That Week Volunteering in Yamamoto

*Throwback Thursday: I’m slowly (very slowly) going to be bringing my old posts to this blog.

My company surprises me sometimes.
They rolled out Volunteer Vacation Days
for up to 7 days of paid leave.
So I signed up.
Knowing I wouldn’t be of much help in heavy labor
I chose to help out for a week at a soup kitchen.

This is the town of Yamamoto
in the prefecture of Miyagi.
Before the tsunami
they had a population of 16,695.
A small peaceful town.
The tsunami killed over 600 people
and approximately 80% of the land was affected.

This soup kitchen wasn’t for the temporary shelters
that were in place for the tsunami survivors.
This soup kitchen was for the town hall employees.
The employees themselves are survivors,
some of who’ve lost family.
Some who work all day at the town hall
only to go back to their cars to sleep at night.
Some who were here from a different prefecture
to help with the disaster relief and the lack of employees.
Our soup kitchen provided them 3 meals a day.

I had an image of sandwiches
or an onigiri, when it came to soup kichens.
But this one had various produce
and our menu was based on what we had.
I am not the greatest cook.
But one the first day
I was handed lemons, sweet potatoes,
and a “yoroshiku (do your best).”
Almost thought hard labor would have been better.
But with the help of CookPad
I spent the week cooking like never before.
I think I actually like cooking.

But there were, of course, many thoughts
throughout my time as a volunteer.
Some of us would talk together
during our bath time.
The employees that we would see daily
are all smiles and jokes.
Hiding their pain and worries.
Some would ask us why we were volunteering.
“Because I want to help”
somehow felt too light, too casual.
I wouldn’t be able to answer.
They would thank me for coming.
Again, no words.
What do you say to that.
There was no way we could say
You could see the strain.
They were doing that and more
all on their own.
But spending a week in Yamamoto
cooking and chatting with the employees.
“Oishi-katta-yo! (Delicious!)”
“Meal time is the best!”
These words from the employees
made my heart burst with happiness.
Those are the times I felt I did my job as a volunteer.
Made them smile
even if for a little while.
So glad I came to Yamamoto.
Now that I’ve been here,
I’ll be back.

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