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Friday, Jan. 11, 2008

Find a warm glow in the Niigata snow

Staff writer

Villagers in Niigata rebuilding after a 2004 earthquake need your help to survive heavy snowfall this winter. Volunteers to help remove snow from houses and roads in Niigata Prefecture are being recruited by JEN, an international NGO based in Tokyo.

News photo
Volunteers help clear snow in Iketani, Niigata Prefecture, in 2006.

On Jan. 18-20 and 25-27, and Feb. 8-10, volunteers will clear out snow piled on roads and around houses in a rural village in Niigata, which sustained damage in the Niigata Chuetsu Earthquake in Oct. 2004.

In the depopulated village, there are not enough people to shovel out snow that often accumulates up to 2 meters deep. So JEN, which works to help restore the livelihoods of people stricken by conflicts and disasters, is recruiting the so-called Snow Busters.

The volunteer snow-shoveling has taken place every year since 2005, and a total of 156 people have joined the activities so far, according to JEN.

The volunteers will stay at a school in Iketani, a village located in the city of Tokamachi, Niigata Prefecture. Participation costs ¥6,000 to cover four meals during the period from Friday evening to Sunday morning. Volunteers take turns to cook for everyone else. Travel expenses are not covered.

Volunteers who work during the period Jan. 25-27 will join a workshop on how to shovel snow safely off roofs.

Participants must take waterproof gloves, boots, waterproof and heavy winter clothing such as ski wear, thick socks, towels and warm clothes for sleeping. Sleeping bags and electric blankets will be provided. They will also need to carry a photocopy of their health insurance card.

It's hard work, but volunteers who work during the period Jan. 25-27 will be invited to a party with local residents held at an inn in Tokamachi, with an entry charge of ¥2,000. And of course, they are also likely to feel a glow of goodwill that's strong enough to melt glaciers.

For more information, or to apply to help out, call JEN's Tokyo office on (03) 5225-9352.

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