The staff of the Hisaichi Shogaisha Center Iwate take care of victims with disabilities by providing welfare devices, helper services, and pick-up services to the hospital. Today we are interviewing Mr. Takashi Yawata, Head of the Office.
Interviewer: Please share with us your thoughts about the activities you have done in the past six months.
Yawata: So far we have met about 160 personal requests for disabled persons and senior citizens. We have seven staff members in the office now. Currently, there are four local staff members, and three from other prefectures such as Okinawa, Chiba, and Hyogo. They all have an experience in the welfare services. We have spent the grant fund on monthly salaries for the staff and rents for the office.
Interviewer: Why did you open an office in Tono city?
Yawata: Because of the geographical location. It takes about two and a half hours or three to get to Rikuzen-takata city from Morioka city by car. The Tono office saves us half the time. We would send two staff members there on a twice-a-week shifts to continue our activities. We have just moved the location to Ofunato city in September, which is for an early preparation for the coming winter.
Interviewer: What have you learned through your activities?
Yawata: Those persons with disabilities who live in this area use residential care facilities instead of day care centers because there are few. They have no choice. It’s sad that there is no helper service in the coastal area that assists them in household chores or shopping. If the parents want to take care of their disabled child at home, they tend to think that they need to do everything by themselves without any help. So we take time listening to them, which makes them get their feelings off their chest, and that’s when their real needs come out.
Interviewer: Could you give us any examples?
Yawata: For example, some of the individuals with disabilities may want to take their time to remove rubble out of their house, taking a month or two to make sure where every and each of their belongings is. But volunteers may “kindly” help get it done way more quickly than they really wish. That’s tricky. I’ve come to learn the importance of listening to them while we provide welfare services. Also, I’ve noticed that unexpectedly there are few disabled persons who have moved to temporary houses even after the housing was open to the victims. It seems like most of them are renting an apartment in the city. Grasping the real situation is an issue we’re having right now. We need to find out what’s really going on. I’m quite sure that there should be lots of latent needs.
Interviewer: Please share your future plans with us.
Yawata: We would like to build a bathing facilities in the coastal area, with which individuals with disabilities can feel comfortable. The bathing services are currently prioritized for mainly senior citizens. But at the same time I believe that at this moment we now should wait and see exactly what the government and the locals are trying to do. We see that this program will not end in two or three years. We should continue it at least another five years.
Interviewer: What do you think is necessary for that?
Yawata: We need funding for gas fees and employment costs. We also need
to educate our staff. We are very appreciative for the grant we received because we know where it came from. I would appreciate it if we could receive it as long as possible. We are committed to earn trust from the local government little by little. Without a local community, we wouldn’t be able to continue the support for individuals with disabilities.
Interviewed in Morioka, Iwate Prefecture on Sept 27th, 2011