When I first saw the notifications regarding the volunteer trip organized by Waseda University’s official Volunteer Centre (WAVOC), the deadline for applications were already over. I had missed a great chance to make the long awaited trip down to the affected region of Ishinomaki town. However, after talking to a few friends about it, they convinced me that it would be worth a try applying for it even after the deadline. Deadlines are made to force unwilling people to accomplish something as soon as possible. When people are willing to do it, deadlines come alive and become flexible. I attended the information session for the trip despite not having registered, and spoke to the person-in-charge after the talk. My friends were right; when people gather for a good cause and purpose, deadlines become a mere marking on the calendar.

The head of WAVOC is Iwai-san, a lady whose hometown is next to where the damaged nuclear plants are. She spoke almost with an emotionless face about how her grandparents can no longer return back home, as she urged all of us to contribute whatever we can towards the rebuilding of the Northeastern area of Japan. Her emotionless face, ironically, painted a thousand words of all her emotions- numbness and a sense of fatality.

And so in a few hours’ time, I will be off on a bus with 44 other brave volunteers to Ishinomaki town in Miyagi Prefecture. The long awaited trip ever since the earthquake and tsunami first struck Japan. However, I am glad I waited till now. If I had succumbed to my rashness and gone ahead without concrete preparations and plans, I would have been rightly punished by my naivety and for not heeding advices. What could I have done to “help”?

Even now, more than 1 month after the disaster, food and water are still not readily available, toilets are non-existent, debris is everywhere. Dust filling the air and dirt coating the ground. Even now, almost 2 months after the disaster, we have to bring gloves, masks, boots, our own food and water supplies. Even though Tokyo has almost rejuvenated to its usual self (save for the lack of electricity at times), places in the most affected regions are still light years away from a shadow of themselves two months ago.

Due to the lack of accommodation, this trip would only be one-day, without staying over. And that means I will be back almost 24 hours after I depart from Tokyo. I have heard of other volunteer trips that last for 5 days. It’s not going to be easy to survive on packed food and water, and sleeping in tents in the chilly weather; I admire my friends who are taking part in these longer trips.

For now, the purpose of this trip is to see with my own eyes the actual situation and perhaps briefly grasping the feelings of the local people, before continuing on my own project. There is little that I can contribute physically, to clear the debris, in one day, but I know these little efforts made by all of us on this trip, and other trips, will go a long way to inspire more volunteers to help out. Many a little makes a mickle.

I hope to bring back not just experience, but more importantly, accurate information about the Ishinomaki town to share with people.

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