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Top>Education>Disaster Area Volunteers from Chuo University: Winter Volunteer Report -Surpassing introductory theory to realize continuing activities-


Hideo Nakazawa

Hideo Nakazawa [Profile]

Disaster Area Volunteers from Chuo University: Winter Volunteer Report
-Surpassing introductory theory to realize continuing activities-

Hideo Nakazawa, Et al.
Professor of Political Sociology, Regional Sociology, Faculty of Law, Chuo University

No longer taking first steps (Professor Hideo Nakazawa)

"Japan only possesses an introduction to volunteer theory." -This grievance was made by Mr. Kenichi Kusachi (deceased), who served as an organizer of volunteers after the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake. For the two months following the 1995 earthquake, millions of volunteers gathered in the Hanshin region. However, just like the receding of the tide, the number of volunteers decreased after the completion of rescue-level operations such as removing rubble, searching for articles of the deceased and constructing temporary housing. In contrast, Mr. Kusachi felt that the period from that point onwards was the time when volunteers were truly needed. During a ten-year period beginning from 1995, it is said that nearly 600 solitary deaths occurred in temporary housing and restoration housing. After the passing of a six-month "utopia period" of mutual cooperation following the earthquake, interest towards the disaster area decreased. Survivors entered a period of disillusionment, marked by an increase in alcoholism and depression among people living in small temporary housing. Traumatized children with no place to play were also victims of depression. Such people required emotional care. This does not refer to counselors with haughty attitudes listening to the stories of survivors. Instead, such care can only be realized by individual volunteers who realize their own powerlessness while joining together with survivors to cry and laugh. It is necessary to enter disaster areas in an organized and continual fashion. Volunteers must continue to make the following statement to survivors: "I'm here again. Although I can never understand how you feel, I am here and I want to listen." While conducting volunteer activities, if you discover issues which you personally cannot help, then you must convey such issues to experts and administrative authorities. This function is known as advocacy. To reconfirm our understanding, lawyers act as advocates. In this way, disaster areas present an opportunity for legal students to study laws in action. They present an opportunity for political policy students to witness the establishment of policy, as well as a chance for literary students to rediscover humanity. Finally, they teach business and economics students about the mechanisms of regional economies. In other words, although support for disaster areas is a social responsibility of universities, it would be an even greater loss to ignore the relation between disaster areas and the education which is the primary function of universities. 40 students and 6 faculty members who agree with this philosophy worked at the disaster area of Kesen-Numa City from December 23rd to January 9th. The volunteer period was divided into 5 terms and the members were assigned to each term. They helped with the community organizing of temporary housing and other structures in the Omose District. They also helped with the never-ending tasks of removing rubble and cleaning gutters. The rest of this article is a report on these winter volunteer activities ( window) through messages from faculty who participated in the activities.

Questioning the bonds between people (Professor Yasuko Tsuru)

Yasuko Tsuru

It was a bumpy three-hour bus ride from my hometown of Sendai to Kesen-Numa City. The difference in recovery between the two cities greatly exceeded my imagination. It seems that the ocean which can be seen from hillsides in Sendai is much closer than we ever thought. Even so, electricity has been restored to the suburbs of Sendai and a slight economic recovery can be seen in the entertainment district of Kokubun-cho. Within Sendai, some people are even thankful that the disaster wasn't so large.

However, the scene in Kesen-Numa was completely different. An uneasy feeling is created by piles of remaining rubble, boats which were washed ashore and abandoned, and cars driving at night along pitch-black roads by the sea. When I led university students to temporary housing, we met children who were friendly and docile. I suppose the tribulations of life in emergency shelters had created such personalities among the children. Although adults who gathered at the meeting place appeared cheerful on the surface, their faces showed fear towards the tsunami and uneasiness towards their living conditions in the future.

There is beauty in the concept of bonds that have connected the disaster areas, Tohoku and all of Japan after the earthquake. However, in the future, we must ensure that such bonds do not simply become some sort of imaginary "disaster utopia." For that purpose, we must never forget the disaster. In addition to differences in recovery that can be observed between regions, we must confront emotional differences which arise between people in the disaster areas. This includes feelings of unfairness which may occur together with reconstruction. Persistent volunteer activities are required, and I hope that more students will witness the reality of the disaster areas.

