Light of hope

Story: Senshinkai Foundation, Workshop Himawari (Vocational support center for the disabled)
Head of support team: Ms. Junko Ito

When did you have your lifeline services back?

We got them back late here. We saw repair trucks for electricity nearby but they didn’t come this way for some time. We were so happy when we could turn the lights on. The water service resumed later but we managed with water from the river next to our workshop. We boiled the water from the river. We wanted to clean the hair and faces of our trainees. Some trainees cried and said “I could finally wash my face” when we cleaned their faces. It was impressive to recognize that something we do everyday without appreciating was actually so precious. Warm water was something we really needed.


Anything particularly difficult?

It was very difficult to obtain medications for trainees because hospitals were also damaged. In that chaotic situation, the director and I took turn and went to hospitals everyday carrying our backpack. Another hard thing was to look for the corps of director’s mother and those of our trainees’ family members. We went opening the blue plastic sheet one by one. The images come back to me every time I see blue plastic sheets. We were so anxious and worried about what would happen as we stood on top of the hill and saw the city of Kesennuma on fire. However, we talked among staff members that we shouldn’t show our tears to the trainees and that we had to keep our smiles. Staff members did their best, including the person who lost her husband in the disaster. We experienced discriminations against and misunderstanding toward persons with disabilities, which was yet another hardship. We tried our best in explaining but people didn’t understand. I think that social welfare works are only possible when you have enough emotional capacity. In that sense, it was understandable that in those chaotic situations people didn’t comprehend about disabilities, and I don’t mean to blame them. Still, it was difficult to experience discriminations and misunderstanding just because some people had disabilities. Once we know that people have these sentiment, it makes us difficult to ask them for help. I felt sorry about that situation. Himawari resumed its operation in less than a month from the day of the earthquake. It was the first of all the support centers in the area, I think. The director had said “If there was even only one trainee who needed Himawari and wanted to come, we had to speed up and open the workshop again soon. We might not have electricity or water, but we will be able to manage with our creativity. Let’s make a space for the trainees to gather.”


I can see that Himawari served as a light of hope for the trainees and their families.

That’s right. Some said they could bear the situation because they could rely on Himawari.