In March 2011 an earthquake and tsunami killed 15,000 people and hundreds of thousands lost their homes. Caritas responded very quickly with food and support. Caritas Japan continue to work on the recovery.
Caritas Aotearoa New Zealand contributed $20,000 to Japan. Caritas helped in the affected areas in a number of ways by providing a sympathetic ear to survivors; strengthening communities; continuing with clean up; and helping get small businesses back on their feet.
For those living in government-built temporary shelters, Caritas volunteers were a familiar sight. The volunteers loaded small pickup trucks with food, nappies, towels and more, driving to the new lots and setting up stations. Caritas cooked hot food for the residents, encouraging them to mingle at the barbecues and get to know their neighbours.
‘A key issue that people are facing is isolation,’ says Sawako Inae, Programme Officer for Caritas Japan. Volunteers trained in grief care spend hours listening to survivors at the Caritas cafes. ‘It’s a place where people can cry, and express their sadness and anger,’ says Fr Daisuke. ‘I’m thankful that so many volunteers have come’, says volunteer Sakae Chida. ‘Fewer people would have someone to open their hearts to if there wasn’t Caritas.’
Caritas also helped small businesses get back on their feet by helping with the clean up and providing materials they needed to get going. This allows employers to rehire staff.
For children who lived through the events of March, Caritas holds festivals with balloons, games and toys. ‘If not for Caritas,’ says preschool director Arasawa, ‘the children might not have had those happy moments.’