After an extremely powerful earthquake hit the Tohoku Region on 11 March 2011, triggering several meter high tsunami waves that caused massive loss of lives and properties in areas along the Pacific coast of eastern Japan, especially in Miyagi, Iwate and Fukushima Prefectures, the Scout Association of Japan (SAJ) created the Scout Disaster Relief Centers (SDRC) where Scouts unite to bring comfort, strength and hope to affected people.
SAJ set up the SDRC in Yamagata, Miyagi and Fukushima, along with the prefectural Scout councils. In Ishinomaki City, one of the areas that had massive destruction, SAJ receives and coordinates volunteers everyday. To have a bigger number of volunteers, SAJ provides free shuttle bus services between Tokyo and Ishinomaki on weekends. Buses with Scouts logo and “disaster relief” banner pick up volunteers in Tokyo every Friday morning to bring them to Ishinomaki and shuttle them back in Tokyo Sunday night.
During the actual work, Scouts and volunteers are involved in removing rubbles and cleaning up mud in houses and schools. As some of the shelters have no shower booth, SAJ prepares to send out boilers and shower booths which are used during national jamborees.
In Iwate prefecture, Scouts and volunteers are removing heaps of rubble especially in elementary schools. SAJ reported that as the ground level sank, the seawater covers the area during high tide. Due to this situation, SAJ says that classes are disrupted and children need more support. To help ease their trauma, the younger Scouts engage the children in different kinds of activities, like making “Taiyaki,” a fish shaped waffle.
SAJ is much appreciative of several National Scout Organizations that are helping in this relief operations through financial contributions.
Seeing the work of Japanese Scouts, the World Scout Foundation (WSF) looks into the possibility of assisting SAJ under the global project, Messengers of Peace (MoP). The funding from MoP sees the role of Scouts as peace messengers by giving hope to their communities with concrete and tangible results.
Besides Japan, projects in other NSOs under MoP are foreseen. Among other projects, three are from the Asia Pacific Region that includes an integration camp between Pakistan and India Rover Scouts, a post war camp between Singhalese and Tamil scouts in selected areas of Sri Lanka, and a community health awareness project in Indonesia.
Pictures: © Scout Association of Japan