MISTI / MIT-Japan Program students volunteer in Tohoku, where the tsunami hit in 2001
ITADAKIMASU: eating curry rice that we made together with the obachan's (grandmas) at the Senior Support Center in Otsuchi.

From July 31 to August 2, 2015, eight MISTI-Japan Program summer interns traveled over six hours from Tokyo to Otsuchi, Iwate Prefecture to volunteer at Senior Support Centers with the Japanese not-for-profit, Social Hearts. Otsuchi is one of the coastal towns where the tsunami and earthquake devastated the region on March 11, 2011. The 9.0 underwater earthquake and the tsunami thereafter took more than 1,200 lives in Otsuchi which was about 10% of the population. Although more than four years have passed, many people are still displaced and living in temporary housing build by the government. Many of those living in these temporary shelters are elders who living in a new community and one of events they look forward to is the events conducted at one of the three Senior Support Centers in the area.

 

The eight MIT students and the MIT-Japan Program managers spent three days in Otsuchi cooking with the elders, singing Karaoke, studying English, playing New England Quiz games, eating shaved ice, talking  about life and listening to their stories. One of the resident, an 86-year-old grandmother described the day the tsunami engulfed her town and took away her husband. Everyone that the students met had lost or at least knew someone who had lost someone because of the tsunami. The students also spent time volunteering at the local nursery school, which coincided with the summer festival. 

 

From July 31 to August 2, 2015, eight MISTI-Japan Program summer interns traveled over six hours from Tokyo to Otsuchi, Iwate Prefecture to volunteer at Senior Support Centers with the Japanese not-for-profit, Social Hearts. Otsuchi is one of the coastal towns where the tsunami and earthquake devastated the region on March 11, 2011. The 9.0 underwater earthquake and the tsunami thereafter took more than 1,200 lives in Otsuchi which was about 10% of the population. Although more than four years have passed, many people are still displaced and living in temporary housing build by the government. Many of those living in these temporary shelters are elders who living in a new community and one of events they look forward to is the events conducted at one of the three Senior Support Centers in the area that provide “lifelong learning” activities for the seniors.

 

The eight MIT students and the MIT-Japan Program managers spent three days in Otsuchi cooking with the elders, singing Karaoke, studying English, playing New England Quiz games, eating shaved ice, talking about life and listening to their stories. One of the resident, an 86-year-old grandmother described the day how the tsunami engulfed her town and took away her husband. Everyone that the students met had lost or at least knew someone who had lost someone because of the tsunami. The students were awe-stricken by the sheer strength of the people of Otsuchi. The students also spent time volunteering at the local nursery school, which coincided with the summer festival. When asked what was the highlight, Elise Xue, EECS '17 responded, "Definitely working with the elderly. They have very painful stories, but they are still very energetic and strong. Talking with them felt like I was learning as well." Anastassia Bobokalonova, Biology, '16 said, "Highlights were all the moments we were personally interacting with the seniors, such as during cooking the curry, and learning English, and communicating one-to-one. Although it was brief, it was very immersive and personal."

 

Everyone who participated saw a different part of Japan that was not the fast-paced and glitter of Tokyo, and became better friends because of the weekend. 

 

 

  • Japan
  • Internship