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September 1, 2011 / Mika Riedel

The unrecognized victims

Sunday July 3rd, 2011.

An old high school classmate in Ishinomaki is going to lend “Rainbow Crayons” a prefabricated building for storing our supplies.

When the tsunami struck he evacuated to Minato elementary.  I’m sure he had an exceptionally rough time because that evacuation shelter went over a week without delivery of food or water.

The storage will be located in Watanoha where his company’s office is located.  Several years ago he built his own house near Ishinomori Mangakan museum along the Kitakami river.  It was a very nice house but suffered when the tsunami struck.  From the outside it appears fine, however it was completely flooded and the surrounding concrete wall was knocked down. With some cleaning it could still be lived in but due to land subsidence it is in danger of flooding from the nearby river.  On top of that, the retaining wall behind it has been weakened by the earthquake and is beginning to collapse.

If it was just him, he could continue to live there and somehow make a run for it should another tsunami hit.  However, with elementary school children, he decided escaping would be too dangerous so the entire family is living at his company’s office.  There are 20 or so employees, who naturally are also at the office every day, so his wife and children don’t get any privacy.

The other day I decided to hold a mini “Rainbow Crayons” for his children and had them invite their friends.  There must have been 7 or 8 children total.

These are unrecognized victims.

Situations like this are being overlooked.  There are a lot of people who are forced to live under tenuous conditions or in shelters that are not recognized by the government.  Some are depending on relatives for lodging.  Others are only able to use the second floor of their house.

Many of those children were healthy, and some had colds, but everyone had a lot of fun playing outside together.  I’m sure they had a lot of pent up energy.  They’ve been holding back for quite a while.

Everyone was playing together unaware, but one of the girls among them, Machan, was left orphaned by the disaster.  Machan had been living with her mother, who died.  Apparently she is now living with her grandmother.  The whole time I was playing with her I didn’t even realize this.

Frankly, there is nothing we can offer Machan.  However, we can stay close and continue watching over her.  It may not be much but we can play with her.  It may not be much but however brief it may last, as long as our activities continue, we can keep her company.

I am prepared to continue our “Rainbow Crayons” activities even 10 years if necessary.  Little by little, with everyone’s help, we will continue to grow.  I’m grateful to all of you.

And now, I’m thankful to the classmate who introduced Machan and I.

Written by Kodomo Hinanjo Club on 7/3/2011.

Translated by Paul Haugerud and Takako Kawamukai.

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