In Hiroshima, CRASH coordinated with the Hiroshima Senkyou Kyourokukai (a group of Hiroshima pastors) and Japan International Food for the Hungry (JIFH), who ran a volunteer center in a church annex. No records were kept for August, but in September, there were 360 volunteers representing 84 churches or other Christian organizations (plus additional volunteers from local churches who cleaned the volunteer center and cooked dinner every evening that were not recorded). Their combined work totalled almost 900 days of work. Most of those volunteers were local and didn’t stay at the center, but there were 315 man-nights of lodging during September – the center was hopping with people!
The volunteers were so effective at helping and encouraging victims that the city-based volunteer office started recommending us instead of themselves to the victims in the neighborhoods we served – the city volunteers changed every day, but we were more consistent.
Besides removing many tons of mud and dirt from houses, yards, streets, and canals, and beginning to repair the houses, two emotional care programs were done by volunteers from the center: a hand massage program with fragrant oils to help survivors with stress and let them tell their stories, and a flower project to give them a start on rebuilding their yards and gardens.
Most of the church-based volunteers for landslide relief were local to Hiroshima and registered directly with the volunteer center organized by Hiroshima Senkyou Kyourokukai (a group of Hiroshima pastors) and Japan International Food for the Hungry (JIFH). But CRASH volunteers also joined the effort and were able to make a difference.
Will Thompson of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes contacted CRASH with news that American pitcher Bryan Bullington, a Christian, was interested in lending a hand in the relief effort in Hiroshima. Bullington, who is currently a pitcher with the Hiroshima Carp, was the first overall pick of the 2002 Major League Baseball Draft and has played for the Pittsburgh Pirates, Cleveland Indians, Toronto Blue Jays, and Kansas City Royals. Since Bullington is currently in rehabilitation we could not put him to work mucking out homes, but local pastor Hiroshi Horikawa had a better idea, visiting the Bairin Elementary School where students and staff had just begun classes after the school reopened. Thompson reports,
“On Tuesday, September 16th we visited Bairin Elementary School with Bryan Bullington, pitcher for the Hiroshima Carp, along with Rev. Horikawa of Mitaki Green Chapel, and Yusuke Yoshioka and myself from FCA Japan. The school is right in the middle of the area affected by the landslides and you could see the mud on the hills and in the street from the windows of the school. The principal said that right after the disaster over 600 people stayed temporarily in the school gymnasium with dozens still living there now weeks later. Thankfully, there were no lives lost among the students and families of the school despite being right next to the landslides. It was great seeing the joy and smiles on the kids’ faces when they were suprised by a visit to their classroom from a professional baseball player from their beloved Hiroshima Carp. According to the principal, this was the first time that a player from the Carp had ever come to visit the school. The teachers may have been the ones that were most excited with several of them freaking out over the surprise visit by the baseball star, being huge Carp fans themselves. Its amazing to see the influence that athletes have, and the potential to use that influence for the Kingdom and to bring true hope to people, especially out of disaster. We are really thankful for Bryan, for taking his time out to visit with and encourage the kids, and for our brothers and partners at CRASH Japan for providing the opportunity to serve and their tireless commitment to provide relief and the true hope of Jesus in the wake of disasters.”
CRASH has found that sports can be a wonderful way to bring recovery after disaster, helping children’s teams recover equipment and hold skills camps with help from professional players after the tsunami of 2011 and the tornado of 2012. The Fellowship of Christian Athletes has introduced players and partnered in these efforts.
On the 19th and 20th of August more than a month’s worth of rain fell in a 24 hour period bringing already saturated hillsides down into residential areas of the city of Hiroshima. Since then rescue workers have labored under dangerous conditions with rain continuing to fall and the threat of further movement to find the bodies of 72 victims with 2 still left missing. 24 homes were destroyed completely by the landslides but another 392 dwellings have been damaged, flooded, or surrounded by rocks and mud. Now the tedious and difficult job of removing this debris, helping survivors get back to normal and caring for the emotional and spiritual burdens they face has begun.
In the days after the disaster as Japan watched their television screens to see if there were any that could be rescued, Christians in Hiroshima were already preparing to make a difference. The Hiroshima Senkyou Kyouroku Kai, a group of local pastors, gathered together in the middle of the summer holidays and together with Japan Food for the Hungry International and CRASH Japan started to prepare for volunteers to work safely and effectively in the Hiroshima response.
We have learned from our experience with the Tohoku disaster that although many volunteers will rush to scene in the first response and overwhelm the local volunteer centers capacity to manage them, as the work drags on the numbers of volunteers will decrease and survivors will be left to fend for themselves. The Hiroshima Christian Volunteer Center has been set up independently by the local churches to continue working in support of their community. CRASH Japan is mobilizing volunteers throughout the month of September to join in with Christians in Hiroshima to bring help and hope to their neighbors.
Please join in! We need your help. Teams or individuals please Register with CRASH today.
Photos courtesy of the 広島宣教協力会 (Hiroshima Senkyou Kyouroku Kai)
We are currently assessing the situation in Hiroshima where deadly landslides swept through a number of communities on August 20th. Churches in Hiroshima and the local office of Japan Food for the Hungry International are meeting today to work on a plan for coordinated action. Clean up after mudslides is very hard work and labor intensive. There will be a need for those who can volunteer. We will do our best to provide opportunities in cooperation with churches in Hiroshima for volunteer teams to serve. CRASH seeks to deploy Christian volunteer teams that can work safely and effectively to bring help and hope to communities through the local church. We will work as quickly as we can, but in an organized and effective manner. If you would like to volunteer, please register now for the CRASH newsletter and we will keep you posted in the days ahead as things get organized.