One of the best parts of being a scholar is the opportunity we have to give back to the community. This past weekend I was invited to volunteer for a bottled water donation for the residents of the Iwate Prefecture, the area that took the brunt of the tsunami in March 2011.
I needed to be at Tokyo Station by 6:30 A.M., take a 3-hour bullet-train, and then a 2-hour bus ride to get to the donation site. It was a long journey, but my fatigue was quickly replaced by a surreal feeling of unrest as we passed by the remains of the Iwate coastline. Six years after the tsunami hit the area is still being rebuilt. One by one, construction trucks hauled dirt to new building sites and you could still see the remains of builds destroyed by the tsunami.
We arrived at the donation site a little before noon and a group of about 13 volunteers quickly unloaded over 1000 boxes of bottled water. After unloading the boxes, we started going door to door offering the water to residents who are currently living in temporary homes because they lost their original homes to the tsunami. The reason why we delivered bottled water is because the (temporarily) repaired water lines are currently above ground which causes the water to have an unpleasant smell during the day, and residents don't believe the water is safe for drinking. The residents greeted us with warm smiles and kindly accepted the water. It felt great helping this devasted community and we even got our exercise in for the day!
After we finished delivering the water, our coordinator took us to the coastline that was hit hardest on that fateful day. A single tree withstood the impact that devasted the Iwate coastline. This tree was one of 70,000 planted 350 years ago by two men who foresaw the dangers of a tsunami in this area. Little did they know that this tree would become the symbol of hope and courage that the people of Iwate would look towards as they rebuilt their shattered lives one step at a time.
A BIG mahalo to the Freeman Foundation, Honjo Foundation, the University of Hawaii, and the Shidler College of Business for providing me with the opportunity to embark on this journey and help this amazing community of people. A truly life-changing experience that will never be forgotten.
Today will be the start of a new addition to my blog posts. Every post will be concluded with a traditional Japanese proverb known as "kotowaza" that fits the underlying theme of each post. Today's kotowaza is:
"Fall 7 times, stand up 8 times"