Robyn Gee on Friday, Apr. 22nd
Since the 9.0 earthquake and tsunamis jolted the country of Japan on March 11, people have been pouring out efforts to keep track of the state of things in the devastated areas. According to the World Health Organization of April 17, an estimated 148,885 households remain without electricity. The Ministry of Labor, Health, and Welfare (MLHW) reports at least 190,000 households were without water as of April 18.
In the Japan Earthquake and Tsunami Update, the Government of Japan reported that as of April 20, 14,063 people have been confirmed dead, with the highest number of deaths in the Miyagi prefecture (8,530). Around 135,906 people were in evacuation centers in 17 different prefectures as of April 20 – down from 440,000 on March 15.
Paul Yoo, founder of VolunteerAKITA had the opportunity to visit an evacuation shelter in Kesennuma, Miyagi in early April – a visit that inspired him to start The Fruit Tree Project. This project is raising money to bring fresh fruit to the people in the Miyagi during Golden Week (April 29 – May 5), a week of Japanese vacation and holidays.
Yoo has been in Akita, Japan for 2 years as a member of the Japanese Exchange and Teaching Program. He is 26 years old and originally from Colorado. He started the organization VolunteerAKITA with his girlfriend.
When yoo visited the shelter, he noticed that people were calmly coping with the state of things. “At the shelter, people seemed calm and were relaxed, just waiting to hear what the next step was. Kids were playing and running around, and there was a lot of organization and infrastructure set up there, which can be accredited to the great crew they have over there running the shelter,” he said.
Yoo said there are 1,100 people living in three shelters very close to each other in Kesennuma. While they are receiving prepared meals from the Japanese military which consist of a bowl of rice and miso soup, their unanimous cry was for fresh fruit. Yoo made a contact with a wholesale fruit vendor in Kesennuma and is now focused on fundraising. The Fruit Tree Project is currently collecting donations in Japan as well as online with the goal of being able to provide each person in the shelter with 2 fruits per day during the period of Golden Week.
Yoo has laid out the projected costs of the fruit on his website:
Projected Costs: Please note, although we are getting wholesale prices, the projected costs are based upon averages (fruit prices fluctuate daily)
~70 apples/box = ~4000yen
1,100 people/70 apples = ~16 boxes = 64,000yen (per day) [$781 U.S. dollars]
~60 bananas/box = ~2,500yen
1,100 people/60 bananas = ~18 boxes = 45,000yen (per day) [$549 U.S. dollars]
~5 oranges/pack = 300yen
1,100 people/5 oranges = 220 packs = 66,000yen (per day) [$806 U.S. dollars]
The goal is to supply each person in the shelter with 2 fruits per day for 10 days (ex:) one apple and one banana (for each person) = 109,000yen/day x 10days = 1,090,000yen [$13,317.00 U.S. dollars]