Volunteer Weeding Work by US High School Students Group in Natori
On July 3, a group of 22 senior high school students and accompanying teachers from California, USA visited the OISCA project site for the restoration of the tsunami-devastated seashore forest in Natori and carried out half-day weeding work.
The US high school students are participants in the “TOMODACHI Initiative”, an international exchange program born out of support for Japan’s recovery from the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and conducted by the US Embassy in Japan and the US-Japan Council, a non-profit educational organization, with the financial support of Japanese and American private corporations including Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group (MUFG). They arrived in Japan on June 26 and participated in various educational and cultural exchange programs in Tokyo, Sendai, Hiroshima and Kyoto for two weeks.
In Natori, the group first observed the OISCA nursery where black pine seedlings have been raised for future planting. Then, they moved to the badly damaged but still remaining former residence of Mr. Eiji Suzuki, a local resident who managed to survive in a nick of time from the tsunami disaster, and listened to his vivid story. Mr. Suzuki is now leading the Association for the Restoration of Coastal Forest in Natori City, a group comprising disaster-affected local farmers, which is conducting the project together with OISCA.
Afterward, they proceeded to the coastal project site where about 10,000 black pine seedlings were planted last May by 530 people, mostly local residents. Under the continuing rain, the students, using unfamiliar sickles, toiled hard in weeding veins and other weeds thriving around the planted seedlings.
Mr. Alexander Cagle, 18-years old student from Patrick Henry High School, said that weeding is a really tiring job, but worth experiencing. While Ms. Abigail Grossman, 17-years old from Santa Monica, commented that although it was her first time to work in the disaster-hit area, she was very proud to contribute in a small way to the recovery work.
At the project site, a total of 260,000 seedlings of black pine and other tree species have been planted so far. Currently, many volunteers are keeping on coming to help in weeding work. In June, the number of volunteers reached 375 people.