The Fruit Tree Project – Kesennuma, Day 7

The group handing out fruit at Omose JHS.

May 5, 2011– Sadly, it’s our last day in Kesennuma.  We came through for Omose JHS (Jessica’s school) and delivered enough fruit for everyone!  In total we delivered 1,176 bananas and 1,008 oranges across 4 shelters.

Loading up for our last delivery

At our first two stops, the NHK team followed us around to get footage of what we were doing.  They have been so supportive from the start, and they are really trying to help us get the word out.  A BIG thank you to Rena and her team for working with us the past few days.  It’s been amazing having them around, and we look forward to working with them in the future!  The heartfelt gratitude we received from the shelters over the week was truly amazing.  Another HUGE thanks to all of the people running the shelters and putting in endless hours to make everything run smoothly.  It has been so inspiring meeting so many people doing amazing things for Tohoku right now, we all wish them the best.  Before leaving Kesennuma Elementary school, Minami and I got to chat with Oikawa-san, who we have been in contact with since the first trip back in early April.  It was nice that we got to spend some time with him before we left  because it was our first conversation with him that inspired the idea of The Fruit Tree Project.  Saying goodbye was sad, but we know we will be back.

Minami and I with Oikawa-san

After the deliveries and wrapping up with NHK, we scrambled to the VC to volunteer for the day.  Minami and I joined up with the rest of the group, and luckily made it in time to volunteer with the Akita crew!  A big pat on the back to our very own Michan, who stepped up to be the fearless team leader for the day.  She did an amazing job, and we were all so glad she made it down!  We got to the work-site, and were greeted by an extremely genki old man and his wife!  They were truly the most amazing people I have ever met.  They were so kind and loving, and the stories they shared with us were touching.

Working around the house

Our workday mainly consisted of removing the tsunami sludge that covered the whole property.  There were also big pieces of debris that we had to remove from a small garden pond in their front yard, along with some medium sized trees that got knocked over.  The area they were living in was totally destroyed.  It was surreal looking out over the community and seeing all the large fishing vessels washed up on shore.  After our work for the day was complete, we had some time to kill before the van arrived to pick us up.  Otosan and Okasan decided to take us for a walk, and tell us more stories.

Taking a walk through the community

Our first stop was to a statue of Buddha that had been displaced by the tsunami, but still stood upright.  It was definitely a pleasant site, but our next stop was definitely pretty hard to take in.  They took us up to the hill they fled to before the tsunami came in.  Otosan is a community leader of sorts, and was in charge of helping the elderly get up to the hill for safety.  The view was intense.  The whole community was gone.  The landscape consisted of huge piles of debris, washed up fishing vessels, and a some lonely structures that remained standing.  It was definitely something none of us will ever forget.  Otosan had told us earlier how he now sees us as his family, and invited us to come back to visit in the future.  It was hard saying goodbye to them, and as our van drove away we all waved to each other until we couldn’t see the other.  Our last day in Kesennuma offered amazing closure to our long week of volunteering.  We met some amazing people and built many bonds with the people living and working to make a difference in Kesennuma.  There is no doubt in my mind that we will all be back someday, and our hearts go out to the people who are fighting everyday to get their lives back and move on from this very unfortunate disaster.

View from the hill

Another BIG THANKS to all the people who helped us throughout the trip.  Sato-san from the Kes. VC along with the whole VC crew, Jessica and friends, Arata and team NBC, Rena and team NHK, Oikawa-san from Kes. Elem. shelter along with all of the shelter leaders we worked with, Takayuki-san (you are an amazing human being), the AWESOME crew we had down there representing volunteerAKITA:  Minami, Doug, Todd, Michan, Rye, Melissa, Jeff, Liyen, and Selina, and last but not least, EVERYONE who donated and supported this vision and our mission.  There is no way any of this could have been possible without you.

It has been an unforgettable Golden Week.  Such an INSPIRATIONAL and HUMBLING experience.  Very sad to leave our Kes-family, but know we will be back soon.  The Fruit Tree Project doesn’t stop here, our hope is that it GROWS from here on out!  So many places to go, so many people to help.

Much Love,

– Paul

Truly an amazing man right here


The Fruit Tree Project!!!



– Minami

Group shot with the Kes. VC crew!


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