Varying from the previous work I have done with All Hands, the type of work we are doing at CRASH Japan is mainly emotional/spiritual care. A mobile cafe that goes to different temporary housing complex regularly creates a space for people to be listened to and to build community. It has been almost a year since the devastating disaster has happened. I was abit in shock when I first learned how some residents still do not know anyone in their temporary housing complex. Slowly, I began to learn this is at large a common phenomena, if not the majority. In many of the temp house complex, residents come from different area, only a few lucky complexes are blessed with people who come from the same neighborhood of their previous life. Japan is a society where the building of community takes time and relational connections. The earthquake and tsunami have not only torn families apart, but also communities that had been living the area for years if not generations. The devastation is not physical and emotional, but social as well.
My first day's work was distributing blanket at temp house complex. An elderly grandma came to answer the door.
"Come in, come in, it's so cold outside!" She greeted us with the warmest smile.
Grandma Setsu* lives in this unit alone with a daughter living close by. As we were drinking green tea and peeling mandarin over an exchange of conversation, she told us about herself. Because of her diabetic condition and other unmentioned reasons, she said she doesn't go out much nor does she has visitors. She pulled out a letter she has received from her long time friend Miyu. Miyu left her home town Ootsuchi, an area seriously damaged by the tsunami, to live with her son in Chiba. She wrote in her letter that she doesn't know anyone in the neighborhood, alone in the house everyday. Miyu desperately wants to come back to Ootsuchi, where her friends and home are, and were. Grandma Setsu paused, with her gaze far far away. After a moment of silence, she said, "I want to meet her so much. But she did not include a returning address." I held her hand in mine, patting the back of her hand gently, as we took a moment to let all the feelings occupy the tiny room in a loud silence.
** For privacy reason, all names in all entries will either be a partial or fake name.