Japan Disaster: Rebuilding with the helping hands of volunteers
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For many in Tokyo, life has returned to normal a year after the earthquake and tsunami, but the rebuilding work continues. Much of the credit for the recovery goes to the hard work of volunteers.
In Tokyo, volunteers continue to hit the roads and rails to help those in need.
On one trip, workers from Barclays Capital head north on Japan's bullet train to areas devastated by the tsunami. For nearly a year, many of the bank's employees have been pitching in to help clean up communities and restore lives. And they say they are in it for the long haul.
"We believe this is one of the most important things,” Barclays Capital COO Koichi Hasegawa said. “Having a three year commitment, long term commitment. Therefore we are able to build a relationship with local people. "
The bank employees said they don't have the skills to build houses, but their work to remove debris from destroyed areas has been vital to the recovery. Perhaps just as important, the volunteers have recovered photos and other cherished items from the rubble for families struck by the disaster.
The bank volunteers are now focusing on education and emotional healing, especially for families placed in temporary housing units.
"We are speaking with them and spending time with them, especially the children,” Hasegawa said. “We are teaching them English and how to use computers.”
Lauren McMurray is a former teacher out of Austin. She said she just had to come to Japan after the earthquake to take part in the recovery, but it took a few months to get overseas.
"I didn't have the funds to come here and there was nothing set up to receive the volunteers at the time, but as soon as possible, and I had the opportunity, I kind of quit everything and came here," she said.
She said she went to college in Japan and had a job here for awhile, so that made her decision a lot easier to come back during a difficult time.
"I felt like Japan was my second home,” McMurray said. “And something had happened to my second home. I had to be a part of restoring that for being a part of helping these people that hadn't been so kind to me. "
She is now returning the favor by volunteering. She has also taken a job as a teacher and plans to call Japan home for a little while longer.