5 months have passed since the devastating earthquake in Kumamoto. The mayor of Mashiki town announced that evacuation center at Mashiki Gymnasium will be closed on October 31st. Out of 18 evacuation centers established in this town, this is the last evacuation center remaining in function, and Kumamoto YMCA has been operating it since the start.
There are still 200 affected persons living in this evacuation center, but as temporary shelters were constructed to accommodate all these evacuees, the town administration decided to close the center. However, not everyone has clear plan of action for relocation and recovery, thus, recovery support still continues for these evacuees.
Given such a change in environment, a multi-purpose refabricated building called 'Yokamashiki House' closed on September 17th. On the day, 'Thanks Festival' was held, and users of this House and volunteers gathered to show appreciation to the existence of this place. 'Yokamashiki House' has been a hub for community activities planned by the evacuees themselves, and within 3 months of its existence, more than 4,000 people and 157 organizations benefited.
The festival showcased some of the key events held at this place with photo slideshows screened. Mr. Noboru Sanada, the head of this place, explained his memory with episodes linked to each of the photos. Some of the activities included the game of Go (Japanese chess), handcraft salon, Tai Chi, magic show, and traditional Japanese festive dances such as Tokushima Awa dance and Ushibuka Haiya dance. These activities all encouraged the evacuees during the most difficult times. Mitsuteru Akiyose, the head of YMCA Mashiki Volunteer Center delivered a message that in temporary shelters where people will be moving in, there would be 'Commune House' where these activities can also continue.
Both Sanada, and his deputy Ritsuko Miyazaki, has been a famous management team at 'Yokamashiki House'. Sanada lives in a temporary shelter, and Miyazaki still lives in the evacuation center at the gymnasium. Miyazaki cooked Miso Pork Soup for this 'Thanks Festival', and when asked how she feels about closing of this place, she replied "I really miss this place. We are one strong community that built relationship from a scratch, and even the clothes I wear now has been given by someone else", she smiled.
"'Yokamashiki House' provided an opportunity to build a community. When I invited one evacuee for Karaoke, the person happened to be a singing teacher. Many of the users said 'thank you' to me, but gratitude is really mine that many people came and enjoyed here. If they didn't come, this place could not build such a community. I also would like to convey sincerest appreciation for all the people who supported us during this period. We lost our houses, but warm heart always remained. Such feeling encourages us to start our new lives at the temporary shelters."
With mixed feeling of gratitude and loneliness, the community here is taking a step forward towards their recovery.