Immediately after the Great East Japan Earthquake, a large number of Catholics from Tokyo went to the devastated area. Students from Shinseikaikan worked as volunteers at the Kamaishi Base. Office staff from the Japan Lay Missionary Movement (JLMM) cooperated in the setting up of the Sendai Diocese Support Center (SDSC). On their return to Tokyo, the JLMM staff came to the Archdiocese of Tokyo with a plan to create a system so that volunteers from the Tokyo metropolitan area could more easily go to the disaster-stricken area and join in the activities. Based on their proposal, Catholic Tokyo Volunteer Center (CTVC) was set up and began its work on Easter Sunday, April 24, 2011. The Franciscans freely offered a room at their friary in Roppongi for our office. That helped us greatly. The Franciscans’ generous support has been extended for ten years.
Among the supporting activities extended by the Catholic Church after June 2011, we mainly focused our activities in the disaster areas of southern Miyagi Prefecture and Fukushima Prefecture. CTVC organized so-called Volu-Packs (volunteer package tours) to Watari Town and Yamamoto Town in Miyagi Prefecture, and various towns and cities in Fukushima Prefecture. Many volunteers from the Tokyo metropolitan area participated in these Volu-Packs. The tours that went to Miyashiro temporary housing in the suburbs of Fukushima were repeated many times. There we met evacuees from Namie Town . We collaborated in different ways with parishioners of the Catholic Church in Fukushima Prefecture.
The CTVC Caritas Haramachi Base was established in June 2012, in Haramachi Ward, Minamisoma City, less than 30 kilometers north of the No. 1 Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant. The base was the hub of activity for many volunteers. The CTVC Caritas Haramachi Base has become Caritas Minamisoma, an organization that continues to journey with the local people. Together they are marking the tenth year since the disaster.
Many people have cooperated with us and have participated in various events, such as the series of “Talk Sessions on Fukushima/Miyagi” which was planned so that disaster victims could speak directly to and be heard by people in the Tokyo metropolitan area.
Now, as we—staff, volunteers, and survivors—each follow our own path, the members of CTVC treasure all the more the experiences of meeting with the people of the disaster-stricken area and the volunteers. We learned from our experiences that although each of us may be small and powerless, we receive strength by putting our small efforts together into one. This lesson has been found true by both those who offered help and by those who received support.
Now that CTVC is completing its tenth and final year of activities, I want to express my heartfelt gratitude to all of you who cooperated with and supported our activities, as well as all those whom we had the chance to meet.
Bishop James Kazuo Koda
Catholic Tokyo Volunteer Center
(until 31st March,2021)