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Nozomi Project Blog

Giving Back: Flood Relief in Western Japan

These past two months have been particularly devastating for the nation of Japan in terms of natural disasters. This week our beloved country has experienced Typhoon Jebi in western Japan and a 7.0 earthquake up north. Earlier this summer, constant heavy rains led to major flooding in southwestern Japan. Some areas had as much as 3 inches of rain per hour, according to the Japan Meteorological Agency. Over 200 were killed in flood-related incidents.

In the spirit of spreading hope, Nozomi Project is sending 10% of our July and August sales to help the flood relief efforts. On July 22, 2018, a team from our Ishinomaki community went down to volunteer in a city near Hiroshima called Kure. They joined the Hiroshima Christian Volunteer Center, which has been helping to coordinate the relief efforts with the needs of the communities.

After they came back, we caught up with Chad, who helped coordinate the trip. We’re always honored to partner with him! He shared that the flood evidence was reminiscent of the 2011 tsunami up here – tall floodwater marks, piles of trash, people in great need. Positive aspects of the trip were similar, too: stories of hope, people serving each other, and beauty in brokenness.

Each morning of the week-long relief trip, the team met to discuss the day’s location and assigned tasks. Each day brought a different assignment depending on the needs of the community. The first day they shoveled mud and debris into bags. Another day, they hauled dirt bags away in wagons and onto trucks. There’s a temporary trash dump for the neighborhood; they drove dirt bags there once they’d been hauled onto the trucks.

relief volunteer group sitting around table volunteers in blue vests load debris on truck 

volunteers move dirt bags out of house mass of twisted metal used to be a car 

tall man stands near flood line with raised hand to show height pile of ruined tatami straw mats after flood

Tatami mats (last picture, above) are usually about 3 x 6 feet, a couple inches thick, and cored with wood chips or rice straw. They’re covered with dried woven rush, with cloth along the edges… in other words, they’re great sponges. Any tatami mats touched by floodwaters were soaked and completely ruined. This picture was taken in a neighborhood that had a couple rows of houses, most having tatami-covered ground floors.

Each mud-saturated tatami mat is so heavy that two grown men struggle to carry one mat together. When showing some of our Ishinomaki friends pictures from this relief trip, this picture of tatami mats actually got some of the most significant reactions.

The work was hard and hot. Right after the rains stopped, a huge heat wave caused health difficulties for survivors and a lack of volunteers. Chad told us that at some points, the volunteers were instructed to take a 5-minute break for every 10 minutes of working to avoid heat stroke!

In every disaster we see, we look for stories of beauty in brokenness. We asked Chad what kinds of things inspired thoughts of this theme during the Kure trip…

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There’s a man who has, on his own, been slowly working to mud out his home. He’s a bit of a hoarder, so his first floor is full of things that have been ruined by floodwaters. The team was assigned to his house one day. He looks at them a little warily when he sees that their vests identify them with the Hiroshima Christian Volunteer Center.

“I’m not a Christian…”

“It’s ok, we’re just here to help anyone who needs it.”

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Some local people came out to volunteer. One neighborhood sent a whole group. They want to serve their own community.

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A father-son duo is volunteering together. The teenage son isn’t always the most cheerful when told to do chores at home. But here, he serves joyfully. The father sees this, smiling with pride.

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Even in the face of disaster, the Japanese overwhelmingly display admirable qualities of patience and courtesy. They aren’t selfish or panicky. Chad has helped during numerous disasters, and he’s noticed this time and again. The people of Kure are no different.

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If you are interested in donating to the ongoing Japan relief efforts, you can do so here:  https://nozomiproject.com/collections/additional-donations-1

Chad is pictured below on the left. Eric (pictured below, right) is planning to lead another team from our community in several weeks. 

four men are dirty from mudouts but smile at camera  twilight makes purple sky over Kure after flooding

Thank you, volunteers!

Nozomi Project would like to thank the hundreds of volunteers who have come and volunteered with us in Ishinomaki. Your willingness to come and serve by picking up dirty, broken pottery, washing and sorting it, carrying it to and from various locations, bringing supplies from the U.S., coming to teach, help, encourage our staff, serving as a Nozomi partner, purchasing and giving Nozomi products, serving as a host for our staff, writing notes, sharing the Nozomi story, and praying for each staff and our families -- we are so grateful. You have extended hope to us! Please tag your name and/or the names of people you know who have come and served with us. Seeing the list of names will be a wonderful reminder of the beauty that comes from brokenness.

Off to a thankful start

As we begin our first of hopefully many blog entries to come, we want to start by thanking some of the individuals and companies who have helped the Nozomi Project get off to such a great start.

CJD&CE (Chief Jewelry Designer & Consultant Extraordinaire):  Lisa Nakkim.  Our meeting in August was a divine thing;  each one of her jewelry designs have continued in that nature.  She and wonderful friend Rebecca Hanford came in September and brought life to our dreams by teaching our curious but beginning staff how to make each line.  Thanks to you two, we have been going strong ever since.  Lisa also continues to consult and provides all of our supply ordering for us. Thank you! 

Asher Freeman was our first jewelry designer who came and lent his expertise and encouragement.  Waiting for you to come back!

Web Design:  Sandra McCormack – A volunteer here with us in Ishinomaki three times, she has given of her time and amazing abilities many times over in our website design, ongoing web maintenance, and logo design.  Thanks for sharing your talents to make this web site a reality.

Team Expansion – has taken on the Nozomi Project as our non-profit sponsor in the U.S. and made our current donation/gift system possible.  Thank you for your flexibility and being willing to try new things with so much joy (and speed). Asian Access has helped with receipting gifts on the US side as well.

Thanks to the volunteers over the past six months who have tirelessly gathered, washed, and organized the broken shards from across Ishinomaki. We could never have started or continued this project without those pieces – and could never have paid enough for all the hours that have gone into this.

Several companies have helped us start through generous donations, discounts, and sponsorships.  Thanks to Samaritan’s Purse   and International Disaster Emergency Services for grants to help us get started, to several individual gifts from friends who believe in what God is doing here (Larry, Mona & John, John & Judy, Susan, Yuko K.); our friends at Knotty Boards for the wonderful gift of boards that we use daily to make our jewelry;  Bob and the folks at Aanraku Glass Studios for the special discounts and free shipping (couldn’t make our jewelry without your bails!)… Britt at Nubry.com for the great PR.

During the first few months, there were various friends/groups who gave of their time, experience and skills to help guide our process and/or help us begin sales:  David Lin, Anne Peterson,  Jonathan Kohl, the Go Hawaii teams, Ryan Manieri, Lilly Tokuyama, Shelly Harary, Rolling Hills Covenant Church, MaryJo Wilson, Joe Handley, Kashiwa-san, Megumi Sasaki, Heavenly Treasures, Ruth Harimoto, Anda Foxwell, Kelly Chase, Mt. Laurel Evangelical Free Church, Cathy Swanson, Kris Weigel, Allison Norton, Beth White, Jonathan Autman and Sanda Chapel.  You are awesome!

 Many others have given good advice, great enthusiasm and shared this story.  All of those who have continued to pray for this special project – thank you!  We love all you customers who have been among the first to purchase and wear our jewelry.

This whole thing starts – and eventually will end – with God.  He gave the vision; He has brought the resources, the staff, the customers, the wisdom step by step.  He is making oh! so many beautiful things.