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Japan tsunami relief by Project Phoenix

Yoko Matsuoka 

The Phoenix project is aimed to bring encouragement and a personal touch along with material aid to refugees from the earthquake and tsunami that devastated much of the northeastern coast.

This project brought together professional clowns from Tokyo, the Band Aid Band and other volunteer workers in an effort to bring smiles to the faces of hundreds who had lost their homes or were forced to evacuate due to the Fukushima nuclear power plant failure.

From April 2nd to April 5th we were able to visit 6 evacuation centers in Tochigi and Fukushima Prefecture.

Clowns from “Let’s Party Tokyo” who volunteered their time and skills lightened the mood with a comedy magic performance and distributed balloons to all the children. Band Aid sang old favorites and folk songs that young and old thoroughly enjoyed.

Below are some comments from refugees and staff members at the centers we visited:

“We were never able to be together and warm up to each other like this until now.”

“As a staff member, it’s a reward to have been able to meet you.”

We met many people who had to evacuate from around the Fukushima Nuclear plants and some even had to move from one evacuation center to another a number of times.

When the clowns were performing in a hall above the Aizu Sougo Gym where the refugees were staying; one elderly lady who was watching said, “Since we talk about the earthquake all day, we were glad to come here and have a laugh.”

This woman had evacuated wi her grandchild and because her son is working at a city hall in the disaster area, she could not even meet him and she explained through tears that their family could not be together at this time.

She also added, “But you have come to encourage us and play with my grandchildren. It’s very comforting and encouraging to see my grandchildren playing and enjoying themselves like this.”

We asked each evacuation center we planned to visit what they needed the most that wasn’t covered by government aid. We purchased undergarments, tissue paper, socks and other day-to-day items that were in short supply and distributed them at these centers as well.

People around the world have commended the stoicism and courage of Japanese people in the face of this tragedy so we opened a mail box to receive words of encouragement and support for the Japanese people. Thanks to the many kind individuals who have written to us from around the world, we were able to translate excerpts from their letters and compile them into a pamphlet that we also distributed at these centers.

Amidst so much hurt and heartbreak and loss, the light of kindness and generosity shines out so brightly. The generosity of those giving aid to the refugees, and the refugees caring for and supporting one another despite extreme hardship. To be able to witness this is a priceless treasure and I want to thank Activated Ministries for the part you played in making it possible.