The Kyodan Tohoku District Nuclear Disaster ReliefTask Force, “IZUMI,” was formed in October 2013, in accordance with a resolution passed at the 68th Tohoku District Annual Assembly in May of that same year.
Presently, this task force is comprised of a director, an adviser, and a steering committee of five members, including the director, who work with four active full-time staff and a number of volunteers. The office is located in the annex of the Tohoku District Center in Sendai. This was previously a two-story missionary residence called “Maggie House,” which was renovated for our use through funding from the Kyodan and Tohoku District. The steering committee meets once a month, and a staff meeting is held every week. At these meetings there are detailed accounts of the work being done, and ample time is taken in planning future steps. This is because engaging with the problems of radioactive contamination calls for a variety of approaches. Our activities focus on health consultation and examinations, recuperative programming, visitation, and listening. From our first month of activity, we developed programs for recuperation. In December 2013, the physician who performed the first thyroid examinations also gave a lecture. This lecture, as well as five others that followed by other lecturers, was about radioactivity. In the beginning, Dr. Yamazaki Tomoyuki came to us from Airin Church in Osaka District to provide health consultation every month. This was very important for the care of families of children attending church-related kindergartens and nurseries in Fukushima Prefecture. It is impossible to talk about the cooperative relationship we have with the Information Center for Radioactivity in Aizu, located in Wakamatsu Sakaemachi Church in Fukushima Prefecture, without mentioning Dr. Yamazaki.
The first thyroid examinations were given in December 2013. The 24th series of examinations was held in January of this year. Over 1,000 children have been examined. Recently, examinations are being performed every month without fail. Children under 18 at the time of the disaster in Fukushima, who are now living in Miyagi Prefecture, have been the main focus of the examinations that we have arranged. For a brief period, we rented an echo machine, but with full funding from the Kyodan, we were able to obtain our own echo machine. We are extremely grateful for this. Since obtaining our own equipment, we have been able to take it throughout Miyagi Prefecture as well as to places close to us in southern Fukushima Prefecture, such as Marumorimachi, Kakuda City, and Shiroishi City. We were also able to take it to Kurihara City in the northern part of Fukushima Prefecture, which was said to have a high degree of radioactivity.
When visiting areas throughout Japan and reporting on our work, we are asked why we are working only in Miyagi Prefecture and not in Fukushima Prefecture. There has been no decision not to go to Fukushima Prefecture. We have visited the Kawatani Church kindergarten in the southern part of Fukushima Prefecture twice for thyroid examinations. One of the reasons we do so much work in Miyagi Prefecture is that the prefectural government has decided there is no danger of radioactivity and sees no need for thyroid examinations. However, at the local level, there is a different understanding. For example, due to the cooperation of the town of Ogawaramachi, we did thyroid examinations in that community. When a notice of our examinations was posted on the official town site, there was a flood of applications. The same thing happened in Shiraishi. In Ogawaramachi, the local government provided its facilities for the examinations, and the mayor came to observe. In one day, about 100 children received examinations. Normally, about 50 are seen in one day. The challenge of continuing thyroid examinations is finding doctors who will volunteer for only a travel subsidy. This year we were concerned because the doctor who had helped us was transferred, but we are thankful that suitable help has been provided.
There are two recuperative programs: one short-term and one long-term. The long-term program is held in Hokkaido during the summer and in Okinawa during the spring. It is a five-night, six-day program, with much cooperation from Hokkaido and Okinawa districts. In March we are planning to have our ninth long-term program at Amami Oshima in Kyushu District. It has been five years since the Great East Japan Disaster. The work of “IZUMI” began as an effort to protect the lives of children who, through God’s creative activity and providential guidance, are living here. This an ethical issue about life. When compared to the enormity of the nuclear disaster, this is a very small effort. However, for me, it is an effort I hope to continue. Please support us with your prayers.(Tr. JS)
From Kyodan Shinpo (The Kyodan Times), No. 4835
—Hoshina Takashi, pastor
Fukushima Church, Tohoku District