rubble and debris, cleaning houses covered in sediment by the tsunami, and other activities aimed at bringing everyday life closer to normal.
In the second year after the disaster, with the local situation gradually settling down, activities slowly shifted toward revitalizing the local industry and enhancing day-to-day life through efforts such as maintenance around temporary housing, assisting with fishing operations, preparing farmland, and making flower beds.
To encourage local residents in their long and steady journey toward recovery, activities in our third year expanded beyond supporting everyday life to also include helping out at festivals, as well as activities to support tourism. We also held crafts classes for children, who have almost nowhere to play. Activities have shifted to a greater focus on interaction.
This year's activities centered on interaction between people and invigorating the local community, not only continuing the crafts classes for children and help at festivals from last year, but also expanding to helping out at sports events in revitalized regions.
Other activities, such as joining tourism monitor programs, focused on encouraging local residents working steadily toward recovery.
Yuko Sato, Kesen Office
Aichi Net, specified non-profit organization
My house stands on a hill overlooking Ofunato Bay. On this fine day, the sea is shining and very peaceful. It is hard to see it as the dark force that took away the town we knew and loved, as well as so many precious lives, in a moment when the Great East Japan Earthquake struck on March 11, 2011.
It has been four years since the earthquake.
In that time, various natural disasters have struck other parts of Japan. I have nothing but words of gratitude for the Toyota Group who, even now, continues to reach out to the Tohoku region among the many regions in need of a helping hand. Thank you so very much.
Since 2011, 647 Toyota Group employees have come to the Kesen District (Ofunato City, Rikuzentakata City, and Sumita Town) in Iwate Prefecture, which I call home, where they have engaged in various activities. Recently, in response to local needs, the focus has shifted to moving closer to people through activities such as interaction with temporary housing residents, crafts classes for children, helping to various events and dancing together in the street during summer festivals. Seeing these initiatives not only continue, but continue earnestly, people here are saying “Volunteers from Toyota have come again! We're so grateful! We hope they come again next year!”
In summer of 2013, at temporary housings at Sumita-town, residents and the volunteers from Toyota group have scattered buckwheat seeds to eat soba in fall.
Unfortunately buckwheats were eaten by deers , we could not harvest any. However, we used buckwheat flour bought in local store and made soba noodles.
In 2014, since local residents wanted to try harvesting buckwheat again, we and volunteers from Toyota group have scattered seeds. In fall, we were able to harvest buckwheat, we probably want do the same for 2015 using seeds harvested in 2014.
Even now, volunteering has led many people to visit the Kesen district with family or friends.
The tsunami took away so much that was precious, and so many valuable lives, in the blink of an eye. However, I feel that it has also brought many bonds. The presence of all those people who travel far to come to our hometowns and help out is a source of strength that renews our energy and courage as we realize that we, too, still have to strive hard.
While remaining grateful to the members of the Toyota group who, even now, continue to warmly reach out to us, I myself intend to value these irreplaceable bonds and to contribute to forging new ties.
In the town, the land to build a new city center has been filled and construction is moving forward. Things change from one day to the next, but recovery will still take time.
I look forward to our continued relationship. Thank you again and kind regards.