About HARU

We provide assistance toward the reconstruction of Tohoku district, devastated by the quake and the following Tsunami on March 11, 2011.Many volunteer students of Tohoku University have joined us in this noble cause. Also, HARU have received official recognition from Tohoku University so that we are able to promote volunteer activities to meet community needs. In the future, we are switching our work to the long-term reconstruction with broad range of cooperation.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Volunteer activity of cleaning photographs – keep memories of affected areas–

        Now, HARU has been engaged in cleaning photographs damaged by seawater and mud in tsunami.  Japan Self-Defense Forces provides us with photographs and photo albums of which owners have not been found.  We wash the mud off of the photographs.  And we dry them, preserve, and finally return them to residents. The number of photographs is more than 120 thousands, so it will take a lot of time to complete this activity.  We would like to do what we can do now, and clean them one by one, quickly and carefully.

        I would like to introduce a procedure for cleaning photographs. Some photographs are so degraded   that ink is removed or almost removed. If we badly wash the mud off the photographs, ink may be also removed and they may get further injured.  However, if the mud were left unwashed, bacteria would grow and the photo would disappear.  Under these circumstances, we wash away the mud with our fingertips delicately and carefully.  After washing, we hang up the photos with clothespins and put them in the new album.  As to cleaning damaged albums, we clean the mud page by page.  Aside from our activities, photographers are working on making copies of damaged photographs.  How carefully we wash the photos, unless we can remove the bacteria completely, they will eventually fade. Therefore, we try to duplicate the washed photos to preserve them.

        A member of HARU who is in his 1st year of economics major said, “I feel satisfied when a damaged photo which at first looked impossible to be restored finally got clean after the mud was washed away bit by bit. One day when I was leaving after the activity, a couple who came to pick up photographs found theirs and smiled happily.  This made me think it was worth it. ”

        Another member who is in his 3rd year of materials major said, “Preserving records like photos for future reference is a very important task.  I also cleaned the back of the photos carefully when a date or some notes were written on its back. I hope I can be of help to keep those memories as far as I can.  When we were cleaning photos, a resident came and found out a photo of him.  The photo had happened to be his friend's. So he brought it to the friend.  This is an episode which made me decide to put in effort in order to return all photographs to their original owners.  We have to complete the cleaning work by Obon (around mid-August).  I will continue this activity.”

        Through the activity of cleaning photos, we would like to send memories to residents as much as possible, and we hope these activities will help reconstruction.  HARU will continue this activity.  We have been working at Yamamoto-chou until now.  Hereafter we will move to Katahira campus and continue the activity.  We will make efforts to return as many photos as we can to affected people in cooperation with many people..

Saturday, May 21, 2011

University Library Continues to Recover

Hello, I’m Shihomi Meguro, a member of the publication department.
At Kawauchi campus where we’ve just welcomed new students, you can see beautiful seasonal scenery of young leaves and blue sky.
It’s been 2 weeks since the lectures restarted. With an aim of striking balance between study and volunteer activities, HARU members seek “what I can do” for recovery.

This week again, HARU members have made efforts on recovery work at university library.

On May 18th, about 10 members of HARU worked at the main building of university library.  On 1st and 2nd floor, there are about 900,000 books including classical documents and large books.
Thanks to the hard work of the library staff, most of the scattered books on the floor were returned to the bookshelves.  The library stack room is now available.  On that day, we strapped the books to the bookshelves to prepare for the aftershock.
A student of the faculty of economics who participated in this activity had gone back to his hometown, Yonezawa City in Yamagata Prefecture, to take refuge for a while until the lectures were restarted.  In Yonezawa city, he worked as a volunteer to support affected people who escaped from affected area around Fukushima nuclear power plants. He returned to Sendai when the lectures were started, but he said “I cannot feel ease when I study.  So, I joined a volunteer activity here at the university to help someone else.”

A student in his 1st year of master course of law and politics told me his motivation of joining HARU.  He said, “I was stimulated by a friend of mine, Kyoto University student, who had worked as a volunteer in Miyagi Prefecture.”

A student in his 1st year of doctor course of engineering has moved from Niigata to Sendai this spring in order to go to the doctor course.  He told us what he felt when he decided to join this activity.  He said, “When I watched the TV news covering the earthquake disaster, my legs moved at the next moment.”
It was impressive that each member told his feeling word by word, without stopping his hands to band books.
Library staff expressed thanks to HARU members for their activities to recover the library.

Staff was concerned most about the effects on the rare books.
On 2nd floor of the main building, there is a rare books stack room.  In the room, rare documents of the world written several hundred years ago, and the first published edition of Soseki Natume and his letters written in his own handwriting were strictly kept.
In this room, strict systems against earthquake disaster had been provided, for example earthquake-proof book racks. However, some books in this room fell out of safety bars and scattered over the floor.  This told how severe the 3 minute-earthquake of 3.11 was.
The rare books will be repaired by staff and professionals, but the cost will be significant.

