Five months after the devastating 7.0 [Richter scale] magnitude earthquake in Kumamoto, Japan, the Kumamoto YMCA-managed evacuation center at Mashiki Gymnasium will close. As such it is the last of 18 centers originally opened to help evacuees from Mashiki-town, one of the hardest hit areas. Since there are still 200 people living there, and not everyone has clear plan for relocation to temporary housing and further recovery, CWS Japan and partner support continues for these evacuees.
Related to this closing of the final shelter, the nearby community center, Yokamashiki House, also closed – but not until a “Thanksgiving Festival” was held so residents and the volunteers who supported them could gather to show appreciation for the House, which was a hub for community activities among 4,000+ evacuees. The festival showcased photos and stories of activities, including traditional games and other pastimes like Karaoke, led by a voice teacher who was an evacuee, which encouraged everyone during the most difficult times. Mr. Noboru Sanada, and his deputy Ms. Ritsuko Miyazaki, who are both evacuees themselves, led the shelter’s management team. Appropriately, they contributed a lot, including Miyazaki-san’s pork miso soup, to the closing festival.
When asked how she feels about closing Yokamashiki House, Miyazaki-san said, “I will really miss this place. We became a strong community … from scratch, and even the clothes I wear now were given to me by someone else, which reminds me that I also would like to convey sincerest appreciation for all the people who supported us during this period. We lost our houses, but warm heart always remained. Such feelings encourage us as we start another phase of our new lives at the new temporary shelters.”
With a promise of continuing support, Mitsuteru Akiyose, who leads the YMCA Mashiki Volunteer Center near the temporary shelters to which people will now move, announced that there will be a ‘Commune House’ where community activities can also continue. So, with mixed feeling of gratitude and loneliness, the community here is taking a step forward towards their recovery.
YouTube video <ahref=”https://youtu.be/LipFoQ6Sfjg”>https://youtu.be/LipFoQ6Sfjg