Ms. Kanaya received Tzu Chi's relief fund, her eyes twinkling with a smile. She expressed that this gift is filled with boundless love. | Photo courtesy of Jessica Yang | Anamizu, Japan | 2024/05/17

“Wonderful! I will make good use of this heartfelt gift,” Ms. Kanaya said with a beaming smile, as if her new home was just around the corner...

Relief Fund a Timely Aid for the Long Road to Reconstruction

Nearly five months have passed since the powerful earthquake struck Japan’s Noto Peninsula on New Year's Day 2024. Signs of destruction are still everywhere. However, Tzu Chi's support for the local disaster survivors has been unwavering. From May 17 to 19, relief funds have been distributed based on household size, with families receiving at least 130,000 yen (approx. 838 USD).

The term "relief" signifies comfort and care. Through the distribution of these relief funds, Tzu Chi aims to help the survivors regain their footing on the path to rebuilding. Tzu Chi volunteers in Japan has distributed funds for three consecutive days in the town of Anamizu, one of the severely affected areas, targeting households with partially or fully destroyed homes that include residents over 65 years old. In three days, 1,091 households have received aid over four distributions.

Ward mayor Murakami Kenzo's biggest concern is the lack of job opportunities in the area, causing young people to leave and leaving behind a predominantly elderly population, which clouds the future of the Maenami Ward. | Photo courtesy of Jessica Yang | Anamizu, Japan | 2024/05/17

The first distribution session took place at the Morohashi Community Center in Anamizu, focusing on residents from seven districts: Okinami, Maenami, Ukagawa, Myosenji, Hanazono, Furukimi, and Takeda, with Okinami and Maenami being the hardest hit. Murakami Kenzo, the 78-year-old ward mayor of Maenami for 16 years, explained that out of the 90 households in Maenami, 10 had their homes completely destroyed and applied for demolition, nearly 20 had partially destroyed homes, and most of the others were almost as badly damaged.

“The biggest challenge we are encountering after five months is the persistence of damaged houses in their current state. Though residents have sought repairs, no contractors have yet provided estimates or initiated repairs,” Mr. Kenzo said. He also expressed concern about Maenami’s future, as the lack of job opportunities pushes away the younger generation, resulting in an aging population.

After five months, the damaged houses remain unchanged. Though locals have applied for repairs, so far, no contractors have provided estimates or initiated repairs. | Photo courtesy of Jessica Yang | Anamizu, Japan | 2024/05/17

When asked if the five-month delay in receiving the relief funds was too late, Murakami firmly replied, "Not at all! Many people still haven't received government aid." For the residents, this relief fund is a timely blessing.

Due to the slow rebuilding efforts, many elderly people are still living in temporary housing. As volunteers distribute the relief funds, they also visit each household to grasp their current situation and help promptly if needed. Given the high number of elderly residents, many came alone to collect their relief funds. With extra care, the volunteers kindly accompany them back to their temporary homes.

The lady in green, upon receiving the relief funds, immediately donates ¥20,000 (approximately $128 USD). When asked why, she responds, "We've all suffered from the earthquake; it's only right to help each other."|Photos courtesy of Hui-chen Wu | Anamizu, Japan | 2024/05/19

Reported by Jessica Yang | Japan