A staff member of university library dropped his shoulders in disappointment and said, “When I think of the affected books, I cannot stop feeling like crying.”

HARU members will continue to help recover the library even after the next week.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Touching passion for recovery - Reception assignment at Yamamoto-chou volunteer center-

I’m a member of publication section of HARU. I have been engaged in volunteer activities at Yamamoto-chou in Miyagi Prefecture over 3 weeks. Today, I’d like to introduce reception assignment jobs at the volunteer center for people applying volunteer activities in Yamamoto-chou.

This volunteer center, set by Yamamoto-chou Social Welfare Council, serves as a base for the recovery support activities. It is located in a tent set in front of an administration building of the social welfare council. We accept individuals or groups of applicants for volunteer activities, and accept demands of affected people living in this town. We also work on distribution of lime hydrate and antiseptic to disinfect houses, etc.

Among the town residents who need relief support, there are many people who lost their families or relatives. I talked with a woman who had lost her husband and was left alone. She stood petrified with her eyes turned red and swollen as if after crying.

People who want to attend to their needs and take part in volunteer activities come to our reception at first, and are assigned tasks. Then they change into working clothes and prepare equipments. Before starting activities, they are given bibs with the town’s name “Yamamoto-chou” and arm badges. They always wear them while working. Big numbers are registered at the volunteer center so that the center could confirm the condition of every volunteer such as whether they are injured or not after the activities. Volunteers’ works are sorting relief supplies, cleaning individual houses, support farmland maintenance, and so on.

Only around Yamamoto-chou, people can listen to a local FM broadcast “Ringo (apple) Radio”. When we are on duty at the reception, we often hear the broadcast from a radio on the reception desk. In this radio broadcast, a host reads out names of missing people very often in a day and call for listeners “If you have any information, please give us”. On the coastal area, search for missing persons is continued. Such places are designated as Restricted Area, where no vehicle is permitted to enter.

When we stepped into a local government office, the first things we can see are the letters of “Information on Missing Persons”, “Death Registration”, Evacuee List”, and “Second Evacuation Place Notification”. When we face with such situations, we strongly feel that it isn’t a moment of recovery yet.

We meet a lot of people in various situations at the reception. , In communication with them, we sometime have mixed feelings. Because relief supplies from individuals need sorting tasks or sometimes may cause confusion in the affected area, they are not accepted. Yet, a certain volunteer said “Return my supplies! If you don’t appreciate them!” and brought back all the supplies he had brought. Actually, one’s benevolence is appreciated, but when one is engaged in volunteer activities, the benevolence might turn to be nuisance, if one does not think of the situation of affected area. We sometimes see arguments between affected people and volunteers.

Present situation of affected areas makes us feel mixed up. However, we could feel passion through a lot of applicants from every region in Japan who have ambition to recover Tohoku district. During a long vacation in May, the number of general volunteer was dramatically increased. The number of volunteers in Yamamoto-chou had been approximately 40 before the long vacation began; thereafter it rose to 160-200 at once. It was such a large number as to make the council staffs feel difficulty in adjusting assignments for volunteers. We saw volunteers from Ibaraki prefecture, Saitama prefecture in Kanto, in addition, Osaka prefecture, Hyogo prefecture, and Hiroshima prefecture in South Japan. Particularly we were surprised to know that one of them came from Israel, and felt very encouraged to know that there are many people in the world who think “I want to do something I can do”.

My hometown is in Shikoku Island. When I went to an individual broken house as a volunteer, I told this to an affected person. At that time, he said “You came from as far as Shikoku to Tohoku to enter a college, and now you came to help Yamamoto-chou. Just this fact encourages me. I believe Tohoku is going to recover.” I was encouraged by this word.

I think volunteer work is not just free physical labor. Through volunteer activities at the affected area, we could send messages like “We are here and looking at you carefully”, “We want to be with you” directly to affected people. These actions may make mental relationship.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Spread smile to Kesen-numa. Report on “Open air market.”

        This is S.A, a member of the broadcasting group of HARU. I joined a volunteer activity named “open air market”, which was done in Kesen-numa city (Miyagi prefecture) on 30th April. I will write about the activity. We distributed some clothes, which were sent from many universities around Japan. Kesen-numa is a place destroyed largely by tsunami, and people there can get these clothes free of charge in this activity.

