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.”