Building a new life after the disaster

By Francis Markus, IFRC

Teru Yamada turned 80 years old in December. But compared to the careworn and wrinkled look the diminutive grandmother had in the months after the disaster, she has taken on a much more cheerful and youthful appearance.

“I’m sleeping much better and I feel much more relaxed,” she says. The big change is that she and her daughter Ayako moved out of their cramped prefabricated temporary home into a brand new five room house a few kilometres away.

Not waiting

They decided, like many other families displaced from their homes by the triple nuclear meltdown, not to wait for the possibility of eventual return to their house in Namie, which is at the heart of the nuclear no-go area around the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.

“We were able to get tax exemption on buying the house and also some support from the local government to upgrade the water filtration equipment because we had an extension built,” says Ayako.

Apart from that and being able to bring with them some of the household electronic appliances donated by the Red Cross Red Crescent to every displaced family when they moved into prefabs, they relied  mainly on their own resources – not even calling in a removal company to shift their belongings.

“Namie is still our home, so we continue to hope that one day we will be able to return there,” says Teru.

 

Making the best of life

But meanwhile, she is making the best of the family’s new life. While Ayako is away at her new job working at the sushi counter of a local supermarket, she spends her time going for walks to enjoy the new surroundings.

Her grandson, after having spent a long time searching for work, has also got a new job in a neighbouring city, working for a medical equipment manufacturing company.

Altogether, the last three years has been a stressful and trying time for the family. “Sometimes I can’t believe that everything which has happened here in Fukushima is real, and I think it’s all a dream which I’m eventually going to wake up from,” Ayako says.

But as they gradually work to arrange things in their house and create a homely environment, they are sure to feel more and more grounded in their lives.