Seminars for volunteers heading to northeastern Japan
An interactive workshop followed the lectures, such that participants could be actively involved. Participants gave similar reasons for attending: “I came so that I could find out some more how volunteering in the disaster areas is organized.” “I was looking for something that I could do to help.” “I joined this seminar to know what to expect when I volunteer.” Most of the participants were women, and included both working professionals and students. There were some participants who came as far as Ibaraki prefecture, in order to learn more about mental care!
The seminar covered basic topics for preparing future volunteers for what they would encounter in the disaster-affected areas, such as “things to know about dealing with mental stress and exhaustion before you go,” “how to behave appropriately,” and “how to interact with locals.” I think it was a great seminar for those who are looking to volunteer in the near future and especially for those with no experience in volunteering in a disaster-area.
Things that came up during the discussion included “it’ll be a once in a lifetime encounter between volunteers and the locals,” and “we’ll leave once we’re not needed anymore,” and “are we doing work that the locals would rather do themselves?” We also spoke about how we shouldn’t mistake our desires to help out with “feeling sorry” for the locals or viewing them as “people needing our help.”
The lecturers and participants agreed that, “volunteers are just volunteers, nothing more than that.”
Although it was too bad that there wasn’t really anyone there who had already volunteered up north, the lecturers spoke about types of damages incurred – such as sinking land and liquefaction – that their colleagues had told them about but which hadn’t really received much attention in the media. I introduced our post-disaster support project for women and children, and distributed the 300 cards I had brought to the volunteers to take with them. There will be more of these seminars offered at regular intervals, and we’ll introduce our project at these subsequent seminars as well.
Although short-term volunteering can have an impact, long-term support is really what will make a difference. Continuous aid and support is essential from each one of us. I think that for those people who attended this seminar, that once they enter the disaster sites, a sense of wanting to do more will be born naturally. It’s through the presence of people such as this that the whole group will benefit.
*For those who are organizing events for volunteers:*