        We left Sendai by 2t truck at 6:00 am with Dr Asanuma, a professor of environmental science. We went through Toubu highway and Sanriku road, via Rifu. The road had been affected by the earthquake too, and the car jolted badly.
        We opened the open air market at the corner of a parking lot of a convenience store. We spread a blue vinyl sheet and place clothes on it, like a flee market. We arrived there around 8:00 and started preparing, soon a few people started to come. Around 8:30, when we finished preparing, the market was crowded with many people. Not only adults, but also a lot of children came. It was especially impressing to see children choosing school supplies with their parents.
        I got some comments from people there. One lady said “I lost my job because the company was destroyed by tsunami. Now I am trying to find a new job while I raise three children. The market is really helpful for me.” I was happy because I could help her even a little and I was touched by her. She was working so hard and being positive to make her living. I asked her what she wanted besides clothes. She said, firstly she needed food and then mentioned about daily necessities and clothes for summer. Another man also talked about the shortage of food. Japanese government is discussing “the step of revival,” but still there is shortage of food and daily necessities. I felt that it was still a step of restoring, not yet revival.

        The man told us that it had been difficult for him to get information about this kind of activity. He really needed information in advance. Actually, the lady had heard about the market by word of mouth. Rumor seemed to be an important source of information there.
        In an hour, half of the clothes were distributed and in next one hour, almost everything was. The market was a great success. While I was doing the activity, many volunteers from around the country talked to me. I understood that many people really hope revival of Tohoku region, and it was very encouraging.
        “Thank you very much…Thank you…” There was an old lady thanked us many times. She escaped from tsunami without bringing anything. She told us, her house had been destroyed by tsunami and she was wearing clothes given by others. I thought that the market could be some help for the people like her. I felt the hardship of reality by talking with people in stricken area. They expect for support for restoring before the stage of revival. On the other hand, when I saw people smiling, fitting clothes to their body and checked how it looked, I felt very happy.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Tohoku University Library Prepares For Aftershock, and Protects Enormous Collection of Knowledge; Students are Taping Books in Place

HARU members helped the recovery work in building 2 (Nigōkan) of Tohoku University Library, in May 2.  20 HARU members each worked in the morning and the afternoon.  Building 2 of Tohoku University Library has been playing a big role as an important site of intelligence in Tohoku area. Users are not only students and university staffs, but also other universities or colleges in Japan.  
As the result of the Great East Japan Earthquake and the aftershock, more than 60 percent books dropped on the floor on the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th floor of this building.  Some books were damaged by becoming trapped under the book racks.  Moreover, some book racks leaned by the shock of the earthquake.  However, about 60 library staffs and HARU volunteer members has returned almost all (of the) books of this building to the shelf orderly as they were before.
The work of this day was taping books to the racks by cords.  We are in a constant danger of aftershock.  Then, Library decided to tape books to the racks by cords at every step in third steps from the bottom to the top steps in all racks.  Library staff tried various ways of taping, and they found the best way of taping, so students followed the way. 
    On the other hand, they have also packed up damaged books into cardboard boxes.  There were books which were separated into books and covers, and those of torn pages.  Library staff will try to repair them if they got not so serious damage, but if they were damaged seriously, library will consign to the professional company.  Among the damaged books, there are some valuable books published in the late 1800’s in Japan and foreign countries.  So library staff want to repair those books as many and early as they can.


It was the fifth times for the boy member of HARU who is the third grade in the faculty of law, to do the recovery work in the library.  He says, “I have used this library every day, so I want to repay to the kind staff of the library.”
The girl member of HARU who is the third grade of the department of literature says, “It is hard to have a time to work as a volunteer staff because I’ve been busy to welcome the freshmen (Shin-Kan) in my club, but today, finally I can work here!  I don’t know how far my work will help, but I want to do what I can, then, I am working here.”
They had 10 minutes break times after 50 minutes work.  When the break times came, the staff called to the working students through a speaker, “It is break time. Please have a break!” Though there were some students who didn’t stop the work.
Some people worry it is hard to remove the books from the racks because of the taping.  Library replies, “This taping is emergency measure preparing for the aftershocks.  It is imperative to be inconvenient.  If the situation will get better, and the manufacture of the racks judges them safe, we want to take off those cords.”
The most areas in the first building (Ichigō-kan) of the main library started in April 25th, and we can check out and return books.  But second building’s opening day is not yet determined.  Hereafter, the library is planning to put books which were scattered on the floor, into the racks in the baseman stock room in the library. Library staff and volunteer students are going to work for the complete restoration of the library.

(Publication Section: Shihomi Meguro

Monday, May 2, 2011

A Report from Kibou-no-yu (public bathhouse “hope”) Project in Ishinomaki

Car sank in water

HARU assists Kibou-no-yu Project in Ishinomaki at an elementary school which is used for an evacuation center. I’d like to introduce situation of the evacuation center, contents of Kibou-no-yu Project.

