"Wishing healthy recovery for all", said a message on decoration strip for Star Festival (celebrated on July 7th) at Mifune Sport Center where YMCA operates an evacuation center. These are written by children from Suizenji Kindergarten expressing their hope for recovery of the affected communities.
Behind smiles of those who interacted with these children on this celebration day, some said "our house has withstood the earthquake, but landslide due to recent heavy rain is hindering us from going home". Still, big challenges remain for the evacuees.
"Let's build a place for accommodating dogs and cats." On April 18th, 2 days after the main quake, Fumitoshi Okamoto of Non-Profit Organization called 'Association to Connect Dog's Life and Humans' and YMCA agreed to build 'Wan Nyan House', which opened on May 14th, exactly a month from the initial quake.
'Wan Nyan House' is basically an evacuation center for dogs and cats, and the House accommodates those pets of evacuees at Mashiki Gymnasium. The project is operated by Mashiki Dogs and Cats Family Project, which Okamoto serves as a project leader. The House is located right next to the Mashiki evacuation center where 800 people still reside.
Keiko Futagoishi said "I used to hold two leashes whenever I went out, but having this House here allowed me to go out and do necessary things more easily." "All animals here seem to be getting along very well." The presence of the House not only provides a place for these dogs and cats, but provides an opportunity for their families to do necessary administration towards their recovery.
When Okamoto heard about the earthquakes in Kumamoto, he immediately flew back to Fukuoka from Tokyo. After purchasing dog food and pet sheets along with other items he could think of, he entered Kumamoto. While assessing the situation in evacuation centers in Mashiki area, he saw the evacuees not having anything for their pets. Some requested him to search their missing pets, but Okamoto was determined that his mission was to serve the needs of those evacuees with their loving pets in the evacuation centers. He continued to bring things in from Fukuoka spending 5 hours one way, and even provided softened dog food for the dogs without much appetite. 'Serving those dogs and cats meant serving families of those in evacuation center' Okamoto said, looking back that hectic week of continuous travel between Kumamoto and Fukuoka.
Residents are allowed to bring in their pets to the temporary housing in Kumamoto, but the challenge remains with those people who are not in favor of living close to animals. The environment around these evacuees is constantly changing, and Okamoto says, 'The real challenge begins now' in pursuit of building communal life once again.
In Mashiki Gymnasium between July 10th-25th, 'Dogs and Cats Photo Exhibition' will take place, and the exhibition will highlight how these 'families' have survived this difficult time.
You can help the operation on the ground. Please see below: