The Sendai Diocese Support Center, where staff members, including some Caritas Japan employees, are coordinating volunteer activities.
The number of volunteers registered at the Sendai Diocese Support Center (SDSC) climbed above 500 on Monday, giving a welcome boost to Church relief efforts following the Japanese earthquake and tsunami. Caritas Japan, the official aid organization of the Catholic bishops’ conference, has been engaged in relief activities in areas devastated by the disaster, which struck on March 11. Much of its efforts depends on how many volunteers the support center can muster. “[Our role] is to support the operations of the Sendai Diocese Support Center one hundred percent,” said Bishop Isao Kikuchi of Niigata, president of Caritas Japan, referring to the emergency unit established on March 18. A constant rotation of Caritas Japan workers help staff the SDSC. “It’s necessary for organizations like the support center to provide volunteers with safe transportation, to arrange everything so that they can work efficiently, and to extend the reach of the volunteers into new areas,” Bishop Kikuchi said. “Also, those going out on volunteer missions need to be provided with basic essentials, so staff members are needed to ensure that happens. Of course, it also takes money. Some of the responsibility [for the manpower and money] falls on us. We are very grateful for everyone’s donations,” he added. Caritas Japan is also supporting relief efforts which are under way in other dioceses, and aid organizations working in the area. They have already received a variety of requests, which they examine to decide what assistance they can provide. Meanwhile, Sapporo diocese has been in contact with the SDSC and established a similar base of volunteer operations for itself at Miyako Church in Iwate Prefecture. Lying near the northern tip of Honshu, Iwate does not fall within Sapporo diocese, but since the disaster, some areas are easier to access from Hokkaido than from more southern regions. Seven Sapporo volunteers went to Miyako April 12-15 as an advance team led by the Vicar General of Sapporo diocese, Father Masahiro Uesugi. On Monday, Sapporo sent another six people to Miyako, who at present, are still hard at work there. Caritas volunteers blog for ucanews.com from the disaster zone