Deaf volunteers work in the disaster-stricken area in Yamaguchi

Deaf volunteers work
in the disaster-stricken area in Yamaguchi

One month has passed on August 21 after the heavy downpour hit Hofu City, Yamaguchi Prefecture. The natural disaster caused the loss of 17 lives.

The reconstruction activities by the prefecture administration and the volunteers are currently proceeded in the stricken area.

In the disaster area, the Deaf volunteer group has contributed to the cleaning of the houses buried under earth and sand from a mudslide and the flood. It is an unusual attempt that "vulnerable people" including Deaf persons work to support the reconstruction activities.

The group is called the Hofu City Disaster Measures Council for the Deaf, consisted of about 110 Deaf persons and members of the sign language circles. About 60 percent are Deaf, who established the organization in 2007 and have worked on the spread of the sign language expression at the disaster time, and the fire drill, etc.

This natural damage moved Deaf members to ask themselves if they could do something. One of the Deaf members (54) made the best use of his own experience in housing improvement, making up an activity plan. From July 28 through August 5, 106 people in total worked in the stricken area with the sign language interpreters.

They, putting on the best with the word "Deaf" on the back, helped five households by raking out the mud that accumulated on the Japanese mats and carrying out the furnishes and belongings.

Aged Deaf persons who were not able to do physical labor, also made the rice balls, etc., put them on the carrier of the bicycle, carried to the stricken area, and distributed them to the people.

The leader of the organization said, "We hope hearing people will understand that Deaf people can also volunteer".

An official of the Japan Council on Disability located in Tokyo said, "It is unusual that the group of persons with disabilities is active as a volunteer at the disaster on a nationwide scale. The persons with disabilities are often seen as needy people for help, but this case might show a new possibility".

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