The excitement from Fukushima to the world!
2012.12.23 update 2011.09 iwaki city
There were negative news about Fukushima constantly on TV and internet and it made Sayaka depressed. Sayaka evacuated from Iwaki, Fukushima with her husband and her parents to her relatives' place in Koenji, Tokyo right after the explosion of Fukushima nuclear power plant. The news made her rethink her actions, "I have a car, I'm healthy, yet what am I doing here?"
"I will deliver supplies to Iwaki!"
It was at the end of March 2011. Her family of course did not agree with her decision, because there were no clear information about radioactivity and that aftershocks are still happening. Even Sayaka was not completely confident about her decision.
She didn't have enough money and her car has a limited space. Regardless, she is determined to do it. She convinced her family that she will deliver the supplies and come back right away. She started to collect supplies for Iwaki by posting awareness message on twitter.
"I am collecting supplies for people in Iwaki at Koenji station north exit at 1pm"
When she arrived at the station, much to her surprise there were two women standing in the cold rain holding big bags with supplies for Iwaki. Soon after more and more people showed up and contributed. They started to work together and sort the supplies into boxes. They soon realized with the huge amount of supplies they will require a truck to deliver them. So Sayaka posted another message on twitter, "Drivers wanted!"
The response came quickly, some people volunteered for the job, even her friend in Iwaki offered her storage space there for the cause. Sayaka was surprised and overjoyed by how smoothly things were going.
A truck arrived at 7pm, Sayaka and others loaded the goods into the truck. Any supplies that did not fit were loaded into volunteers' cars to be driven there. The truck driver started driving to Iwaki followed by Sayaka and others. She was about to go back to her home town where she lived until about a week ago.
Next morning, as Sayaka and the volunteers were unpacking the supplies at the storage, an old man with a cane walked by. He was on the way to a super market to buy some foods. Since the super market was very far, they decided to share some foods from the supplies with the old man. The words about Sayaka's supplies spread quickly.
Soon the storage place became the base location for the local relief supplies.
Shortly after, she decided to stay in Iwaki and continued her outreach activity. She felt much better being in Iwaki and helping out people, rather than staying in Tokyo being frightened by the news about radioactivity.
Through her activity, she made a connection with a NPO (Non Profit Organization) and together they build a volunteer centre. They started as emergency relief and soon started doing recovery and reconstruction support, such as sending volunteers for debris removal or ditch sediment removal. She felt she was building a strong relationship day by day with the people who shared the same purpose.
"It's not about what we do, it's either do it or not do it. We all have nothing at the beginning." Sayaka said.
She has always been the one to take initiative, usually it is starting something small which later on lead to bigger things. A few years ago, she started a Fair Trade coffee organization from scratch. She believes that people are connected through the actions they take. Someone who purchased that one cup of coffee, would help someone else somewhere.
" I learned that the important thing is we start something small and continue doing it. That in turn will trigger a bigger influence to others and our society" said Sayaka.
Sayaka continued, "When we get rid of the rubble and ditch sediment the water start to flow. If you are healthy, you can do the work. Your effort will support those who are still in need. The people who received that support can eventually lend their strength to others. That is how things start to flow. No matter what kind of natural disaster it is, what we need for recovery is people's action to make things start to flow again.
I started my relief support in a small district called Onahama in Iwaki. There was a sense of neighborly bond that lead the community to help out each other. When people do not have access to their daily necessities, the best way is to reach out to community based support, even during a big disaster such as this one. We should not focus or rely on big organizations all the time. What we need is functioning support in each community.
I did not have much opinion about nuclear power plants before. It was just like another building in the city to me. There are stores, there are factories and there is nuclear power plant. I never thought that living in Iwaki was dangerous. Each family in Iwaki received 4000 yen (approximately $42 USD) every year and we felt lucky. In the towns closer to the nuclear power plant, there are living benefits, such as having nicer schools and nicer parks. I even felt jealous of them. The nuclear power plants not only gave many people jobs there, it also created more businesses in the towns and brought more people here. To be honest, I was not completely against nuclear power plant even after the explosion.
Now that I have seen the devastation and how the top people dealt with it, I am against nuclear power plants. We do not have to rely on nuclear power which has so much risk. Instead of focusing on saving energy, we should start changing our life style to rely less on energy. If we do not do this, we can never move towards a safer choice of energy source.
I had a hair cut, I made my hair short so that I do not have to use hair dryer for long time to save electricity. My husband is riding a bicycle to work now. I know it is a small change but I believe everyone is changing small steps like this."
Sayaka launched a local revitalization project, MUSUBU, in April 2011 with the people who she met through her outreach activity.
"I hope we can send a strong positive message from Fukushima to the world. It will be heart warming, connecting people, and joyful to the people who wish to share the same future. I hope people feel happier and help the economy as well. This gets me excited!" Sayaka added.
(Translated by Chie Kinjo)