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Thursday, January 15, 2015

Donated Books to Japan - An Amazing Act of Love

This blog has a regular reader - and me, a very good friend - named Vinny, or Vinnie or sometimes just Vince, depending on my mood or level of forgetfulness.

I've known him for a couple of years now, a very humble man who wants to one day go to Japan and studies the language and reads books and blogs and newspapers on his target subject to help him get a better feel of the environment he will be subjecting himself to.

I've always said it is probably best to stop reading all of those things and just go there and be surprised, but not everyone can be as lazy as me, I suppose.

Until such time as he stops procrastinating and buys that ticket to the Land of the Rising Sun, Vinnie/Vinny/Vince spends quite a lot of his savings purchasing books, puzzles and calendars - all in English - and sending them off to schools in Ishinomaki, a city in Miyagi-ken, Japan.

Ishinomaki (石巻) is a large city on the coast, east of Sendai, and if you will recall was also one of those cities that was absolutely crapped on by the tsunami (caused by the 9.0 earthquake) back on March 11, 2011 - an event known as the 2011 Tohoku earthquake.

Several huge waves - many up to 10 meters (33-feet) in height, traveled some five kilometers (3.1 miles) up from the coast and inland, destroying:
  • 80% of the 700 houses in Ayukawa area;
  • 100% of the Kadonowaki area;
  • Total of 46% of the city swamped;
  • 3,097 dead and 2,770 unaccounted for as of June 17, 2011, so add that to the number (5,867).
Included in that death toll were 70 of the 108 students and nine of the 13 teachers and staff of Ishinomaki Okawa Elementary School (大川小学校).

American Taylor Anderson was also killed by the tsunami(s). She was a JET (Japan Exchange & Teaching) Programme teacher at one of the schools in Ishinomaki. I've never written one word about her or the other JET who died that day, because I didn't know them and I simply didn't feel I should out of respect to those who did know them.

That earthquake also MOVED the whole city southward and downward by as much as 1.2 meters (3.9 feet)… which now causes parts of the city where this happened to actually flood twice daily at high tide. How fudged up is that?

And yet…  the people there soldier on. While not healed, but healing, there is still a make-do philosophy that exists, perhaps counting being alive either a blessing or a curse (half-full/empty).

And this is where Vinnie/Vinny/Vince comes in.

While many agencies and folk from around the world have sent the necessities such as blankets, tents, medicines and foods as well as donated umpteen dollars to try and help the survivors - and Vinnie/Vinny/Vince may have done that too… I never asked - he has taken up a role (just a role) as someone interested in helping the survivors move past the horrors, to get a semblance of normalcy back into their lives.

Vinnie/Vinny/Vince is involved in the world of books and magazines and newspapers in a similar but completely different way than my self, and so has a healthy respect for all things paper… one of those many things that tsunami water doesn't mix very well with.

Not knowing what school books to purchase for kids FINALLY able to attend school again, he realized that they did at least study English.

To that, he reasoned, they could always use some books and games and such - educational materials!

So he went out, spent his own money - he's not a rich man - and bought a butt-load of books written in English, for various levels of reading comprehension, and then mailed them off to the Ishinomaki Board of Education (at his own cost), after first discovering a contact there.

He's done that many, many times since then… I think at least two or three times a year…. though I could be slightly exaggerating that - or even under-exaggerating things.

The point isn't in the quantity of what he is sending at his own expense, rather that he - someone who has never been to Japan - has done so at all.

It's been a couple of years now of him donating his time and money to this very just and noble cause, and he told me back on January 6, 2015 that his contact there, Ms. Yamaki Rieko (surname first) that someone was going to write to him about some of the books he had sent previously.

Ah, those Japanese… ever so cryptic.

Well, he did receive a small box from Japan… it contained an ornament, Japanese candy and a card with a few photos.

From what Vinnie/Vinny/Vince learned that day, was that many of his books were added to the school libraries where a certain JET had taught before her untimely death. It was never his plan to have done that, he just wanted the Japanese children to have a chance to read or listen to English stories.

With Vinnie/Vinny/Vince's permission already gathered to relate all of this, you can see evidence of the card he was sent (below) - click on it to enlarge so you can read it of someone who... well... just read it.  - and a couple of touching photos of kids with his very kind gifts.

It's a nice little letter - and all in all a nice present back from Ishinomaki.

Kanpai, Vinnie/Vinny/Vince, kanpai,
Andrew Joseph

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