I was honored to be invited to a special luncheon today hosted by Give2Asia http://www.give2asia.org in San Francisco. 4 NGOs from the Tohoku area were invited to share their experiences in the rebuild and relief effort in the areas affected by the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear power plant failure.
It was heartwarming to hear their stories and their challenges. Yet their commitment showed the strength and resiliency of the Japanese people.
Still one of the messages rang clear: many felt uncertainty in regards to their future and that part of their (NGOs) mission is to give hope to the people who had lost loved ones, their homes, jobs, and any sense of normalcy. There are still over 300,000 people living in temporary housing. The population in some of the towns have decreased to 70% as people, especially the young, moved out to find jobs in Tokyo and other areas. The once vibrant fishing industry in Ishinomaki is now non-existant. Acres and acres of farmland are ruined as agriculture in certain areas has been abandoned.
Many outsiders fear traveling to the region due to the radiation contamination from the Fukushima power plants. The long term economic impact is yet to be realized.
It is my hope that on my trip to the Tohoku area, I can bring a sense of support and hope to the people. As one of the executives from the Give2Asia said, “working in the nonprofit sector to help the rebuild and relief effort, you have to be an optimist”. Bringing a sense of hope to the people, that by working together, there will be a better tomorrow.
Today was such an emotional, moving experience. Thank you Gillian Ira Yeoh and Give2Asia. I look forward to meeting some of the NGOs in Japan next week.