I joined the Tohoku team this year to help raise money and awareness for the Great Tohoku Earthquake that occurred on March 11, 2011. We had many activities such as the Tohoku book drive where the Tohoku team sorts out and sells used books collected in CA at International Kids Day event. All the money earned from the event is donated to schools in Tohoku which were affected by the earthquake most.

 

This summer, I was offered to go on the Tohoku trip with 5 other students from CA. This was so we could visit the areas and schools that were strongly impacted by the earthquake and tsunami. By visiting these areas, my personal goal was to understand the damage that the tsunami and earthquake caused, and how the damage has impacted the people’s lives.

 

On our second day, we first visited the Hirota Elementary School. There, we played with the third grade and the fourth grade class. We played many games involving english. All the students seemed very active despite some of the tragedies and constraints such as living in a temporary housing in the school grounds. One of the teachers there mentioned how after the disaster, most of the students who have lost their homes and family members did not drag on the emotional difficulties, and stayed positive and active. However, it was also mentioned that although it was rare, at times, some of those emotions did surface. We also spent time eating lunch and playing with them during recess. The students were all very friendly and easy to interact with.

11222813_1634361443445919_2209110081101189418_n 11041045_1634362313445832_6257349029216487261_n 11222892_1634362173445846_9118554474526079128_n The students in Hirota Elementary school

 

Later, we also visited some other schools and listened to the principles and the headmasters tell us the stories. From listening to the headmasters in different schools, what took me by surprise was one who said that the evacuation training in the school didn’t help.  The students were initially told to line up in an orderly fashion, as in training, but then the headmaster felt compelled to tell everyone to simply get out and not worry about lines since there was so little time.

11665529_1634364706778926_1027269385893078002_n  The Headmaster telling us the stories

 

11223602_1634364993445564_4104951746322113610_n11665355_1634365053445558_5382661726629164486_n The height of the tsunami that hit the school in the first floor

 

Our last visit that day was to Gakudo Hoiku (after-school care). We saw many elementary kids finishing their homework. Later, we all played together with board-games, cards, and paper-airplanes. Since the kids were so active, I was exhausted after the visit.

11026323_1634366256778771_5623118499759986732_n 11695768_1634365293445534_1023839368773104782_n 11052453_1634365816778815_7149152954315205403_n  Gakudo Hoiku

On our third day, we first visited the middle school. We played many games in the gym such as different versions of tag like heart and brain tag. We also played a game called human knots where we were made into groups of 8 to 12 and we tried untangle ourselves from the knots we made. During this game, we were allowed to speak only in english which made it hard to communicate amongst the students. Later, during the afternoon, we visited a high school and we interacted with their SBC members, who showed us around the school. The school had many afterschool activities such as kyudo(bow and arrow sport), soccer, volleyball, band, and quire.

 

On our last day, we first visited around the area of what used to be the city of Rikuzen Takata. There weren’t much junk and broken things left, the whole area was mostly empty with grass fields. It was hard to imagine that there was an earthquake and a tsunami that hit the area since so much of the remains and junk was cleared. However, just as much, it was very hard for me to imagine that there was a small city/town that existed in the area since the tsunami had completely wiped it out. Looking back at the old photos of the city, it gave me the feeling of a devastation of the tsunami. Later, we went on a small tour of the construction that was being done to prevent any sort of tsunami. Although the sea walls were nearly completed, there was yet much to be done to revive the city.

11695744_1634374640111266_989123416711279620_n 11698826_1634374466777950_2284326159464833383_n 11222021_1634375083444555_6637539476122336779_n 11057893_1634375183444545_6491728001861981359_n

The remains of the city of Rikuzen Takata

 

I had a great time going on this trip since I got to understand and learn more about the disasters and the different stories.  Being able to interact with the kids from the elementary, middle school, and high school was very fun since they were all very friendly and active. Although the disaster of the earthquake and the tsunami has subsided, the hard part which is reviving the city is yet to come. I would like to keep supporting the Tohoku while they make progress to recover from all the damage suffered.

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