Private universities in the Tokyo area plan to jointly set up a base for student volunteers in Minami-Sanriku, Miyagi Prefecture, to help restoration work in areas hit hard by the Great East Japan Earthquake.
Participating universities, such as Taisho University and Rikkyo University, will work to support the rebuilding of local industries and promote tourism, among other efforts. The initiative, which will include a plan to offer the students accommodation in the disaster-hit town, is also aimed at giving them an opportunity to learn from their volunteering activity firsthand.
According to sources familiar with the initiative, the universities will launch Tohoku Saisei Shidai Net 36 (Sanriku network of private universities for revival of Tohoku) in April. The network will aim to complete construction of the volunteer center in Minami-Sanriku in July before summer vacation starts.
The center will be able to accommodate up to 100 people and will take up an area of about 3,300 square meters.
The center’s operations will be commissioned to Minami-Sanriku Fukko Dako no Kai, a local group working to revitalize the town. Universities participating in the network will each pay a 1 million yen annual membership fee, which will be used to help cover the center’s operations.
Currently, 18 private universities have expressed their intentions to join the network.
Students are expected to take part in volunteer work based on the needs of the disaster-hit areas as part of the initiative. Such work may include farming assistance and offering local people ideas for rebuilding.
Many volunteers from around Japan flocked to the disaster areas up until last summer, but their numbers have been declining recently. According to the Japan National Council of Social Welfare, the number of workers who have registered at volunteer centers in Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures totaled 171,800 in May last year, but dropped to 11,800 in January.
(Feb. 23, 2012)