The Words of the Sapp Family
Tokyo, Japan -- Following the March 29-30 training of 50 Youth Ambassadors for Peace who are helping to clean up after the tsunami, Dr. Ron Patterson from Christian Disaster Response and two volunteers from UPF-USA, Luke Higuchi and I, traveled to northern Japan to visit the teams at work.
The disaster has affected a total of 160,000 people staying in 2,300 shelters in 18 prefectures.
We first went in the morning of April 3 to Senshu University, located in Ishinomaki. Here one team had arrived the day before and spent the night in tents on the campus grounds. The team of seven was in high spirits as they were waiting to be assigned by local authorities to homes approved for debris removal. The campus was covered with scores of other tents as many volunteers had gathered at this site. We toured a large distribution center loaded with supplies for the volunteers to move to nearby disaster areas.
Every week our recovery teams will rotate out with a new team replacing them. After leaving the university, we visited two teams working near the coast where the tsunami had come ashore in the area of Matsushima. Within a mile of the coast, there was total destruction. Bulldozers had cleared the main roads in town so that we could drive through this unbelievable maze of total desolation. The teams worked clearing mud and debris from houses which were located on the edge of the tsunami's furthest advance. The houses were still standing and salvageable if totally cleaned out.
The next day, we conducted a disaster training workshop in Sendai, with 34 in attendance. With Dr. Patterson's ability to educate and inspire these new volunteers, we felt confident that they are prepared to take to the field. Time was spent with leaders to outline a strategy for deployment of these volunteers in the near future.
Moving south in the late afternoon toward Tokyo, we stopped at a huge distribution warehouse operated by Samaritan's Purse, founded by Franklin Graham. The warehouse manager knew Dr. Patterson, having worked with him on disaster relief in Haiti and after hurricane Hugo, which struck Charleston, South Carolina in the USA in 1989. The manager indicated that they plan to empty the warehouse by the end of April. NGOs working in the disaster area are invited to pick up supplies they can deliver to shelters and population groups who will use them immediately. We were guided to this warehouse by a volunteer who networks with the Christian churches.
Dr. Patterson was interviewed by the Sekai Nippo newspaper on April 6. An article on Dr. Patterson's report about relief operations after the triple disaster -- earthquake, tsunami, and radiation -- will appear in both daily and weekly editions.
Dr. Patterson was asked to ship two 20-foot containers of his Gifts of the Heart kits which he warehouses in Auburndale, Florida. These essential items are urgently needed to help disaster survivors reclaim their lives. The contents of these kits are described on Christian Disaster Response's website, if anyone wants to prepare one and send it to their warehouse for shipping. [For more information, see Christian Disaster Response's website.]
The initial mission of training volunteers has been accomplished. Supplies are on the way. The collaboration of NGOs and faith-based groups with the government offices involved in disaster relief will surely make a positive impact.