On July 20th we went to Yamamoto. We saw the most heavily impacted areas by the tsunami. I couldn’t talk for the whole entire time. My heart felt heavy. it’s just so sad that I didn’t know. I didn’t know for one whole year how affected some areas were. They kind of toned down what happened in the news in America. They talked about it for maybe a month; they showed people coming to help, and it went away after that. They didn’t really show you the aftermath of what the people go through. Many people died in the areas affected by the earthquake and tsunami.

I will never forget about this day; I got to see it with my own eyes. Houses destroyed like they were mad of paper. Poles bent like twigs. I feel sick to my stomach. I can’t wrap my head around that this actually caused so much damage. So many people’s lives were lost. This gives me a haunted feeling. I wouldn’t even know people used to live in this area unless you told me. Some buildings are lucky to still be standing while other are completely gone. I have never seen anything like this before. Even after this long, people still need help. Mentally and physically their lives will never be the same, even though the worst has come and gone.

I am glad I’m on this service-learning project. The littlest kind of help can change the lives of others. That is what I feel like my goal is after being on the strawberry farm – to make a change. This experience has opened my eyes to new heights. Much of the time I wonder what I can to do make a difference. I now know that I AM making a difference here. I can tell others of this experience so that they are aware of what really still needs to be done.

I saw debris and garbage piled high, buildings and stores that no longer stand. Homes lost to this disaster. Somehow I feel that this place will never be the same. An abandoned school – will its doors ever reopen? I may never know this, but I know today that no matter where you are or where you may go, you can always open your mind and your heart – to truly give to those who have less and need help. This is what I feel like by helping on Mr. Watenabe’s farm. This one thing can change a person’s life, maybe just a little. It may not be much, but to that person it could mean the world.

Until next time,
Simone Blaylock
(Forest Park)

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West Cook YMCA in Japan

Dispatches from the learning volunteer experience in Japan.