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One of the fascinating things about this internship is how the following 12 hours would always be unexpected. At times, this could mean a lack of planning, but in this instance, the flexible nature of the internship allowed us to go ahead and create our own plans.
It so happened that a few days after we arrived in Fukuoka, record rainfall in Japan produced mudslides and flooding forcing hundreds of thousands to flee and many homes destroyed. For better or for worse, this situation provided an opportunity for us to experience relief work first hand- the core work and mission of Relief 2.0.
After shooting out many enquiries over Facebook, we finally managed to link up with IDRO Japan, a Kyoto-based NPO that provides aid and assistance for immediate post-disaster relief and long-term support through regular relief trips. IDRO was impeccably efficient, and we arranged to meet in Yabakei the next morning. We woke up at 4am the next morning, and after a short battle with the complexities of Japanese public transport, we reached Hita station at 10am. Trevor, our guide from IDRO, picked us up and we headed off to Yabakei.
This was our first time experiencing relief work so we went in without expectations. I guess we couldn’t have asked for a better first experience. Everything at Yabakei was so organised you wouldn’t have guessed that there was flooding and landslides just a few days ago, if not for the wreckage in the background. This reminded me of one of Relief 2.0’s core philosophy- even though physical capital and infrastructure is destroyed in a disaster, the most crucial element, human capital, still remains.
We spent our time removing floorboards, clearing mud and removing trash. No doubt the work was tough, but it didn’t feel like labour at all. I was fascinated by how the communal spirit of the villagers and volunteers kept the morale high in spite of the disaster. We stayed for a night and returned to Fukuoka the next day, I would have loved to help out for a few more days but time was not in our favour.
As the end of my stint at Relief 2.0 approaches, this experience stands out as the most vivid and impressionable. Another thing I realised, whilst in the midst of shoveling mud out of a shed, is that the desire to lend a hand is innate in our humanity. Such a pure impulse should not be marketed in ideological terms but merely left as it is, to thrive and exist in its natural form.