We drove up north just outside of Minamisanriku last night to camp. I’ll be honest- I was really cold. Makes me appreciate the warm bed I normally have. If it happens again tonight, I don’t think I will hesitate to cuddle up with Nate. I realize that probably sounds really gay (not that there is anything wrong with that, and no I definitely am not) but if you are cold and tired enough, you will do just about anything to get warm. I will not be a victim of the cold tonight!!
We left early to scout out Minamisanriku, the town that is still missing 10,000 of it’s citizens. Even after driving through it several times today, the destruction is impossible to comprehend. Tv and internet images cannot do the vastness of it justice, and I have a tremendous amount of respect for Tsunami’s. No matter how strong or fast you think you are, if you get hit by one, chances are you are as good as dead. The tremendous mass and speed combined with tons of debris turn it into a giant meat blender devouring everything in it’s path. It’s not uncommon to see cars on top of buildings or boats in trees. These are just a few snaps I took with my iphone and I have many better pics of my 7d.We found the main distribution center in Minamisanriku. Nathan wanted to check in and find out if we could donate some of the Samaritans Purse goods for the area, and they accepted what we were offering. That said, they had a lot of other supplies just sitting in the warehouse, and did not seem to be completely organized.Wall of missing people.People sleeping in cardboard “rooms” on the floor.Toby sent me a few possible GPS locations of other distribution points in the area, & this was something we did in Haiti, clustering possible places to check to assess their needs. We thought it would be a good idea to swing by and check.
The first place was an elderly home for about 250 people. When we showed them some of the sample supplies, the director started crying saying it was exactly whet he was looking for and couldnt find.
Japanese people do not cry very often, so we knew he was grateful. I was able to tag the location and email a copy of it to Nathan in real time. The director referred us to a second location, which was taking care of 500 elderly. Again, while they had food and water, they needed some of these other supplies like hygiene kits (they contain razors, soap, shampoo, things if that nature), buckets, tarps, shoes, boots, etc – they too were excited about it and referred us to a third location which was not officially sponsored, but still had 60 people there they were feeding and caring for. We tagged both of these locations and sent copies to Nathan.
One thing we learned for the three in need was that they had food and water, but were lacking on everything else. The main distribution center was supposed to be providing for everything they needed, but they are still unorganized and often do not have what is needed. This is where bottlenecks occur- that main center is so full of people and supplies coming in that they cannot keep track of what goes where and when. It’s a type of information overload – exactly the same as in Haiti, too much to systematically be efficient.
Additionally, those who know about the center or have means to go there (car and gas) will have access to it, while those who do not are more likely to fall between the cracks. There are always those who will fall between the cracks, and these are the people I like to focus on.
We located several other locations today, but only one other had needs, the rest were “doing good”. This presents another problem I have seen before: everyone has needs, there are just different degrees of needs, and this is something u have to determine when you are assessing the situation. How bad do they need it? Why give aid to someone who only “sort of needs it” when the guy down the street “desperately needs it”. It’s something I’m becoming better at picking up on and clues can be found in how good the roads are leading to their location, the number of cars there, their body language and excitement/lack of upon meeting us. There are about 900 people we tracked down today who have very high degrees of need.
I think Nathan likes the GPS tagging technique, and it puts him in a very powerful position to move aid quickly.
Here’s how it could work-
One native and one GPS tagger look for locations in need. When a location is found, it is gps tagged and that info is sent to the distribution point which then assembles the order, packs it and sends it out as fast as possible. A transport crew moves the goods to the location, and delivers it within the hour of the order being placed. In the mean time, the GPS tagger team continues to look, tag and send new locations.
Meysen is now in a position to do this very thing- all of the chess pieces are in place. They have access to a huge store room of supplies- 90 tons at one point. The have transport, fuel, logistics support for volunteers, and not one, but two GPS tagging teams (I am teaching Nate how to do it- I think he has it down).
I believe that most (not all) of these people we met today would eventually get the aid they need, but not nearly as soon as we could make it happen in this type of set up. It’s a great opportunity to do good.
On a side note- the helicopter delivery to Miyoto Island didn’t work out, however we did organize their goods to be shipped over by boat. Meysen provided the fuel for our boat contact who was happy to step up and make a few runs. Thomas packed and delivered the goods while we were tagging today. It was a great team effort by all involved and the people of Miyoto have many of the supplies they really, REALLY needed. It’s a beautiful thing.
Today was a great day – looking forward to making deliveries tomorrow and finding more places in need. It is a miracle to me that I was able to find Meysen and we have been able to synergize our unique resources in such a quick and harmonious manner.
I also do not believe it to be coincidence- kinda crazy to imagine that I came over believing I would work with the Salvation Army again, when in fact I had no real contacts with aid organizations on the ground. (SA cannot come until the nuclear issue is resolved.)Tomorrow will be another great day.
I am really tired…”