“Please Enjoy a Delicious Meal!” – Reports From Our Soup Kitchens

AAR JAPAN has been carrying out soup kitchens from April 30th to May 7th at Seiyukan (a welfare facility in Ishinomaki City, Miyagi Prefecture), Osawa Furusato Center, Osawa Elementary School and Yamada Town Hall (the last three in Yamada Town, Iwate Prefecture).

This is a report from Akiko KATOH, who took part in the soup kitchens held at Seiyukan.

Delivering Food at Evacuation Centers in Oshika Peninsula for 8 Days
May 5th, 2011: On this day, we prepared Chinese dumplings (gyoza). We did as much as we could to provide a variegated menu every day

Seiyukan used to be a facility for persons with disabilities and for the elderly and is located in Ayukawa, Oshika Pensinsula. After the earthquake, it has been used as an evacuation center for around 140 people. Throughout the "Golden Week" holidays, AAR JAPAN provided lunch and dinner for the evacuees.

The soup kitchens held by AAR JAPAN during "Golden Week" holidays were carried out by approximately 20 people among staff and volunteers for continuous days. Participants woke up at 6 every morning and left their accommodation sites in Sendai City and Taiwa Town, driving a car full of ingredients to be used in the soup kitchen of the day. We would usually arrive at the southern tip of Oshika Peninsula by 9 and make a brief meeting with the responsible for Seiyukan, to discuss the plan for that day and start preparing the food.
All Efforts Just to Hear Them Say “It Was Delicious”

April 30thAAR JAPAN deputy director Taki KATOH (in the center) also took part in serving the food.
Staff and volunteers from AAR JAPAN shared tasks to decide on who should be responsible for preparing the main dishes and the side dishes in order to deliver the meals on time.
Putting our efforts into preparing good food to the evacuees was no easy task, but hearing words as “Today’s menu was delicious” and “Being served a different menu every day makes me anxiously wait to see tomorrow’s!” was really rewarding.
Until "Golden Week" Holidays, all the meals served at Seiyukan were prepared by the evacuees themselves, so we from AAR JAPAN were glad to give them a long deserved rest.

Efforts to Improve the Life at Evacuation Centers

May 3rd – Cleaning the toilets is also important work!

During the period we delivered to soup kitchens, we didn’t just prepare meals, but also helped to clean the toilets, weed the lawn, play with the kids and help them with homework, since these activities are also very important to improve the lives of those living at the evacuation centers.
A boy who was usually in the baseball team at school but didn’t have the chance to play it lately, expressed how happy he was to play catch-ball with one of the volunteers.

May 6th - AAR JAPAN staff Takeshi IKEDA (second from right) and Tomoya Soejima (third from right) with kids from Seiyukan.

In the last day, people living in the facility thanked us for going there and invited us to visit them again. The kids were lamenting having to say goodbye to the staff members they became friends with. It was a real short time, but we were really glad to bring joy to everyone there.
By preparing their meals every day, we got the chance to taste the difficulties faced by the ones living in the evacuation centers and the kids’ feelings.
AAR JAPAN is studying the possibility of continuing to deliver the soup kitchens in various locations and bring smiles by providing the evacuees with good food.

Akiko KATOH, Tokyo Headquarters
Since April 2010, was mainly responsible for projects in Haiti and Zambia at Tokyo Headquarters. After graduation, worked in a private company and got a master degree in Social Development from a British university. Before coming to AAR JAPAN, accumulated experience in governmental research institutes and foreign diplomatic missions (born in Tokyo).