When homes and hearts shake – A reunion with hope

The question is not do I stay or to do I go but how do I live a meaningful life – today.

KitaIbaraki is a small city of about 46,000 in northeastern Ibaraki Prefecture bordering Fukushima. By Sendai and Fukushima scale and scope, the number of dead and homeless is much smaller and so one would naturally expect most of the media and other attention to be focused on the earthquake and tsunami epicenters.

But because I studied and worked in Ibaraki for five years, the displaced and disadvantaged in this prefecture have a special place in my heart. They are like family. Some of them, now working, married and with kids were not long ago students in schools I visited.

Yesterday I was working at the KitaIbaraki City Offices as a volunteer when two young women came to ask for futon. The municipal center where about 50 people, mostly elderly are living, were in desperate need for fresh bedding – futon. Evacuees were using cardboard and blankets which were starting to fray and soil. “Please help us, they are freezing”. I was in the storage area when they came and as we started to load the supporting and covering futon, we chatted. Her family owns a small business in the area where they have all lived for a couple of generations. She told me she attended Isohara Junior High and I pointed out that I visited that school 27 years ago to help teach English. “I remember someone like you who visited our school, are you an English teacher?” “No I work in Tokyo now but I did help here. I came back to volunteer for a while.” “Wait…you are not Orlando Camargo are you?!”

Many tears and hugs later.

Kumi-san and her family are now living in the evacuation center temporarily until their home is safe to return to. It is not just that they want to move on with their lives; they HAVE to. Their lives and roots are here. But they and so many proud hard working families like theirs are being tested. It has been two weeks and the desperation and exhaustion are testing human civility. She tells me stories of gasoline theft and the potential for disease and illness to spread.

We spoke about the headlines from both Japan and abroad about radiation dangers and the long term repercussions.

“There are also repercussions in not helping the elderly, orphans and homeless today Sensei.”

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2 thoughts on “When homes and hearts shake – A reunion with hope

  1. Orlando, may be a distance away, but just want to appreciate you for what you are doing, taking the step to help rebuild japan. Was glad when I read this account. My father too, left for Japan last week from Singapore to help in rebuilding efforts in Miyagi. He will be going there for another month, leaving next Tuesday, coincidentally my 25th birthday. Glad he is going to help others. We need more people like the both of you. God bless all of you who are there serving those who are affected and bringing hope to those in need.ClarenceSingapore@clarencechanxyMy dad: @calebcsg

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