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Thursday, Oct. 27, 2011

Volunteers dwindling but one stays steadfast

Kyodo

KAMAISHI, Iwate Pref. — Satoshi Shibata, 31, first came to Kamaishi in June to help the local people recover from the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.

News photo
Standing steadfast: Satoshi Shibata (second from left) and other volunteer workers in Kamaishi, Iwate Prefecture, face the sea and observe a moment of silence at 2:46 p.m. Oct. 11, seven months after the March 11 disasters. KYODO

More than three months later, Shibata is still here amid the shrinking number of volunteers whose help is still needed by the survivors.

"I have no words to describe the devastation, but I'm glad that there were things I could do to help," said Shibata, who is from Otsu, Shiga Prefecture.

For the past three months, Shibata has helped remove debris, clean gutters, move garbage, wash dishes and clothing that were covered with mud, and whatever else he could do, wherever it was needed. He also helped people move from the emergency shelters to temporary housing.

According to the Kamaishi Volunteer Center, a few months ago there were around 600 people a day helping out, but their ranks have fallen off.

Before coming to Kamaishi, Shibata had worked for about eight years as a caretaker but left his job in the spring. By the end of March, he had obtained his certificate as a care worker but decided to volunteer before holding a full-time job.

Because of the lack of housing in Kamaishi and to save money, Shibata has been sleeping in his car.

Although it's painful to see the community in ruins, Shibata said he sometimes felt it's someone else's business and that he wondered if he should stick around. There have been days when Shibata felt uncomfortable, that whoever he was helping out treated him like a contractor. But he has also met other residents who have invited him for meals and even tried to negotiate with the city so he could use a vacant temporary housing unit.



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