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Friday, Sept. 23, 2005

More psychological support urged for Katrina survivors

Staff writer

Japanese volunteers can help provide survivors of Hurricane Katrina with psychological care and encouragement, a member of a nongovernmental organization helping survivors in Houston said Wednesday.

While those who evacuated to shelters in the city already have sufficient relief supplies and sanitary facilities, many of them are suffering from the loss of their loved-ones and anxiety over the future, said Yoshitaka Ikarashi, 27, a member of the Japan Emergency Team.

Ikarashi helped by distributing relief supplies from Sept. 7 to 14 and by cooperating with the Salvation Army, an international Christian organization, to counsel the victims.

The longer the evacuees stay in the shelters, the higher their frustration builds, Ikarashi said, noting they are in great need of those who will listen to them and offer encouragement.

"Many evacuees asked me whether I live in the United States and I said to them I came (to Houston from Japan) just to help them. They were very surprised and glad," Ikarashi said.

To console the victims, Ikarashi and other volunteers of the NGO held a live gospel concert outside Houston's Astrodome, where many hurricane victims took refuge. About 100 people attended the concert, he said.

Japan Emergency Team has only seven volunteers helping out in shelters in the city, according to Ikarashi. Members who can speak English are offering counseling.

The group plans to send more volunteers to provide counseling and help rebuild buildings damaged by Katrina.

JET is requesting monetary donations and volunteers. Those who wish to donate can place a deposit in postal "furikae" account #00140-2-64932. For more information contact www.jhelp.com

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