Encountering the tip of disaster nursing (Professor Hirohito Suzuki)

Hirohito Suzuki

Group No. 1, consisting of five students, entered Kesen-Numa at the same time that a Christmas cold-wave descended on the area. Together with undergraduate and graduate students from The Japanese Red Cross College of Nursing, volunteers from Chuo University held a Christmas party and visited local homes. Activities were conducted together with students from the nursing college, some of whom had gained experience in disaster nursing during volunteer activities after the Mid-Niigata Prefecture Earthquake. Volunteers from our university had a meaningful experience, learning how to write nursing records and accompanying nursing students on household visits. Much was learned from working together with nursing professionals. One such lesson was the need for completely responsible towards one's own lifestyle when conducting volunteer activities in disaster areas. Each individual must exercise self-reliance in areas including food, fuel and disposal of trash. Chuo students lacked know-how in deployment to disaster areas, so our first task was to quickly prepare support for the student's lifestyle in disaster areas. It was clear that realizing self-reliance was essential in order for us to make meaningful contributions as volunteers.

Little Result Is Better than No Result (Associate Professor of Faculty of Law, Yuji Miyamaru)

Yuji Miyamaru

After entering the disaster area, the students and I spent one day on each of the following tasks: clearing gutters which were clogged with rubble, cleaning photographs which had washed away by the tsunami and then gathered from various regions, and helping local elementary school students with their homework. A particular difficult aspect of our work was peeling off photographs which had been stuck to vinyl and then washing the photographs. When following instructions and cleaning photographs, there were some cases in which the trash and dirt washed away smoothly. However, there were also cases in which clear areas of the photographs were dissolved in water and images lost as a result of our cleaning. We handled photographs of newborn babies, perhaps the only photograph of that baby that exists in the world. It was difficult for us to see that image fade away at our fingertips while working. Still, the instructor told us not to mind and to continue with our work. If left ignored, all of these photographs would be ruined. Since we were able to save a portion of such photographs, our work was meaningful. Indeed, such an attitude is essential for all volunteers working in disaster areas. Volunteer work can never be done perfectly. The work requires such patience and perseverance that it seems impossible. However, making an effort is better than doing nothing at all. In this respect, volunteer activities also involve making an attempt. In the future, I hope to continue giving support through student volunteer activities, no matter how little result they may seem to result.

Come Back in Two Years' Time (Associate Professor Yuri Komuro)

Yuri Komuro

"We can't make our living without going out to sea in our boats."

On the morning of our last day of our volunteer activities, a local fisherman told me what he experienced after the earthquake. He told me, "We gathered boats from Hakodate to the north and Kyushu to the south. When asked what we needed, we answered that we wanted waterproof rain ponchos. However, we were frustrated when normal raincoats were delivered. We were unable to get the rain ponchos, high boots and gloves needed for fishermen to go out to sea. Such items could have been easily purchased in our hometown before the earthquake. Normally, each fisherman rides in his own boat when harvesting seaweed. This year, there are two or three fishermen in each boat."

"Professor, have you ever seen fishing for conger eels?"

We left seaweed harvesting to the others and headed out to sea on a boat. The young fisherman silently raised long black tubes from out of the sea. Conger eels slid out when the tubes were held upside down.

"The water is clear in the area. Look down."

When I gazed down into the clear navy blue water for what seemed like forever, the fisherman said to me, "Be careful. Sometimes there are dead people floating in the water. The tsunami swept into the bay from this area."

I was told the same thing by many people: "Professor, come back in two years' time. In two years, we can give you lots of delicious seafood to eat. So come back after two years."

"Volunteering is great," said the local people to students. "But make sure you study hard."

I am sure that I will visit Hajikami Bay again before two years passes.

Future action (Professor Hideo Nakazawa)

The recent winter volunteer activities were made possible through the understanding and support of the Student Affairs Office and the Council of Deans, as well as many faculty and staff members. I would once again like to express my thanks for the hard work of everyone involved. Disaster volunteer centers in municipalities surrounding Sendai are being disbanded one after another (it should be noted that activities are continuing in particularly hard-hit areas such as Ishinomaki, Minami-Sanriku, Kesen-Numa and Rikuzen-Takata). It is becoming more difficult to participate in volunteer activities on an individual level. This further increases the need for continued deployment of volunteers by universities, which possess the necessary philosophy, bases, organization and resources. On the afternoon of January 28th (Saturday), meeting to report on volunteer activities was held at Waseda University by the six most prominent universities in Tokyo. Chuo University seems to have lagged behind in conducting volunteer activities, and we were stimulated by the pioneering efforts of other universities. Together with highly-aware students, our university will continue activities in Kesen-Numa. In order to cover some of the transportation costs of students, we would be very grateful for donations from readers. Donations can be made to the account listed below. Also, any faculty or staff interested in participating in volunteer activities should feel free to contact me (nakazawa@tamacc.followed by the shared university address).

