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Helping Northern Japan Rebuild

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Oct. 2 – Ofunato, Iwate – Along the scenic coastline of Japan’s Iwate Prefecture, the destruction of last year’s earthquake and tsunami is harder to discern as recovery continues.

Coastline of Ofunato, Iwate Prefecture

Ofunato saw more than a third of homes in the port city of 40,000 destroyed when a 24-meter wave (77-feet) struck on the afternoon of March 11 and rolled 3 kilometers inland.

Displaced residents, numbering some 1,800 families, continue to live in the city’s 37 temporary housing complexes.

“For the people who have lost their homes, what they want most is stability in their lives and that means having a house,” said Muneo Oikawa, a local spokesman for the families in Ofunato.

“We are listening to the needs of the survivors. We are looking for suitable places in the surrounding mountains and bringing those suggestions to the local administration.”

Nissan volunteers building the storage cabin despite wet weather

Since February, Habitat for Humanity Japan has run a rehabilitation program to help improve living conditions.

“This time we are making a storage cabin, some benches and flower stands for the residents,” said Ken Komatsu, project manager of Habitat for Humanity Japan’s Ofunato office.

“We will continue making these temporary houses more comfortable to live in and also rebuild those houses damaged by the tsunami.”

Before the onset of winter, over 80 Nissan employees will travel to the region to help with the rebuilding.

A group arrived Friday and despite wet weather, took building instructions from local experts and got to work.

Volunteers help build benches and flower stands for local residents

“This is the first time we’ve asked Nissan employees to participate in the rebuilding program in Ofunato and I think they are very happy to assist the people suffering from the earthquake,” said Ikutaro Kawamura, a manager in Nissan’s corporate social responsibility department.

“Nissan is extending its assistance to the local people and I think our employees are proud of that.”

Habitat for Humanity Japan and Nissan volunteers with Ofunato residents

The project in Ofunato is part of a larger global partnership with Habitat for Humanity that will include housing projects in India, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam.

Eighteen months since the tsunami swept into Ofunato recovery efforts are still ongoing, but with help from volunteer groups like Habitat for Humanity Japan displaced disaster survivors can at least hope for a new place to call home.

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