KUMAMOTO, Japan — In a country such as Japan so prone to frequent natural disasters, sometimes some victims of disasters get left behind as attention gets diverted to newer disasters, particularly by those volunteer entities that come to assist victims in times of disasters.
Mr. Ryouta Matsuoka of Yukyu no kai, a volunteer organization that has been helping to resettle the citizens of Kumamoto who were affected by 2016 earthquakes, was himself such a victim of an earlier earthquake and brings his personal experience and outlook into his volunteer work ensuring that no victim is left behind.
Using an analogy of a marathon, Matsuoka says that like some runners that get cut off before they reach the finish line, so does some survivors of disasters. Before their needs are fully met, the work of disaster relief is declared completed and help disappears leaving victims behind.
Recounting his experience as an 11-year-old survivor of the 1995 Great Hanshin Earthquake, which devastated the city of Kobe, one of six children of a single parent and his experience with a volunteer organization at the time that left an indelible mark on him, said drove him to establish a volunteer group that is committed to helping victims or survivors of disasters leaving no one behind.
Moving to Kumamoto a year before the double earthquakes of 2016, he was able to organize friends and people with similar experiences to provide the much-needed help to the survivors of Kumamoto earthquakes.
Three and half years later and he and his volunteers are still running programs to assist the remaining survivors transition to their normal lives.
Matsuoka emphasized listening to the victims, what their needs are, understanding their situation and working with them to find best solution that will help them cope and adjust to their new lives.
Out of the 18 temporary housing areas, Yukyu No Kai is present in three areas, working with the remaining residents to create a community of support for each other.
Advocating for a more survivor-focused volunteer programs, Matsuoka feels that the “established” volunteer organizations often do not understand the needs of the survivors, take lead in disaster without full commitment to see things through and leaving before seeing the work to its completion, and in doing so, leave many survivors struggling to cope.
Matsuoka and his group of volunteers are committed to work hard to raise funds and help every survivor get resettled leaving no one behind. (L.N Reklai)