SPECIAL vol.16 Conversations will uplift your spirit Set a goal and positively overcome your challenges
by Voices from the Field Admin - Monday, 20 April 2015, 01:01 PM

Conversations will uplift your spirit

Set a goal and positively overcome your challenges

  About a year after I moved in, I became a community facilitator in the temporary housing, because my predecessor moved out to go live in his rebuilt home. I once declined the position, because I required regular medication for an illness, and thought the work was too tough given my health condition. But being asked also by the other facilitator, I reluctantly took the position. Having served as a facilitator ever since, however, I think it was a good decision that I accepted this role. As I passed around the community notice board and tried to grasp what was happening in the temporary housing complex, I had more opportunities to communicate with people. The task has not always been easy. Even though I was accustomed to talking to people because of my occupation, speaking in front of people was quite a different thing. Still, as they say, “conversations increase one’s immunity and energy”, I actually have felt better since I started working as a facilitator.

 We have faced a lot of problems at the temporary housing. When it was constructed, I questioned the government’s admission policy of giving priority to elderly people and families with small children. If only vulnerable people collectively live in the temporary housing, I wondered, who would take care of them. I think residents should have been allocated taking existing personal relationships into consideration, so that we could help each other naturally in the neighborhood.

 I also wish the authority had planned the construction more carefully. Even though the duration of occupancy was only allowed up to two years, they could have predicted that the limit would have to be extended judging from the extent of devastation. In reality, the buildings required additional work repeatedly; for heat insulation, wind breaking rooms, reheating function for the bathtubs, rain gutters, underdrains and storages. They ended up using extra time and money. Weren’t there more efficient ways? In my case, I built the windshield room in front of my entrance on my own. Though they later decided to add windshield rooms using public fund, I selected to keep the one I had made because they would not pay or install one for me unless I removed the one I had already made. I think it was unfair because the windshield room cost me not a little amount.

 The size of the housing units caused trouble for some families. Though the units with two rooms, each the size of 4.5 tatami mats, were livable for families of two, they were too small for three or four people, and in some cases, discord among family members and health problems occurred.

 The other day my wife collapsed. She was diagnosed at the hospital with a disorder of the semicircular canals of the inner ear. Although the cause was unclear, I think the living environment of the temporary housing had negatively impacted her health. Because of the poor sound proofing, we feel a lot of stress depending on the next-door neighbor. If a nervous person lives next door, even a slight noise may develop into disputes. The character of this particular locality is also a factor that increases problems. Since many of the families used to live in private houses, we are not accustomed to living in collective housing. I wonder if a facilitator should arbitrate these struggles among residents. Or should we leave the town authority to do it for us?

 We also had conflicts about parking spaces. Some residents parked their cars out of their assigned spaces. Such people would not listen to my warning. Distribution of supplies revealed the ugly side of human nature. In my opinion, the provider also should have been more careful. Just when good human relationships had started to form, we experienced a case in which an unwise distribution of supplies evoked envy, which hindered communication and developed into a friction among residents.

 We did not have a community center within our temporary housing site at the beginning. Instead, we used a room in the Central Public Hall nearby as our gathering place, which the residents seldom visited because a part of the public facility was not suitable for socializing. We started to use a vacant housing unit after the tenant rebuilt their house and moved out early. However, the unit which was originally designed as a residence can barely accommodate so many as 10 people. It is far from satisfying as a meeting space for this temporary housing site with 68 units.

 I always try to greet new residents who have moved from other housing complexes. I am pleased that this effort has worked well, and now I can make good communication with the residents.

 While women relieve their stress by chatting over tea, men do not have such opportunities. “Then why not have men’s gatherings?” I thought, and planned drinking parties at the meeting room in the evening, collecting participation fees. We have held four parties so far. Each time, about 10 residents joined the party. The most frequently discussed topic was the plan for the future. For example, “I want to build my house in such-and-such place”.

 We cannot live through this hardship unless we have goals and a positive mindset. Living in this circumstance for a long time, we would feel irritated even by our own families. A couple also should be considerate and feel each other’s pains. Nothing will change if you do not voice your opinions. The important thing is to take initiative. Never be waiting for somebody to do it for you. Since we live together in this community, we cannot overcome the long and difficult life at the temporary housing without valuing our kizuna,the ties between us. 


Written by Toshikatsu Watanabe (66 years old)

Head of Shobutahama District


Address at the time of disaster: Shobutahama District

Current Address: Temporary Housing in front of the Shogai Gakushu (Lifelong Learning) Center