But what was unique wasn’t necessarily the work or situation. It was, yet again, the amazing people I had an opportunity to talk with. Volunteering has given me insights into Japanese culture and its people that I could never get just by working here and going through a daily routine.
In the next waiting area, I chatted with a retired man who lives in the Saiki-ku area of Itsukaichi which suffered landslides in 1999. He said he remembered how long it took to rebuild the affected areas, so he wanted to come and help.
The group leaders were really something, kind-hearted, so strong and great leaders. I chatted with the leader about his days surfing in Hawaii as well as doing emergency rescue activities in Fukushima, Tohoku (after the Tsunami disaster). I told him I was so impressed by his group coming from Shikoku to volunteer on their day off, but he said “It’s a pleasure, we are no different from you or anyone else who is here to help on their holiday!”
Hiroshima’s Peace Park and his uncomfortable feelings, as a Japanese, during a moment of silence on Pearl Harbor day at a US football game.
At the end of the day, our time was up and as we said good-bye and good luck to the house owner, I apologized that we couldn’t completely finish the work. She took my hand and said with tears in her eyes, “No, no, no- thank you so much!”
When we headed home, there was silence in the bus as a deep weariness hit us all. On route home we stopped at the Yagi volunteer station to clean our boots, wash our hands, gargle and were given cold drinks. There are so many volunteers at these centers that work so hard everyday making sure the clean-up volunteers are taken care of and thanked as much as possible.
As I cycled home from Furuichi elementary school I felt tired but happy. Volunteering has given me insights into Japanese culture and its people that I could never get just by working here and going through a daily routine. It gave me a great feeling of connectedness and a true sense of belonging in a country that is not my own.
First time volunteers should have a look at this English Volunteering Handbook. Or see a list of the pages of the English Handbook for Landslide Disaster Volunteering here on Inbound Ambassador.
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