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Top>Hakumon CHUO [2011 Spring Issue]>[Series] Volunteering and Me – Searching for Something –

Hakumon CHUOIndex

[Series] Volunteering and Me – Searching for Something –

Removing snow for elderly households

Members of the semi-hardball baseball team

Showing gratitude for providing the site for summer training camp

Dai Nitta

This winter, a record amount of snow fell on the Japanese archipelago, particularly on the Japan Sea side of the country. In the midst of these severe conditions, the 27 members of the semi-hardball baseball team (Coach Koji Ikeda) visited Mitanecho in Yamamoto County, Akita Prefecture on February 2nd and 3rd to conduct snow-removal volunteer activities for elderly households. The team holds their summer training camp in Mitanecho every year.

When Coach Ikeda heard news of the record snowfall in Akita Prefecture, he wanted to do something to help Mitanecho, which has been the site of the team's summer training camp for 31 years. He consulted with Mayor Masataka Miura and was able to organize snow removal activities. This is the second time that the team has conducted such activities, the first being in 2006.

A group consisting of Coach Ikeda and 27 players departed from Hachioji by bus on the evening of February 1st. The group arrived at the Mitanecho Central Community Center early the next morning. After eating breakfast and making preparations, the group received a welcome address from Mayor Miura and other town members. The group then divided into 5 teams and left to begin snow-removal activities.

Among the 27 players, 3 had been raised in snowy areas. One such player is Takatoshi Ito (4th year student in the Faculty of Commerce; graduate of Akita City Commercial High School). However, all the other players had no prior experience removing snow. Players received instruction from townspeople, and visitied the homes of elderly people living alone as well as elderly married couples in order to remove snow.

The aging population of Mitanecho

The volunteer group's Assistant Captain Masahiro Emori (4th year student in the Faculty of Policy Studies; graduate of Urawagakuin High School) and Manager Masaru Nitta (3rd year student in the Faculty of Commerce; graduate of Hotoku Gakuen High School) offered the following impression: "The entire surrounding area was covered in snow. Mitanecho has an aging and declining population. Although people in the region cooperate to conduct snow-removal activities, there were many snowy areas which had been left untouched."

More than 1 meter of snow had accumulated in front of houses. There were some areas where snow which had fallen from the roof had formed a 2 meter high wall of snow. Volunteers used shovels to break apart these walls. Each group included 2 townspeople, and student volunteers received instructions from them on how to use shovels to remove snow. At first, the students were uncertain about how to best remove the snow. However, they gradually got the knack of the work and shoveled snow using the strength that they had built through everyday training.

Volunteers were blessed with a beautiful sunny day on February 2nd. "I thought it would be cold, so I put on many layers of clothing," said Emori. "However, I got hot while working and ended up taking off clothes. There were even some players who were shoveling snow in short-sleeve shirts."

Emori was surprised by the large amount of snow which came up to his waist. "It's very difficult for elderly men and women to remove the snow," he said. "Somebody has to help them, and I hope that our team was of some assistance. But, I'm not used to this kind of work and some of my muscles are really sore!"

Removing snow from 48 households in 2 days

Masahiro Emori

The players' spirited efforts to remove snow were driven by the warmth and kindness of the elderly citizens. "They would bring us something to eat while we were shoveling snow," recalled Emori and Nitta.

When the volunteers notified homeowners that they were finished, they were given bean cakes that had been made while they were working. The homeowners were also kind enough to provide other items such as oranges, apples and sweet sake. Some of the elderly even cried and shook the hands of the volunteers. "We were simply overjoyed that we brought happiness to the elderly people in the area," the students reflected.

The team finished their work at 4 PM on February 2nd. Then, after spending the night at the Central Community Center, they awoke at 7 AM on the 3rd and went back to work at 9 AM, removing snow until shortly after noon. During the 2 days, the players visited and removed snow from 48 households of elderly married couples and people living alone in the town.

Experiencing the joy of receiving gratitude

Members of the semi-hard baseball team work hard to remove snow

While the volunteers were working, the townspeople cared for the students by readying tools such as shovels, making curry rice for lunch at the local elementary school, and preparing futons for the students to sleep on at the community center. "We noticed that we were actually the ones being cared for!" said Emori and Nitta.

"We experienced the joy and happiness of receiving gratitude from other people. We couldn't have made this volunteer work a success without the cooperation of the people around us," said the two students when reflecting on their snow-removal activities. "It was the first time that I participated in a large-scale volunteer activity," said Nitta with a smile. "It was a great experience." The tired student volunteers slept soundly on the bus ride home.

The snow-removal volunteer activities of the semi-hard baseball team were covered in 3 local newspapers, and were also introduced in a column in the Mainichi Shimbun. The Chuo University semi-hard baseball team is a strong team, holding the record for the number of collegiate championships with a total of 8 championships. The recent snow-removal activities have given the team new strength as they prepare for spring league games and take on further challenges.

(Student reporter: Shoko Satake, 2nd year student in the Faculty of Law)