Brazilian expats aid in quake-hit zones
Catholics from all over Japan pitch in with embassy and commercial support
Shinji Mogi and his fellow Japanese-Brazilians use heavy machinery to help clear rubble in Ishinomaki city, Miyagi Prefecture, April 1 to 3
A group of Brazilian citizens living in Japan, in cooperation with that country's embassy and companies, has formed a new organization, “Brasil Solidário” and launched efforts to help areas devastated by what media are calling the Great East Japan Earthquake.
Carlos Shinoda, 55 year-old Catholic and head of a school for Brazilians in Nagoya, is the mouthpiece of the new organization. He also acts as president of the Council of Representatives of Brazilians Abroad (CRBE).
After securing the necessary approval, and with the help of Marcos Bezerra Abbott Galvão, Brazil’s ambassador to Japan, Shinoda convened the first meeting of the new group in Tokyo on March 26.
Despite the suddenness of the call to action, 30 representatives from 60 Brazilian groups in every part of Japan came together for the event.
“We decided to purchase relief materials and bring them to disaster areas, an effort financed by Brazilian companies through the embassy of Brazil,” said Shinoda on April 2. “At present, our intention is to deliver 450 bicycles to Sendai City. Joined by Ambassador Galvão, we also plan to offer our service as volunteers there.”
They also plan a website for Portuguese-language information.
The new group’s formation follows activities by another Catholic, Shinji Mogi, 46, who used a backhoe belonging to his company based in Fujisawa City, Kanagawa, to assist in the aftermath of the disaster.
Mogi and two Brazilian volunteers loaded the backhoe on a truck and traveled 340km northeast to Natori City in Miyagi Prefecture, working there March 18-24.
“Our main thought was just to do whatever we could to help, so we took a GPS navigation system and went as far as we could go. We made it to a place where the tsunami had hit really hard, so we used the backhoe to do things like remove piles of timber for those who were out searching for their families,” said Mogi.
When the bodies of victims were found buried beneath the rubble, they were taken out by hand and carried to a safe location, while cars containing human remains were marked prominently and left for members of the police or Japanese Self Defense Force to handle. Mogi says he can still feel the sensation of the bodies on his hands.
Mogi set off on a second journey to the stricken areas on April 1. As before, he and his fellow Brazilians arrived with emergency supplies and a truckload of heavy machinery.