【April 2016 No.387】Emmaus Center, 5 Years After the East Japan Disaster

Emmaus Disaster Relief Center, in Sendai City, Miyagi Prefecture, began the task of providing aid for survivors immediately after the disaster, and continues to do so. As more and more people are moving out of temporary housing, Emmaus is confronted with the needs of the people who are left behind.

 

by Kikuchi Mamoru, Emmaus staff member

Kyodan Tohoku Disaster Relief Center

Member, Izumi Aisen Church

 

The Kyodan Tohoku Disaster Relief Center, Emmaus, has been providing aid that matches the individual needs of each survivor. This aid is administered from two locations, Emmaus Sendai and Emmaus Ishinomaki, and has been enabled by the efforts of our staff, working together with domestic and international volunteers. At Emmaus Sendai, where I work (hereafter referred to as “Emmaus”), we have provided agricultural support and have had fellowship with people who live in temporary housing through various activities, including several seasonal events along with our regular “Radio Gymnastics and Ochakko Salon” (literally, tea-drinking salon), which is held at 8:30 every morning from Tuesday to Saturday.

 

Sato Masashi, sent by the Kyodan to work full-time at Emmaus, is also the assistant pastor of Izumi Aisen Church, to which I belong, where he has served since April 2012. This church was given the opportunity to be transformed into a place where disaster survivors could go for support. I heard about Emmaus from Masashi and thought, “This is my hometown, and these are my neighbors. There must be something that I can do.” So I volunteered to be a staff member.

 

At first, I was worried about whether or not I could keep pace with the young people at Emmaus. However, the survivors that I meet at work are the same age as myself, so it is easy for them to relate to me. I have gradually gained self-confidence in my role as an elderly person. The church members come together to work hard to provide aid. The women of the church regularly volunteer, making dinner for the workers and preparing meals at the temporary housing projects.

 

We have movie screening and ochakko (tea drinking) once a month at the emergency temporary housing project in Asuto Nagamachi. During the summer of 2015, Emmaus helped conduct a survey on the actual living conditions and housing plans of the residents as we visited and listened to them. At that time, this temporary housing project had 233 households, making it the temporary housing project with the largest number of residents in the city of Sendai. Three public-housing apartment buildings have been completed nearby into which 100 households have moved, so there are now only about 50 households still remaining in temporary housing.

Because it is difficult for people living alone to get into these new apartments and privately rented housing is either too expensive or guarantors cannot be found, the net result is that they are stranded in these temporary housing units. Likewise, the temporary housing residents’ association that tried to integrate the various opinions of the temporary housing residents has now disbanded. The results of the survey made it clear that there are three problems. First, a certain number of households say they have no housing options beyond the temporary housing units. Second, commonly shared spaces in the complex are deteriorating. And third, because there is little interaction with the residents of the publicly managed reconstruction project residences, the remaining residents of the temporary housing are becoming isolated.

 

There are also ways in which the activities of Emmaus connect people. One person, who has recently moved out of temporary housing into a house, is brought to Emmaus by her daughter on her way to work in order to continue with the “Radio Gymnastics and Ochakko Salon” program. Another person, who was always a regular attendee, still gets a ride to and from Emmaus once a week and talks with a good friend from the temporary housing. She still looks forward to going to ochakko with the volunteers. For this community of people who have been through the destruction caused by the tsunami and the difficulty of moving out of temporary housing, it takes an unbelievable amount of time and effort to restart their lives. For instance, the head of one of the temporary housing residents’ associations has already moved to a new home, but he still commutes to the temporary housing in order to keep up with the association’s activities, and he is also making preparations to establish a new residents’ association in the newly constructed publicly managed reconstruction housing project.

 

At the orientation that the Emmaus volunteers attend when they begin, they are taught the slogan “slow work.” The slogan emphasizes a trusting relationship with each person who is a disaster survivor rather than emphasizing efficiency. I have stressed the importance of going out to the disaster areas and verifying the facts with one’s own eyes, emphasizing that one should not just have sympathy for the survivors but that one should, through a “sensitivity-sharpening encounter,” experience the character and spirit of these people who are trying to get over the reality of the disaster as well as trying to survive. The volunteers know about the East Japan Disaster as historical information. However, when they share their recollections after completing the work, they say that it was a completely different experience when they themselves stood at its actual location. As for myself, I used to be a company employee, but through Emmaus I met people of other occupations, like farmers, for the first time, and experienced heart-to-heart communication with them. The situation of the disaster areas is changing quickly. Emmaus decided to withdraw agricultural support by the end of September 2016. After that we want to concentrate our efforts on support for residents remaining in temporary housing and their communities and for people living alone.

