Malaysia Students Association Japan had organized a volunteer trip to Otsuchi Town in Iwate Prefecture on the 6th -7th October 2012. The aim of this event was to provide a platform for Malaysians in Japan to voice their support and lend their strength to relieve disaster-stricken areas damaged by the 2011 Tohoku earthquake. 40 Malaysians including students and professionals across Japan participated in this trip.
Otsuchi Town is located 556 kilometers from Tokyo. The town was devastated by the tsunami during the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and needed reconstruction in order for the locals to resume their daily lives. In Otsuchi, the group was given the role of cleaning up a beach at the Kiri-Kiri District by the volunteer center as an effort to revive tourism in that area. The beach was littered with garbage making it unsuitable for recreational activities.
This trip was led by 3 MSAJ Exco members to ensure the event went as smooth as possible. They were Lai Chai Ei (President), Vincent Tan and Muhammad Iskandar Zulkarnain. Participants gathered in Yurokucho Station in Tokyo and then departed on the night of 5th October to Otsuchi by bus. Upon arrival in the morning, after breakfast and preparations, the participants were split into groups, briefed by Ms Fumie Takeyari, representator from Otsuchi Volunteer Centre and then started cleaning the assigned areas for the respective groups. During lunch break, Mr Kenya Watanabe who is one of the locals shared his experience when the quake and tsunami struck the area. The group spent the night at Mars Kitakami, Kitakami City which is approximately 2 hours journey by bus as there was no accommodation large enough for the group in Otsuchi. One of the main problems for individual volunteer was its high transportation and accommodation cost. Therefore, by going in a big group, the cost was much cheaper. MSAJ also sponsored more than half of the cost of the trip in order to further lighten the financial burden on the students. Safety measures during the trip were given high priority to ensure the safety of the participants.
All in all, this trip had been a very successful event done by MSAJ. This is the first time MSAJ organized a volunteering activity and it shall not be the last. The hard work and cooperation of every participant helped made this trip a wonderful one. The participants had an eye-opening experience that would not be forgotten.