Story: “Mr. H” Reminisces About Tsunami

A team of workers from IVY's Cash for Work program clearing the roadside. IVY's Cash for Work program has provided unemployed disaster victims with work and income while also contributing to the recovery efforts by cleaning debris from houses of those who cannot do it themselves. Workers in IVY’s program, some of whom have participated in the cleaning of over 70 homes during the six months following the earthquake and tsunami, are all disaster victims themselves and many lost jobs in fishing or other industries because of the disaster. After three months of employment allowance from the Japanese government, those who lost their jobs did not have a source of income. IVY has built hope, purpose, and self-sufficiency by providing work opportunity. Direct Relief funds nearly one fifth of IVY's Cash for Work Program, a large percentage of which goes to workers' salaries and construction tools and materials.

by “Mr. H,” disaster victim and IVY employee
(edited for understanding)

“Before the earthquake, I worked for a fisheries processing company delivering styrofoam packages and cardboard cases. On March 11, it was good weather, and I was busy working as usual. At about 2:45 in the afternoon, I felt the earth shake strongly. I told with my boss, “It will end soon,” but the quake was became stronger and stronger. We got out from the building, and then saw a truck overturned and water gushing out of a gutter like a fountain. Our company was just 100 meters away from the port. We soon decided to evacuate to a hill by car but we got caught in a traffic jam. No traffic lights worked, cell phones were useless, and people were in panic. We had no idea what was going on. The radio in the car was giving us limited information, and told us that a 6-meter high tsunami was coming. We could not believe it. We ran away to the hill as it became evening.

It began to snow and got cold. The east sky became orange, and someone cried “fire!”. The fire broke out and burned our town. The fire was fueled by oil leaking from ships and carried inland by the tsunami.

Around five days passed when I finally got to my house–the place where my house used to be, to be precise. There were piles of debris, and nothing remained. It was all carried off by the tsunami. To make matters worse, my employer told me that they could no longer hire me because there was no plan in sight to rebuild the factory. I had no house and no job.

I saw nothing but darkness ahead of me.

I had worked hard at job hunting since April. Employment Service Center was always a parade of people. Many companies are temporarily or permanently closed for business, so there was almost no recruitment in town. Around that time, I got phone call from my friend saying, “How about a job cleaning elderly people’s houses?” I had no experience with that kind job, so I was anxious. But after wavering, I decided to take on the challenge.

On my first day, I was perplexed by everything in front of me: co-workers I met for the first time, and destroyed houses full of mud and with a lot of debris. But I soon got used to it; co-workers taught and supported me. It is a nice team, and I look forward to going to work every day. Just like me, everyone in the team had lost their job. We are in the same situation, so can be empathetic with each other. The job is worthwhile and while working I can forget my difficulties caused by the earthquake.

The earthquake caused various damages and took a lot of things. However, now I think I am lucky; I may not have met my team if there was not an earthquake disaster. I will cherish the connection with my people as a source of living.”

Read more about the International Volunteer Center of Yamagata (IVY)

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