Last week, UNV Executive Coordinator Flavia Pansieri visited the earthquake and tsunami stricken town of Minami Sanriku cho and spoke at the opening of the 20th Japanese National Volunteer Festival Tokyo. She offered her deepest sympathies to the people of Japan and expressed her great admiration for the millions who are engaged as volunteers throughout the country.
Japan has a long tradition of strong support for the United Nations Volunteers (UNV) programme and volunteering, in general; from being the catalyzer in the establishment of the International Year of Volunteers in 2001 to supporting programmes and sending many international volunteers into the field each year.
Last week, UNV Executive Coordinator Flavia Pansieri visited the earthquake and tsunami stricken town of Minami Sanriku cho and was overwhelmed with grief by the annihilation of the town. But at the same time, the resilience of the Japanese people - seen through massive volunteer mobilization in the area - brings hope to all of us.
Pansieri met with the Mayor and other officials of the town and visited the volunteer coordination centre. She was particularly struck by the tireless volunteer efforts in gathering and restoring over 100,000 personal photographs. The Executive Coordinator, accompanied by Marco van der Ree, Chief of Partnerships at UNV, also had the opportunity to hear about the volunteer project Kizuna, founded by students at the Kwansei Gakuin University. Kizuna, which means connection or bond in Japanese, links schools worldwide with Japanese schools like the one in Minami Sanriku cho. The project brings messages of encouragement and provides funds to disaster struck communities.
While speaking at the 20th Japanese National Volunteer Festival Tokyo, Ms Pansieri personally expressed deep felt recognition for the millions of Japanese people engaged as volunteers within the country.
"On behalf of the United Nations Volunteers (UNV) programme and all of our volunteers and staff around the world, I would like to offer our deepest sympathies to the people of Japan. We especially think of those who have lost their lives and the many people who have been affected by the great east Japan earthquake on the 11th of March. I would like to offer my best admiration for the volunteerism of the people in Japan including those in disaster affected areas," stated Pansieri during the Opening that was held in the presence of the Imperial Highnesses Prince and Princess Akishino.