Chris Owen | 29th November 2011
MANY Australians visit Japan to experience the country’s food, shopping and culture. But Westside Christian College’s Amy Van Strien has gone there for a much more important reason.
The 14-year-old is part of a team of 20 volunteers from Springfield Christian Family Church who flew to Japan last week to help in tsunami relief efforts.
The volunteers, who paid for the trip themselves, will spend two weeks helping with disaster relief and development work in the city of Sendai.
A huge earthquake and subsequent tsunami hit the north-eastern city in March, causing severe damage and killing thousands.
Amy said she wanted to be a part of the relief effort, particularly after her family hosted two students in August who had been affected by the tsunami.
“I think it’s important to help get the Sendai people’s lives back on track because they can’t do it on their own,” she said.
About 300,000 Sendai people are still living in evacuation centres, seven months after the tsunami struck.
Springfield Christian Family’s Deborah van Bennekom said she expected the trip to be a physically and emotionally intense experience.
“I did tsunami relief work when the disaster hit Thailand in 2004,” Ms van Bennekom said.
“It was very overwhelming standing in the midst of the devastation…putting yourself in the shoes of the people who were there.”
Lucas Fischer, 16, another member of the group, said he had also been on a mission before – to assist with the orphan crisis in India.
“It opened my eyes to how bad some people have it,” Lucas said. “You see images of it in magazines and television, but until you experience it first-hand you don’t truly understand it.”
The group, with volunteers aged between 14 and 54, said they were prepared to do to do whatever it took to get the Japanese people’s lives back on track.