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We published this story last week in Japanese but thanks to a couple of Photohoku’s talented polyglots, we can share with you in English.
This is an essay that was written by a 10-year-old (!!!) girl who we met during one Photohoku effort. Her essay was selected (as the Shinchimachi entrant) for a major national speech contest for young people, and this is the photo that accompanied it.
The essay is about PHOTOHOKU and it was sent to us by the girl’s mother.
We treasure the thoughtfulness and sensitivity of everyone involved:
The girl who wrote this composition;
The teacher who put it forward;
The girl’s mother who sent it to us.
Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
Caring and Compassionate Support
Have you heard about “PHOTOHOKU”?
PHOTOHOKU is project for families who lost photos and albums in the Great East Japan Earthquake. It involves a group of photographers who visit these families, take new family photos and put them into albums as a gift. On February 11 this year, these foreign photographers and their Japanese assistants came quietly to our town of Shinchimachi. My mother had volunteered to welcome the PHOTOHOKU group so I got to spend the whole day with them, and my experience made me think about the importance of connections with others, and about all the things we can do in Shinchimachi right now.
What I realized after spending the day with the members of PHOTOHOKU is that they are motivated by a strong desire to give beautiful photographs to every single person that was affected by the earthquake and tsunami last year. This wish inspired them to come all the way to Tohoku from places as far away as America and Russia, and many other places, too. This fact really surprised me and I could not help but look at them with respect. When the PHOTOHOKU photographers were taking their photographs they looked confident and very cool.
The PHOTOHOKU representative told my mother this story. In the beginning, the photographers avoided taking photos in front of temporary houses because they were afraid that the photos would remind people of the bitter experience of the disaster when they looked back through the albums. Even so, many people asked to have their photos taken in front of their temporary homes. They said, “I would like to preserve a memory of my time living in this accommodation since it, too, is part of my life”, and this forward-looking attitude of the victims of the disaster gave the members of PHOTOHOKU the extra encouragement they needed.
After hearing this story, I realized that people can make connections even if they live far away from each other, speak different languages and have different lifestyles, that spiritual bonds and emotional support are every bit as important as material aid.
This is about something else that happened to me. On the day after the earthquake there was a hydrogen explosion at the Tokyo Electric Power Company’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, which is just 50 kilometers from here. The people around me began evacuating, telling us, “You should seek safety as soon as possible, too”. My family was at a loss because we had nowhere to go, but a married couple living in Yamagata came to our rescue. These people are the parents of a school friend’s mother. Their very first greeting to us was warm smiles, and they accepted us and took care of us like members of their own family for almost a whole month. I still remember their kindness, and I’ll never forget the month we spent with them. It’s for this reason we call them our Yamagata Grandpa and Grandma, and we continue to visit them occasionally. It is thanks to their warm welcome that the disaster stopped being a painful memory for my family and me.
Through these experiences, I came to realize that we continue to receive a lot of heartfelt support. We were given food and shelter immediately after the disaster. Later, people sent dolls and toys and gave us plays and concerts because we were unable to play outside. In this way support continues to arrive even today, though the way in which it arrives has changed with time.
Our hometown Shinchimachi suffered extensive damage and we have had some very tough experiences, but we cannot afford to be beaten by hardship. Our job is to think about what we can do to give Shinchimachi a new lease of life and bring smiles to the faces of everyone who lives here.
I have two thoughts: one is to be thankful for all the support we have received, to remember that each and everyone who offered their assistance did so thoughtfully. The second is to embrace life and work slowly but surely to resurrect (revive) our town. I think, too, that we should keep smiles on our faces and takes lots of new happy photographs because by doing this we will be showing our gratitude to all the people who have given us their wholehearted support.
Everyone! The PHOTOHOKU team is coming to our “Yarushika Nee-be Matsuri” (“We-may-as-well-celebrate Festival”) at Shinchimachi Sogo-Koen park on August 4. How about having your photograph taken by a member of the PHOTOHOKU team and adding to the numbers of “new happy photographs”?
(Japanese version here: http://on.fb.me/Ms1fQm)