In closing, I would like to introduce a letter received from a married couple living in temporary housing. To protect their privacy, I will omit their names. "To Everyone at Chuo University: At our current ages of 89 and 86 years old, it was truly difficult to deal with an earthquake the likes of which occurs only once every 1000 years. However, we receive the energy to live through telephone calls from our friends, as well as from every person who visits us. There were many times when we wished that we would die - what a foolish wish. We are encouraged by the support and kindness of people from throughout Japan. Every passing moment takes us a little farther from that horrible day, and we now live happily we feelings of gratitude. Thank you so very much. We enjoyed the kindness and support from Chuo University professors and students. Our time with you was an important page in our life. In the future, we will move forward resolutely, enjoying the twilight of our lives together. We now have positive dreams_(omitted). We pray for the health of everyone."

*Bank account for donations: Postal transfer account 00160-3-449355 (name of subscriber) Chuo University Volunteer Network
*A portion of volunteer activities by Chuo University in Kesen-Numa were introduced on the television programs listed below.
(1) Broadcast on January 7th, 2012: Interviews of Chuo University students at the Kesen-Numa Disaster Volunteer Center were featured on the program Kizuna-Miyagi ( Window), broadcast by TBC Tohoku Broadcasting.
(2) Broadcast on January 17th, 2012: Activities at temporary housing in Omose were introduced on Ohayo Nippon, broadcast by the nationwide NHK network.
*Winter volunteer activities were also mentioned by Chuo University President Fukuhara during his speech at the New Year's Assembly.

Scenes of activities from winter volunteer activities (2011)

Scenes of activities from winter volunteer activities (2011)

Hideo Nakazawa
Professor of Political Sociology, Regional Sociology, Faculty of Law, Chuo University
Born in Tokyo. Graduated from the University of Tokyo in 1994. Obtained a PhD in sociology from the University of Tokyo in 2001. Served as an Instructor at the School of Social Information, Sapporo Gakuin University and as Assistant Professor at the School of Literature, Chiba University before assuming his current position in 2009. Affiliated with the Japan Sociological Society and the Japan Association of Regional and Community Studies. His written works include Referendum Movements and Local Regime (Harvest-sha Publishing), which deals with the issue of nuclear power in Niigata Prefecture, and Environmental Sociology (co-written; Yuhikaku Publishing), which covers a broad range of themes including waste products, nuclear power and environmental culture. The former work was awarded the 5th Japan Sociological Society Prize, as well as the 32nd Fujita Prize from the Tokyo Institute for Municipal Research.
Hirohito Suzuki
Professor of Family Law, Child Welfare Law, Faculty of Law, Chuo University
Graduated from the Department of Law at the Faculty of Law, Chuo University. Completed the Doctoral Program of the Graduate School of Law, Chuo University. Served as Assistant Professor at Ibaraki University before assuming his current position in 2002. Has also served as Professor for the Deparbr /tment of Judicial Affairs at the Chuo Graduate School of Law, Chuo University, as well as Visiting Professor at the University of Munster.<> His research themes include comparative legal research for parent-child welfare law between Japan and Germany. He proposes constructing a comprehensive system that seeks cooperation between the Child Welfare System and Family Law, particularly systems in the field of parent-child law. His major written work is Child Welfare and Joint Custody - Comparative Research of Custody/Supervision Legal Systems Associated with Divorce and Separation (co-written; Nippon Kajo Publishing).
Yasuko Tsuru
Professor of International Politics, Peace Studies, Faculty of Law, Chuo University
Born in Sendai City. In 1997, Completed the Doctoral Course in Political Studies at the Graduate Schools for Law and Politics, Tokyo University. Served as an Instructor and Associate Professor at Tokyo Gakugei University before assuming her current position in 2011.
Affiliated with the Japan Association of International Relations, Japanese Society of International Law, and Peace Studies Association of Japan.
Yuri Komuro
Associate Professor of Applied Linguistics, English Lexicography, Faculty of Law, Chuo University
Graduated from the Department of Literature, Japan Women's University in 1993. Obtained a PhD in lexicography from the University of Exeter (England) in 2009. In 2005, assumed the position of Full-Time Instructor at the Faculty of Law, Chuo University. Has held her current position since 2007. Affiliated with the European Society of Lexicography and the Asian Association for Lexicography. Involved in the writing of the Lighthouse English-Japanese Dictionary and the Luminous English-Japanese Dictionary.
Yuji Miyamaru
Associate Professor Faculty of Law, Chuo University
Area of Specialization: British Literature and Culture
Born in 1971. Graduated Keio University, Faculty of Letters in 1995. Started teaching at Chuo University as an Assistant Professor from 2005. Specializes in British Literature and Culture, with especial focus on novels, biographies and autobiographies of nineteenth-century Britain.