The situation of the evacuation center (29th April):Minato elementary school is an evacuation center for the people affected by Tsunami. One and a half months have passed since The Great East Japan Earthquake hit, but more than 200 people are still staying there, many of whom lost their houses to return.  They are staying in groups that consist of about 10 people, at classrooms of the school.

In Minato elementary school, water supply, sewage line and electricity are restored. So it is more comfortable to live than right after the earthquake. Some people go out for work or cleaning their home. In the morning, afternoon and evening, Japan Self-Defense Forces and volunteer groups prepare meals, and supplies are kept being provided.

The tsunami reached the ceiling of the first floor of the school, and the water stayed more than a month. On the sidewall of stairs from the first floor to the second floor, you can see the trail of the water height. Just after the earthquake, all over the roads and lands were filled with so many broken cars, ships and debris of wrecked houses that any car could not enter the area.  At the time of our arrival at Minato Elementary School, traffic had been restored, so people said that “the situation was much better than before”. However, I still cannot imagine what has happened. Why is there a car in a pool?  Why is there a car on a grave?  Why are the first floors of all the houses empty?

Setting Up and Management of Kibou-no-yu (Public bathhouse “hope”)
It took 3 days for setting up in the middle of April, a trial operation on 17th, and opened on 19th. An NGO group, Japan-Iraq Medical Support Network (JIM-NET) takes responsibility for its management. We work for Junko Nishimura, a leader of Kibou-no-yu at the site. Some staffs, at least one, of Green Energy are offering labor for boiler operation, engineering support, and stay for security every night in rotation, taking time out from his busy schedule, . From 8 am to 8 pm, about 10 people in total are working happily. The place of Ishinomaki city Minato elementary school:

- Operation
Kibou-no-yu is open from 8 am to 8 pm.  About 130 to 250 people including male and female use Kibou–no-yu everyday. Because it is open until 8 pm, people working or cleaning homes on day time also can take a bath. Not only people at an evacuation center of Minato Elementary School but also people from other evacuation centers and volunteers can use it. Of course, it is free of charge.
In order to start from noon, we ignite boiler at 8:30 a.m. and heat 9 ton water for both male and female bathes for 3 hours. During that time, we clean up and wash bath room.
During operation, we are in charge of a bath attendant by rotation and explain how to take a bath or monitor situations of bath room. For example, we ask people to wash their bodies first before entering a bathtub to keep water clean, to save water,  whether the water temperature is good  …and so on. It is precious time for talking with people of Ishinomaki.
Every user coming to bath shows sincere appreciation to us.  All the people said, “Thank you”. We just support the NGO group. I’d like to tell the thanks directory to engineer of the bath and material provider.  Knowing that our project could give powers to Ishinomaaki people, which is enough for us to feel happy.

Boiler by Asahi-shokai, heating power of 100,000 kcal/h)

The facility

Outline of the facility
Kibou-no-yu is set on the playground of Minato elementary school. In a big tent set up on the ground, 2 child-pools are placed, one for men, another for women.  In the tent, space is divided into an entrance, a bathhouse, a washing place, and a bathtub. Four showers are set for men, and 5 showers set for women. We set draining board on blue plastic sheets, which drains very well.  A boiler and a heat exchanger are set outside. Hot water is boiled by boiler heat water in bathtub. Lights of control boards and illuminations are supplied from dynamos. We keep hot water clean with flotage disposal by filtration machine and chlorination, changing water once a week, and cleaning on a daily basis. Equipments on this center, including boilers and dynamos, were prepared by companies including Green Energy.  Their scrupulousness completely amazed us. 
The bath is made with the first consideration to users, so it gained a quite good reputation.  For example, users said “Many people can take a bath at one time”, “drain boards are dry and comfortable”, “It’s good to have space for changing clothes.”, “It’s good to use showers. We can wash our hair” and so on. These are nothing special things on usual days, but special things in the affected area. Therefore, everyone thanks for this bath.

- Other
In the affected area, it is difficult to recruit teachers and secure classrooms, and children are not given enough chance to study. So we taught children yesterday and today. Children worked hard on answering questions on study handouts. We hope that they return to everyday life step by step.
When we set laundry machines, affected people living in the elementary school expressed thanks to us. I don’t know whether they are convenient or not because the machines are only three for 200 people. However, they only had clothes they were wearing until then, and worn or dirty clothes were disposed or washed by hands. So small numbers of laundry machine may be better than nothing.

Bathhouse "hope" and the leader Nishimura(the 2nd
 from the left) with students from Tohoku University
That’s all of reports from Kibou-no-yu (bathhouse of hope) Project in Ishinomaki. We were given a lot of precious things through communication with people in affected area. In order to make my personal quality higher than before, I think again to make effort to spend useful days in our campus life.