Voices from FUKUSHIMA Vol.5 Ms. Chikako YAGINUMA

Another activity we do as a part of our project is the Vegetable Aid Program. We deliver vegetables to residents of temporary housing on a regular basis. This work originated from a request we heard from people living in temporary houses. After the nuclear accident, vegetables grown in Fukushima were removed from supermarkets. About a year later, we learned that the people at the temporary housing want locally grown Fukushima vegetables. So, we decided to deliver the vegetables for free. 500-yen worth of vegetables is packed in a bag and distributed to all the residents at the temporary housing. We appeal for donations of 500 Yen or more to help cover the cost of the vegetables. Because we deliver to all the temporary houses, our activity is also important as a way to check the residents’ safety. The vegetables we distribute are contamination-free; but are not saleable only because of unfounded fears of radiation. Through the Vegetable Aid Program, we are able to support both temporary housing residents and the farmers. Moreover, we can keep in touch with our supporters all over Japan.

We appeal for your continued support for our activities. The number of volunteers is decreasing. Your community can support us through the collaboration between the young and the matured members of your community. Those of you, who are unable to come to help us, please help cover the travel expenses for the young people who cannot afford the trip. When they return from their activities, these young volunteers can share the stories of their experiences with you, your community and those around them.

Material assistance is at present, more or less sufficient, but assistance for the voluntary evacuees is still needed. Such families are already bearing economic hardship from the need to relocate; but because public schools do not accept their children, they have no choice but to send them to private schools. So, there are families in need of daily household items and necessities.

Assistance for kindergartens in Fukushima is also needed as children are returning from evacuation. For example, the number of children at a kindergarten in Haramachi, Minamisoma City dropped from 90 to only 13 just after the earthquake. But the number has now recovered to almost 30. Donations of toys for the children are greatly appreciated.

Agricultural produce and other products have become unmarketable just because their source is Fukushima. Your purchase of Fukushima produce and products is a vital way to support us. Also, the number of tourists to the Prefecture has plummeted. Even if not for volunteering, your visit as a tourist to Fukushima is also valuable to us. Although little known, there are over 200 hot springs in Fukushima. Come! Stay at an inn in a hot spring area, feast yourself with savory food and drinks, buy some souvenirs and just have a good time in Fukushima. Planning a tour for sightseeing and coming with family and friends is a way to support us.

Lastly, please share your story about your stay in Fukushima with others around you. Please tell people what you have seen and heard in Fukushima, and that Fukushima remains far from recovery.