 

We want to keep on taking advantage of our connection to this small site, which is part of a great disaster, and use it as a place for young volunteers to have a learning experience. We will continue to endeavor to tell the story of the aftermath of the disaster. (Tr.KT)

 

—From Shinto no Tomo (Believers’ Friend)

January 2016 issue

(Summarized by KNL Editor Kawakami Yoshiko)

 

震災から五年目

宮城県仙台市で震災 直後から被災者支援の働きを続けてきたエマオでは、仮設住宅からの人々の転居が進む中、取り残された人のニーズに向き合っていま す。

菊池  護 きくち まもる宮城・いずみ愛泉教 会員
東北教区被災者支援センター・エマオ スタッフ

東北教区被災者支援センター・エマオでは、被災者一人一人のニーズに合わせた支援をエマオ仙台とエマオ石 巻の2拠点で行ってきました。これを支えるのは私たちスタッフと、国内外からのボランティアです。私の働く エマオ仙台(以下エマオ)では農業支援のほか、火~土曜日の朝8時30分から行う「ラジオ体操&お茶っこOchakko Salon(literally, tea-drinking salon)」や、季節のイ ベント開催といったワークを通じて、仮設住宅に暮らす方々と交流してきました。

エマオの日本基督教団派遣専従者である佐藤真史さんは、私が所属するいずみ愛泉教会の副牧師でもあり、2012年4月に招聘されました。教会は、被災者支援 の拠点へ変身するチャンスを与えられました。私は、真史さんからエマオの話を聞き「地元の隣人としてやるべきことがある」と思 い、スタッフを志願しました。

当初はエマオの若者社会についていけるか懸念もありましたが、ワークで出会う被災者の方々と同世代で親し みを持ってもらいやすいといった、高齢者なりの役割に徐々に自信が持てるようになりました。教会でも、教会員が一体となって支援活動 に取り組み、婦人会はワーカーの夕食作りと仮設住宅でのお食事会を、ボランティアで定期的に担当しています。

エマオが月1回映画上映会とお茶っこを実施している、あすと長町(Asuto Nagamachi) 応急仮設住宅では15年夏、居住実態・居住意向調査が計画され、訪問と聞き取りにエマオも協力しました。この仮設は、仙台 市内最大の233世帯の居住者を抱えていました。現在は、隣接地に3棟の復興公営住宅が完成し100世帯が転居、50世帯程度が残っています。復興公営住宅は単身者では入居しづらく、かといって民間の賃貸では家賃の負 担が大きく、保証人を立てられないといった問題があり、仮設に取り残されざるを得ない人がいるのです。この仮設住宅の意向を取り まとめていた自治会は解散しました。調査の結果、今後の住まいの見通しが立っていない世帯が一定数いること、共用空間の荒廃、復 興公営住宅入居者との交流が少なく、仮設居住者が孤立していることの3つ の問題が明らかになりました。

エマオの活動が人々を結びつけている面もあります。仮設住宅から戸建ての新居に移ったNさんは、出勤前の娘さんに送られ、今もラジオ体操&お茶っこに通い続けています。常連だったOさんは週1回エマオに送迎され、仮設住宅で仲 の良かったAさんとおしゃべりし、ワーカーとお茶っこをしに行くことを楽 しみにしています。(津波による崩壊、仮設からの転居による崩壊を経た)コミュニティーが再生するにはとてつもない時間と労力が 求められるのではないでしょうか。転居した会長が、通いで仮設住宅の自治会活動を守るところや、新しい復興公営住宅での自治会を 設立する準備も始まっています。

エマオではワーカーが最初に受けるオリエンテーションで、効率性よりも被災者一人一人との信頼関係を重視 する「スローワーク」という合言葉を伝えます。わたしは、被災地に出向き自分の目で事実を確認することと、被災者への単なる同情では なく、被災の現実を乗り越えて生き抜こうとしている人々の人格と魂に触れる「感性を研ぎ澄ました出会い」ということを強調してきまし た。ワーカーは、情報としての東日本大震災は知っています。しかしワーク後は、被災の現場に自分自身が立つことは全く異なる経験だっ た、と述懐します。サラリーマンだった私自身、エマオを通じて農家の方などと初めて出会い、心を通わせる体験をしてきました。

被災地の状況は、刻々と変わっています。エマオは2016年9月いっぱいで農業支援からの撤退を決断し、その後は仮設支援やコミュニティーへの支援、1人暮らしの 方などへの個別の支援を主に担っていく予定です。これからも、小さな現場とのつながりを若いワーカー達の学びの場として丁寧に生 かしつつ、被災のその後を伝える語り部として働いていきたいと思います。

(信徒の友2016年1月号より 川上善子KNL編集委員長まとめ)