RSY vol.24 Ashiyu service report ~Helping each other~
by Voices from the Field Admin - Monday, 4 August 2014, 06:00 PM


130th report】 Ashiyu service report Helping each other

Date of posting: June 30, 2013      Report from: staff


Ashiyu, or foot-bath service, is held monthly by our volunteers in five temporary housing sites: the Sports Field No.1 of Shichigahama, the outdoor activities center, and the school yards of Utai, Minatohama and Shichigahama junior high schools.

As we have been offering this service ever since we started to work in Shichigahama, it is one of the better known and popular volunteer programs among the residents.


Our local staff, Ms. Reina Shimizu, who had been the coordinator of this program left us in May to concentrate on her study and job-hunting. Since then Tohoku Gakuin University and the Volunteer Center have been helping us, and thanks to them we have been managing to continue this program. The students from Tohoku Gakuin University, through more than one generation, have participated in this program since 2011, and recently they are working exclusively in the Sports Ground No. 1. Mr. N (sophomore) and Mr. H (junior), the leaders of the group, told us that they felt very nervous at the beginning, but gradually they began to feel relaxed. “After visiting residents several times and getting to know each other well, they started to recognize our faces and names. Then we started to have deeper conversations and we began to look forward to seeing them. We would like to keep visiting them until we graduate from university.”



 About ten students participate in the program each time and the number of students who return is gradually increasing. Professors I and S are trying to support our activities as well, giving students a ride from the station or providing other voluntary background support to encourage the students’ activities. Now into our third year after the earthquake, we are beginning to pass over our activities to the local people little by little.



This is a scene from the other day of women walking back to their housing units after receiving our ashiyu service.



A lady who lost her husband just after they moved into the temporary housing, and who is suffering from progressing dementia, is tightly clasping the hand of another lady whose vision has deteriorated so much she can hardly recognize the facial outlines of people.


“Together, we kind of make one person. Now let’s go home together.”


People’s lives would not have changed if it had not been for the disaster. No matter how much people wish, they will never get them back as they were. If so, why not support each other with the things we have in this moment? We could almost hear their thoughts as we watched the two ladies walk away hand in hand.


Public housing for the disaster-affected people in Shichigahama will become available at the beginning of April next year. At this moment, 222 families have applied to move in and 60 % of them are single-person or elderly person households.


A lady who received our ashiyu service told us that she knew everyone in this temporary housing site, so she feels safe here, even if she doesn’t talk to them every day. The biggest concern for her after moving into the new public housing is to lose this relationship. She said when she thinks about it she cannot sleep at night.


There are people who are already worrying about things that will happen in their lives a year from now, like this lady. The local government tries to allow people from the same community to live close together as they used to, and to create a warm atmosphere in the public housing through architectural designs resembling the old nagaya, or row houses. Moreover, some workshops were organized by the local government for them to be able to create an environment that reflects the opinions and preferences of the residents as much as possible. The residents know that they should accept the reality they are facing, and they understand that lots of people are being considerate about their situation. Yet, even though it may seem like asking too much, sometimes they cannot help but let out their fears and resentments. And at other times, they wish to forget the reality for just a little while, and laugh heartily and have a good time.


Can we call such tiny wishes “luxuries”? We feel the ashiyu service functions as an important place where such emotions of the residents can be accepted. We have been warming the feet of 3,000 residents in the same style with the help of approximately more than 1,500 volunteers. We believe that this has been made possible by the accumulation of time and people which has deepened the residents’ sense of security and trust.


Reported by Urano, Rescue Stock Yard originally reported in Japanese on 30 June, 2013