The Words of the Archer Family

WFWP-USA Sends First Relief Team to Aid Japanese Tsunami Victims

Christine Archer
July 13, 2011

Volunteers sponsored by WFWP USA work to assist Japanese tsunami victims clear the debris from their damaged properties.

Three young affiliates of the Women's Federation for World Peace in America (WFWP-USA) have recently returned to the United States after assisting quake victims on Japan's devastated eastern coast, has learned. This is the first relief team sent by WFWP USA. The volunteers arrived in Japan on July 1, 2011, and stayed for ten days. They mainly worked in Ishinomaki City, the most damaged city of the Miyagi prefecture, to clear out the homes and properties of those named on the Ishinomaki City Volunteer Center's list of tsunami victims.

"The first thing you notice when entering the disaster site is the smell," wrote 22-year-old Unificationist Chun Mi Araki, the Executive Secretary of the North West chapter of WFWP USA, from Seattle, Washington. Many companies in the disaster area were storage houses for fish and other food, which along with that in the refrigerators of demolished homes, have been rotting since March. The quake zone has become breeding grounds for large horse flies and mosquitoes, with clouds of these insects now swarming the towering piles of rubble and wreckage.

"[It looked like a] deserted graveyard of broken buildings, cars, and houses," said Araki in a report to WFWP USA. "The size of the destruction was overwhelming and it left me speechless." Sentimental items, such as photographs and stuffed animals, were sprawled among the destruction, alluding to the families that once resided there.

Volunteers also saw that victims in the quake zone have lost far more than property. "These people not only lost their homes, but they also lost their memories, and for most, the people they love," said Miwa Yokoyama, the translator accompanying the volunteers. "Every family that we have helped in the last three days has lost several neighbors, family members, co-workers, and friends." The team was even warned that they might find human remains while treading through the grounds.

"The feeling here is very painful, but also hopeful. The hearts of the people are so grateful for all of the love and support," said 26-year-old WFWP USA volunteer Teresa Blount from Irvington, Alabama. The assisted victims were deeply thankful for the volunteers and their hard work, and showed optimism regardless of their environment. "Their attitude and their spirit were so positive and uplifting," said Blount.

The WFWP USA volunteers were grateful for the experience they had assisting those in need in Japan, and were able to further practice a vision of the Unification Church. "We are a global family, and families take care of one another," said Araki.

The Tanaka family, one of the victim families assigned to the WFWP USA volunteers, had lost their grandchild in the calamity. Fortunately, on that catastrophic day, Mr. and Mrs. Tanaka were able to drive far enough away in their car from the tsunami. However, the freezing water caught up to them and flooded their car to knee level, thus stopping the vehicle and fettering the couple inside for hours until the Japanese Self-Defense Force rescued them by helicopter. The tsunami deposited an abundance of sediments all over the Tanaka's property and garden, thus providing extremely fertile ground for weeds and unwanted plants, yet the volunteers cleared out the rubble and weeds that had overtaken the property.

In only one day, the team filled more than 300 garbage bags with debris and shattered glass that surrounded the home of Mr. and Mrs. Abe, another couple named on the center's list. The volunteers cleared more debris, including a full, rancid refrigerator, from the devastated home of the Sasaki family, another assigned family. In fact, the Sasaki family was not even able to enter their house until the volunteers came, due to the enormous amount of wreckage. Mr. and Mrs. Sasaki revealed that they were stranded on the second floor of their house for four days following the tsunami, in water about knee high, until they were found by the Japanese Self Defense Force.

"Japan needs our love. The spirit of this land needs so much support and prayer," said Blout, "Let's continue to pray for Japan." The WFWP USA plans to send more volunteers in the future. "Thanks to all who applied to be part of the service project," said Angelika Selle, president of WFWP USA, "we will keep you informed about our next trip over there which will most likely be at the end of August." 

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