September 6, 2011 – Mangokuura Elementary School – Such an amazing reception and dedication ceremony for Taylor Anderson and her Reading Corners. A BIG THANKS to the Anderson Family for inviting me to be a part of it. Today, the first reading corner was given to Mangokuura E.S. (one of Taylor’s schools). The dedication ceremony was packed full of friends, family, students, ALTs, news cameras, and city employees. There were many heart felt speeches, and even a couple of Taylor’s elementary school kids got up and made some speeches to honor Taylor in English! It was a really cool moment in the ceremony.
The reading corners are amazing, and Endo-san (the builder) is truly an amazing human being. Having lost his own children in the tsunami, it was so inspirational to hear him speak, and see how important it was for him to work with the Andersons in building Taylor’s Reading Corners. Definitely a soft spoken man with a heart of gold. I was so glad to meet him, and was amazed with his wood working ability.
All and all, an awesome day. From spending time with the Andersons to meeting all these amazing people who are doing great things in the relief efforts right now. It almost felt like a reunion of sorts. Many of the guests were people I had already met through e-mail exchanges, so it was nice to finally put faces to the names. Also got to catch up with my buddy Michael Maher King which is always a pleasure (and we are going to miss him so much). Another BIG THANKS to the Andersons and Kat Sheu for making the past 2 days so awesome. We look forward to continuing working with the Anderson Family, and will continue to support and spread the word on Taylor’s Fund. They are really doing amazing things in Tohoku right now, and it has been such an inspiration getting to know them/working with them.
September 5, 2011 – A long but awesome day down in Ishinomaki with the Anderson family! It was so nice to finally meet them in person, and we are so glad they could come around with us today to see what The Fruit Tree Project is all about. We started loading fruit at about 9a.m. from Moriya Fruits, then started making our rounds to the shelters in the Ishinomaki area.
The shelter numbers have dropped significantly since we were last down there, but there are still so many people who haven’t made it out yet. As we approach the 6 month mark since the disaster, it really hits you hard to see the many people still living in shelters and uncertain about their future. We just really hope people in Japan and all over the world don’t forget about these people, and continue to help them get back on their feet.
It was definitely a long/busy day, but it felt so great to be back out in Ishinomaki, especially with the Andersons and Kat. We got to chat with so many people along the way, and also got to play with some kids in the afternoon, which is always fun! In total we delivered ~1,233 items of fruit to 16 shelters! Another BIG THANKS to the Andersons for everything they are doing for Japan right now, and for all the love and support they have given us! Also to the lovely Kat Sheu for everything she has done in the relief efforts, as well as volunteerAKITA. We will definitely miss her and wish her the best in the future!
All in all, it was a great day! We accomplished so much, and we definitely reached out to a lot of people, which is what’s most important.
September 6, 2011 – Yesterday was a bit hectic, so we were not able to deliver to Hirobuchi ES (a small shelter outside of central Ishinomaki). After an amazing reception/ceremony for Taylor’s Reading Corners, I stopped by Hirobuchi on the way back to Akita with enough fruit to last them through the week (2 huge watermelons, 150 mikans, and 48 pears!) The folks there are the sweetest people ever, and are always very grateful for our visits. We hope to get back there soon.
– Paul & Minami
July 23, 2011 – A big thanks to our awesome friend Kat down in Ishinomaki who has been helping us out HUGE and made a delivery to a smaller shelter near her apt. Kat delivered 50 peaches and 74 bananas to a shelter located outside of central Ishinomaki that has not been getting as much relief help as other shelters. We are glad to provide them with some fruit and appreciate Kat giving us a heads up on their situation out there. We look forward to getting back there soon and hope to continue helping them out as much as we can.
July 30, 2011 – With the summer months being so busy here in Akita, we have been doing our best to keep fruit moving into the communities. We are happy to be able to provide fruit for the LOVE KOGANEHAMA event which takes place every Saturday, and hope to continue supporting and providing fruit for them on a regular basis. This weekend, we supplied them with 962 bananas and 665 oranges. The event provides food and other relief supplies to about 300 people, and we definitely look forward to working with them in the future.
July 15, 2011 – Today I was off work, so I headed down to Ishinomaki to deliver some fruit. It was just a quick little day trip, but I’m so glad I made it down. Right now the weather in Japan is insanely hot and humid. It was really heartbreaking to see everyone still living in the shelters under these conditions. All of the shelters had many fans running, but it was still just pushing around the hot/humid air. Today I visited 5 shelters. 4 of them we have delivered to before, but the 5th shelter was new. Everyone knew we were coming and many remembered my name and our organization “volunteerAKITA”, so that was nice. The first 4 deliveries were quick and easy. As always, they were extremely grateful, and said they really appreciate fruit because they only get it on occasion.
