FUKUSHIMA – University students in Fukushima Prefecture have begun providing elderly refugees from the nuclear disaster with a unique form of assistance just by living in the same temporary housing complex where they now live.
By staying close to the seniors and associating with them across generational lines, the young volunteers hope to revitalize their communities.
The aid project was proposed by the Fukushima University Disaster Volunteer Center, which has promoted volunteer visits to temporary housing in the radiation-tainted prefecture. It was adopted by the Reconstruction Agency as a state-subsidized “mental reconstruction” project.
The project involves a temporary housing complex in the Iizaka district in the city of Fukushima where 269 people from the town of Namie, in the exclusion zone near the meltdown-hit Fukushima No. 1 power plant, have taken shelter. About 60 percent of the residents are 60 or older.
Two students will live in the complex for three months, followed by another pair each new quarter, for an entire year. The students will meet the residents and gauge how they are getting by, shop on their behalf and support the activities of the residents’ association.
Last Sunday, about 10 students helped the first two move in, cleaning their dwelling and carrying in furniture.
“Instead of working too hard to fulfill the role of a volunteer, I aim to be accepted as a resident,” Shunichi Sato, a 22-year-old Fukushima University student who volunteered. “I’m looking forward to talking with people who I’ve had few chances to get to know.”