Group on a mission to deliver fresh fruit to disaster-zone shelters

Staff Report

Survivors of the March 11 tsunami living in shelters need fresh fruit — this is what Minami Ishikawa and Paul Yoo from Akita Prefecture learned when they went to volunteer their time in Kesennuma, Miyagi Prefecture, in early April.

Ishikawa and Yoo talked to people at evacuation centers who told them the meals served there often consisted of a bowl of rice and miso soup but no fresh fruit or vegetables. They said they were craving such food, Yoo said.

Yoo, an assistant language teacher from the United States who teaches English at a school in Yuri Honjo, and Ishikawa, an office worker, started gathering volunteer workers right after the quake to help the evacuees in Miyagi and Iwate prefectures.

As part of their activities, they launched the Fruit Tree Project. They collected donations to buy fresh fruit and gathered volunteers — both Japanese and non-Japanese — to deliver it to evacuation centers in the tsunami-hit areas.

They started the fruit deliveries in Kesennuma during Golden Week in early May and later went to several shelters in other areas mainly over the weekends.

The project has involved more than 100 volunteers, and with support from Second Harvest Japan, a charity-based food bank in Tokyo, the group has collected more than ¥1 million in donations from all over the world. So far, they have delivered over 23,000 pieces of fruit.

“Everyone is so happy when we bring fruit to them. We want to continue bringing fruit to the shelters, especially to the small ones where people don’t get any fresh fruit at all,” said Yoo.

For more information about the project and to make a donation, email volunteerakita@gmail.com or visit its website at volunteerakita.wordpress.com