Posted by Dean Kim
July 26, 2011, It was a very meaningful, no, actually this was the day which had the most impact on my life.
Since I relatively have become accustomed to the life in the volunteer center(more than yesterday, needless to say), I could easily follow the usual procedure.
My team left the center at 7:20 for Utatsu. Utatsu was not very far from the center. I took about 30minutes.
On the way to Utatsu, a literally unbelievable view could be seen. I was completely speechless with astonishment.
The different sense of view between what you see in the media and with your own eyes is too different. The media show you only a small frame of the event, but with your own eyes, you will see everything. All the debris made me realize the gravity of the event. One view which impressed me so much was seeing just a roof of house dropped on a ruptured rail road track. It was heart-breaking sight.
Utatsu Volunteer Center was comparatively smaller then the one in Tome city, however, its facilities were more innovative and eco-friendly.
It looked to be homemade and their power source was mainly solar power.
There were two tasks I had to do at the center. One was cleaning photographs which were found among the debris. Another was to clear some debris in a certain area. I did former one during that morning and later one during that afternoon.
Cleaning photographs have taken place in the tent which was built by WFP(World Food Programme).
I came up with so many thoughts while i was cleaning photographs. Photographs are usually for happy events. Wedding, history of growing children, and many other happy moments. When I saw a child whose smile looked brilliant in a photograph, I smiled for a moment. But of course, no one knows whether the child is safe or not. I wanted the child to be alive. I prayed for the child, hoping that the child is safe.
Actually, this task looks very simple and easy, however, it is a very sad task to do. It would make you think about a lot of things.
During the break, a few local people came to the tent. I could hear very precious stories. I could feel the strong bond among the people in the village. They could recognize victims in the photos easily.
One old lady whose hometown is Utatsu however has lived in Tokyo for a long time told me what she did right after the disaster, when she was still in Tokyo with no information about her hometown at all. She said all she could do was call to a newspaper company or tv station and ask them to mention or show something about Utatsu. Minamisanriku-cho, a neighbor city of Utatsu, had become well-known because the area that had been damaged were larger. However, even though Utatsu had also been damaged by the same tsunami, Utatsu was not well-known at all. That was unacceptable to her. She said, “I think it is very important to think what can I do for the disaster and actually turn thoughts into action.
It is not what you choose but what you must do. I am so grateful for everything the volunteers have done for this disaster. I don’t know if I could do the same thing when the same disaster would have happened in a different place, but your help will be left in my heart till I close my eyes forever. Thank you.” 10minutes of conversation with her was one of the most precious moment in my life. I could hear a way of thinking which I haven’t thought before and I reviewed my life. And I also heard some life advice. Those will be carved in my heart for my lifetime.
By coincidence, after a few minutes, she found her photo of her wedding ceremony among all the random photos. I could feel her happiness in her heart. It was a very moving moment.
Removing debris was very, very hard work, and without carefulness, you could be injured in a split second. I went to a damaged gas station, and the owner asked RQ to remove some debris near the gas station.
It was very hot that day and my stamina was deserting me quickly. However after I had done the job, I felt it was very worthwhile to see the owner’s huge smile. I talked to the owner too, and listened to many precious stories about him and his son. He also asked about me and offered life advice. Even though he lost everything, he was still interested in other people and offered advice. He still had himself.
Today my life has been affected significantly. My way of thinking. has also been impacted. I don’t want to lose this feeling. I hope I can keep this feeling forever until I die without forgetting.
◆◆ Profile : Don Han (Dean) Kim ◆◆
17 years old, came from Korea three years ago and lives in Fukuoka with his family. Impressed by the presentation of his teacher who had joined RQ activity in Tohoku, he came to Nishinippori by overnight bus that took him 15 hours, with a feeling that he, too, wish to do something for the disaster-struck people.
Presently, he studies at International Course of Fukuoka Daiichi High School. Fluent in Korean, Japanese and English, he plans to study in the U.S. after the graduation.
We asked him to write a journal on his 10 day experience as an RQ volunteer to share with us.