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Welcome to Michael's blog. Michael Andrew, (aka Michael The Maven) is a freelance producer, photography instructor, tech innovator, and when needed, disaster aid specialist. Disclaimer: Michael is a participant in Bhphoto & Amazon affiliate programs that provides an advertising commission if you purchase through links on this website.


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04.07.11         michael's insights  

This is seriously a lot of FUN!!!


It is hard to believe how much fun we are having out here in a place that has seen so much destruction and sorrow. Everyday we wake up and talk about different ways to help people, then we get to go out and do it. It's amazing.

For the last few weeks, we have been focusing on spreading a little bit of help all over to larger pockets of groups. The needs we are seeing have been changing day to day, and we are learning to have the biggest impact, we have to improvise and adapt as needs change. Our strategy evolved today into focusing intensely on individuals who are in greater need.

When Tomio (my driver and translator from Meysen) and I go out, I think people generally underestimate us. Tomio looks foreign even though he is Japanese, I look like just some stupid scruffy American who can't speak the language and we ask them how we can help.

90% of the time, we are told there is nothing we can do, but those 10%- they are super special to us. Maybe the majority might have a sense of pride and they don't want to accept outside help- even if they really need it, but I am in absolute awe how Nathan and his team responds to those who ask us for help. I hope two examples from today can illustrate.

Two days ago we had a donation to help pay for many of Meysen's expenses, which up to this point have been pretty significant. The fuel and food they have purchase with their own money to give out has helped literally several thousands of people, in addition to the huge amount of aid generously provided by Samaritans Purse.

This donation will really help the effort, and in order to be accountable for these funds, we thought it would be good to make a short 30 second clip of how the GPS tagging to delivery system works.

We were also waiting for a huge delivery of rubber boots from Samaritans Purse which nearly every place we tagged asked for, so we spent some time working on this video clip.

One shot required that we talk with someone in the state that Tomio and I typically find them, and the brother one of the men we found yesterday agreed to help with the shot. He too had lost most of his home and belongings.

When we started shooting, I felt impressed to ask him what he needed "for real" while the camera was rolling. The man got really emotional and said "transportation" as in a car or truck. Tomio explained that this was something far beyond our ability to provide, but maybe we could help with some tools.

Long story shot, we finish the shoot and deliver some goods we were originally bringing them. We go back to camp, stopping strangers on the road to give supplies they may need. (this is seriously a lot of fun!!). We get back to camp and tell Nathan about what the man said he needed.

Nathan doesn't want me to write this, but I am going to write it anyway because it is just awesome and needs to be shared.

Nathan gets on the phone, makes a few calls and within a few minutes, has tracked down a small truck for this man....to give to him. For Keeps! It's being driven up from Sendai as I type. He has no clue about this and will be delivered to him tomorrow. I'm completely excited for this.

Second story: Remember that family we found in the rubble two days ago? The one Nathan gave a bike to? Nathan has been working since, getting them various supplies, tools, tents, cots, clothes, gas stoves, lamps, food etc. Enough supplies and resources to get them out of the shelter and back on their own property to start rebuilding.

There was one major problem; the debris where their house once stood.

We decided to spend the second part of the day helping them clear their yard. Nathan, Tomio, myself, some of the "honey bees" and a few more volunteers went over to help. We worked side by side with this family for several hours clearing their yard.

Nathan had also rented a huge truck with a crane which will be loaned to the family for 10 days. We used it to lift the heavy stuff out of the way. I don't think it would have been possible without it.

I cannot describe what an awesome feeling it was to have this opportunity. I don't speak Japanese and cannot really commuicate without a translator, but there I was working with this family who we just so happened to stumble upon. Together were able to clear their entire yard.

The father of the family said:"This is one of the happiest days of my life" when only two days earlier he had told us he had "given up". He thanked Tomio and I several times and even shook my hand, something most Japanese do not initiate. I feel so lucky to not only be a witness to this service, but to actually be able to serve a small role in the process.

My heart is filled with joy tonight. I wish there was some way to completely transfer these feelings I am experiencing to everyone who reads these posts. Throwing yourself into service of those in need is just awesome!!

I am certain as well, these days here in Japan will be some of the most memorable and exciting of my life.



This older couple approached our camp today and asked for help with supplies. We gave them all kinds of food, clothing, and even a new bike!
At a delivery today- the guy in the grey sweater is getting a new truck tomorrow and he doesn't know it yet!
A yard full of rubble.
Two of the "honey bees" Naomi and Mariko giving the mother of the family clothing and footwear.
Nathan also gave them a generator.
Tomio and I were thinking out loud while cleaning up:

Me- "I guess people probably underestimate what we have to offer them in terms of help."
Tomio- "They probably don't know we have God with us."
Me - "That's true...plus we have this really big truck with a crane on it."
The rest of the crew:

The 3 on the right are "honey bees" who have been with us from day one. The 3 on the left joined us a few days ago, they are 15 and 16 year old girls who I have affectionately nicknamed "the little elephants" because they are are complete work horses. It is extremely humbling to see these women in action. They are not afraid to get dirty and work hard. What we did today would not have been possible without them.
The family celebrating with Tomio and Nathan after cleaning up.
Before and after shots.
Going back to camp after a great day of work! They were really happy and thankful :)

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