With the leak of radio active materials from the Fukushima Daiichi Plant, my thoughts went to my friends and acquaintances in Fukushima Prefecture. Are people still volunteering for a disaster recovery center in Minami-Soma District, located within 20-mile radius of the leaking plant? When I checked their blog site, I could not help smiling. Today, 70 volunteers participated in weeding, drain cleaning, and debris removal. The photo was taken a year ago when I helped unclog a well drain in Odaka, 12 miles north of the plant. Volunteers are still engaged in similar projects. Even though the center has been facing financial difficulties, they seem to be thriving with an average of 40 volunteers signed up for each day.
These volunteers paid for their transportation and food. When a lodge provided by the center were full, they had to look for an accommodation, which was not easy as hotel rooms were reserved by construction companies months in advance. In my case, I had a list of about 20 hotels, and the last one I called had a room available. Often, we did not see the owners of the houses we are cleaning. A restriction was still in effect, and no one was allowed to stay overnight there. Most of the evacuees live in temporary housing units built far inland.
The real time data of environmental radioactivity level is available online. For example, the level at Minami-Soma City Office today was 0.272 µSv/h, slightly higher than the normal level of less than 0.114 µSv/h. Most of the volunteers were well informed of radiation effects. Nevertheless, they took a risk. I judged I would be OK as my exposure would be limited to 3 days. The fact I did not have dependents played a role in my decision-making as well.
Why do we volunteer in Fukushima? A man said, "For self-satisfaction." I agreed with him. The center director had a different answer. "When the evacuees are allowed to return home, we want them to be able to start afresh."