Student Volunteer Send-Off Ceremony for The Great East Japan Earthquake Relief Activities

Tokyo, Japan

The Nippon Foundation is an organization involved in international humanitarian activities. Each year, a third of my time is spent working in developing countries. After the Great East Japan Earthquake, I have suspended all overseas activities for now to concentrate my efforts in the restoration of the disaster-stricken areas.

Japan Self-Defense Forces members, the police, and firefighters played a main role in rescuing lives immediately after the earthquake and tsunami and in the subsequent search for victims and those missing. A month has now passed since the earthquake. To return to life that is normal, the evacuees are gradually beginning to leave the evacuation shelters and to return to their homes. This is the time where volunteer activities are needed to provide attentive assistance to individual evacuees in proximity with them.

Today, many students have gathered here with the fervent hope of going to the disaster-hit areas to help those affected by the disaster. I would like to sincerely express my respect for your honorable volunteer spirit.

You represent the future of this nation, and I firmly believe that your activities in the disaster-stricken areas will become a valuable experience for you. I would also like to sincerely thank those of you from abroad studying in Japan for strengthening solidarity with Japan.

There are rich and poor nations in the world. There are developed countries and developing countries. Donations and aid money have come from all of those countries to support Japan. I think it is truly wonderful that solidarity on a global scale has come out of this disaster.

I ask the Japanese students, students from abroad, and many others to go to the disaster-stricken areas, work hard in helping the victims restore their lives, and encourage them. Your activities in the areas will give you an opportunity to think about many things, such as what is the meaning of life, what is progress in science and technology, what is nature, and how should science and technology coexist with nature. In addition to working in the stricken areas, I hope you will make this a wonderful opportunity to benefit your own lives.

On the other hand, your work may at times be hazardous. I ask you to work carefully and not to overextend yourselves. It is important that you take rest if you are not feeling too well.

The Nippon Foundation will continue to provide assistance for your work in the disaster-hit areas. By letting your friends, acquaintances, and other students and young people around the country know about your activities, you can increase solidarity with the victims and help in the restoration of the affected areas. Again, I would like to sincerely express my appreciation for your honorable spirit.