Habitat For Humanity Builds Up Response Operation In Japan

May 12th, 2011

Habitat Commits To Clearing Houses Of Debris And Home Repairs As Well As Providing ‘Home Starter Kits’

Habitat volunteer Isako Matsuoka (top) was impressed by Fumimaro Honma (above) who remained cheerful despite the fact that his home and soba restaurant destroyed in the tsunami. All photos by Mikel Flamm.

SINGAPORE, 12th May 2011: The first Habitat for Humanity volunteers have been involved with housing repair and clean-up activity in Japan, and many more are set to follow.

Twelve Japanese university students travelled to Ofunato, in Iwate Prefecture, about 500 km. north of Tokyo, and one of the areas most affected by the destructive tsunami of 11th March.

Habitat for Humanity has committed to clearing 300 houses of debris, which includes repairing 100 severely damaged homes, so that families still living in evacuation centers can return home to clean, healthy homes.

Habitat is also committed to providing ‘home starter kits’ for 1,000 families moving in to temporary government housing. These kits will include items such as tatami mats (traditional Japanese flooring) and kitchen equipment, like pans and utensils, to give much-needed assistance to families who have lost everything. With additional funding, Habitat will be able to extend its reach and help more people.

Habitat for Humanity volunteers are clearing mud and debris from buildings, pulling out wet flooring, insulation, and tatami mats, taking out drywall, removing damaged furnishings, sanitizing homes and supporting families to leave evacuation centers and return home.

Habitat is also supporting partner volunteer organizations to procure tools and safety equipment for clean-up and housing repair activity, secure transportation and accommodation for volunteer groups, and employ skilled local carpenters, boosting Japan’s dented economy, to carry out necessary housing rehabilitation work.

The first group of Habitat volunteers assisting in Ofunato were working alongside All Hands Volunteers, a partner organization, to repair houses and clean homes.

Isako Matsuoka, 20, describes one of her volunteering days working alongside Ofunato resident, Fumimaro Honma: “As I work alongside Fumimaro, he thanks me for volunteering. The tsunami waves washed away his home and soba noodle restaurant. He is such a cheerful man despite his recent sad experience.”

Two men walking through the debris in Rikuzentakata city in badly affected Iwate Prefecture.

The 9.0-magnitude earthquake that struck Japan on Friday, 11th March, was the largest to ever hit Japan since recordings began.

The earthquake created extremely large tsunami waves with heights over 20 meters (65 feet) that struck Japan minutes after the quake, in some cases travelling up to 10 kilometers (six miles) inland.

Over 14,700 people died and thousands of others are still missing.

The earthquake struck 130 km (81 miles) east of Sendai city, Japan, and this, plus the subsequent tsunami, wrought massive destruction along the Pacific coastline of Japan’s northern islands.

More than 120,000 people are still living in evacuation centers as their homes were destroyed or damaged.

More family stories, an aid worker’s account, volunteers’ diaries and photos on Habitat’s Facebook.

Those interested in volunteering should email [email protected]rg

To donate, please visit altenheime-hamburg.info or