I headed back to Moriya fruits to pick up more fruit for the last shelter located west of Ishinomaki. It’s actually right along the road I take to get back to Akita so it was really convenient. Since the shelter is located outside of central Ishinomaki, they haven’t been getting as much relief as other shelters. Kat Sheu, an ALT in Ishinomaki lives near the shelter and tipped us off on their situation and asked us to get them some fruit. The folks there were such AMAZING people. They were so kind and grateful for the fruit. The shelter houses about 46 people, so I bought enough for each to have an apple and an orange. I also got to chat with them for awhile, and talk to them about some other needs they have. Before I left, they brought me 4 bags of food! I obviously could not take it from them, but they forced it on me! In the bags were tons of bread loafs and onigiris. This was the stuff they ate every day for their meals, and you could tell that people were sick of eating it. I thanked them for the food and told them I would be in touch. Our plan is to get Kat some money so she can run more fruit to them next week.
The situation right now in Ishinomaki hasn’t changed much. No one has even heard of a potential move in date to the temporary housing, and people have said that the city has fallen behind in building the temporary housing. Right now I’m just hoping for the best for these folks stuck in the shelters, and hope we can continue to help as many people as possible, especially through this intense summer weather.
July 7, 2011 and July 11, 2011 – First off a BIG OTSUKARE to Jane Suh, our awesome new friend down in Ishinomaki. Jane is also teaching English through the JET program, and we got connected to her through Andy Anderson. Jane has been a huge help to us along with another ALT, Kat, and they have both been super active with the relief efforts going on right now! (They are amazing!) Earlier in the week I transfered some money to Jane so she could get some smaller deliveries out during the week. First she took 144 peaches to 2 shelters in the Ishinomaki area. Peaches are GREAT, and everyone is always excited to receive them!
Next, Jane delivered 5 cases of bananas (~370 bananas) to her Junior High School. Since the tsunami, school lunches haven’t been the same, especially in the Ishinomaki area, so it was nice that she was able to bring fruit in for all the students, and we were definitely excited to hear about it. This delivery is only the second time our fruit has made it into the schools. Some schools don’t allow it due to the strict regulations on student lunches, so we were glad to hear that Jane could provide fruit for them!
Thanks again Jane! You ROCK!
July 4, 2011-This weekend we were doing two projects, The Fruit Tree Project on Saturday and the Big Clean on Sunday. In the morning, after breakfast and saying goodbye to our wonderful hosts, we arrived at the volunteer center at Senshu University. Driving in, tents were scattered over the campus grounds and we had no doubts as to whether or not we were in the right place. We changed, gathered our shovels and headed to the working site with another team of 30 or so Japanese volunteers. The site was in a pretty clean and well off neighborhood, so I was definitely curious as to what we would be cleaning.
Our job was to lift the cement lids of “gaijin traps” and shovel out the sediment inside. The sediment was black as ink, smelly and glistening with gasoline – gloves, goggles and face masks were a must. We got to work, two people to a team, and started shoveling it in to bags. We got pretty close to finishing around 2pm when our friends from NBC showed up. The day before, the crew had been following us and taking footage during our fruit deliveries. They told us to ignore them like flies on the wall, but it’s really hard not to laugh when there is a giant camera in your face. We finished our cleaning, chatted with the camera crew and then said our goodbyes to the Japanese team.
At first, the impact of our cleaning wasn’t outwardly apparent, we were not cleaning rubble from the streets or repairing shrines. But as the families came out of their houses to thank us, we could really see the appreciation for the work that we had done. It was a great day and I think everyone felt that what they accomplished that day was worthwhile.
July 2, 2011– Back again, but this time with bigger plans! Our trip last weekend allowed us to check out the area and get more contacts to different shelters. So this week we set out to provide fruit to 21 different shelters in the Ishinomaki area. Minami and I headed down Friday night and just crashed in the back of the car. The rest of the crew came down early Saturday and met us at the Love Koganehama event. One big thing that came through for us this trip were our FREE IC passes! Now, volunteer groups working in Tohoku can get free passes, but the process can be a bit tedious (lots of faxing/paperwork). Hopefully it becomes easier and easier over time.
The Love Koganehama event was really great. So many different organizations and people coming together to help this community get back on their feet. The Fruit Tree Project provided some fresh oranges and bananas, which was put together with some veggies and other fruit. The event went really well, and it was great that we got in touch with the organizers, because they are doing amazing things right now, and are definitely people we would love to work with in the future. One of the highlights of the event was an owner of a Mos Burger in Tokyo came up and cooked burgers for everyone!
We wrapped up at Koganehama in the early afternoon, and quickly headed to Moriya Fruits (our fruit source) to start delivering to the shelters in the area. The delivery process was intense! We had a solid crew of 25 strong, with 10 vehicles! We broke into teams, loaded up the fruit, and started making the rounds. With so many people helping, the delivery process was quick and easy! A big thanks to the Ishinomaki ALTs for their help and support, and another big thanks to the Moriya family for giving us such an amazing deal on fruit! We definitely look forward to giving them our business in the future. We want to also thank Hinako and the NHK news team that followed us on Saturday, as well as the guys from NBC who stuck with us all weekend (Arata, Ian, Ed, and Dave). It was so nice to see them again (we met them during Golden Week), and they are a great group of guys. It was nice talking to them and hearing about their lives (they all live in cool places, haha), and we appreciate their help in raising awareness of some of the issues Tohoku faces right now.
This past weekend in Ishinomaki was EPIC, we delivered lots of fruit and also made some great contacts! We definitely plan to get back there soon, and look forward to getting more involved in the relief efforts going on down there right now.