Volunteer Guide Outreach
Volunteer Trip to Japan
The group traveled to the regions of northeast Japan where there was the greatest loss of life, and saw a whole town that was washed away by the sea. They met with local officials and business leaders, mental health providers, schoolchildren, parents, teachers, senior citizens relocated due to radiation risks, and 3 high-level government officials.
"There is so much work to be done, so much uncertainty about where people will live in the future," the docents realized after speaking with seniors in temporary housing.
In addition to meeting with so many people in the Tohoku region, the 9/11 group brought a gift of an origami crane fabricated out of steel recovered at the World Trade Center to the City of Koriyama.
The origami crane will be the focus of a memorial to 3/11 that is being built in the public Kaisezan Park. According to Kyodo News, "this is the first monument of significance from the international community to Japan’s disaster-stricken northeast region."
The trip to Japan was undertaken in collaboration with the remarkable organizational efforts of the Japanese Medical Society of America and Rotary International with leadership roles played by Dr. Robert Yanagisawa and Ikuyo Yanagisawa who with their experience and knowledge developed the plans for the trip and who organized all of the meetings and travel in Japan, and by Betty Borden of Japan Society. Transportation for the trip was generously contributed by American Airlines.
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Two months after the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster that began in northeastern Japan on March 11, 2011, Tribute co-founder Lee Ielpi suggested to the Japanese Ambassador that the September 11th community could offer support to the victims of 3/11.
A year later, the United States-Japan Foundation provided a grant to make this international outreach project possible. On October 19 a group of 6 Tribute docents, staff members Lee Ielpi and Meriam Lobel, traveled to Japan for 10 days to provide support for victims of the 3/11 earthquake/tsunami/nuclear disaster.
"People told us that it would be difficult for the people we met in Japan to express their feelings," said one docent, "but as soon as we started telling our stories of our losses of 9/11, they understood that we could comprehend what they are going through – and we were able to share both tears and warm smiles."
"I think it's so important to let people know that Tribute is involved in this," emphasized participant Joan Mastropaolo. "We're not only involved in 9/11, we're involved in the breadth of the conversation to other disasters. We're really expanding our focus to help others involved in other tragedies."
The group's return was delayed by 3 days due to airports here being closed due to Hurricane Sandy. As soon as they landed several of the docents began volunteering to help those here who were displaced by a storm.
Brenda Berkman reflected, "In Japan we talked about the fact that there is no quick fix in recovery. It's a long process. I think we should put Hurricane Sandy in the larger context too, and learn lessons from experiences of responses to other disasters around the world."