The project’s current focus is to build a vineyard that provides vital jobs for local people. It is a complicated process which involves both laying trees and farming grapes, so that the community can produce local wines and sell them to the world. We are aiming to be able to sell our stock during the Japan Rugby World Cup in 2019, which takes place just before the Tokyo Olympics.
Another important aim is to be able to provide sustainable jobs at the vineyards for those with disabilities. After the earthquake, Kamaishi City had the highest disability rate in Japan, with around 2,500 people affected by mental or physical problems. It can be difficult for those with disabilities to earn a living in Japan and government support is limited. We are proud that our project has enabled the employees to earn approximately £1,500 a month, so that they are able to support themselves.
There are many challenges when working on a project that supplies relief on such a large scale. Initially, after the earthquake, the local community did not particularly trust outsiders. We have had to slowly build that trust over the years, by regular visiting and helping to rebuild the city.
The work can also be difficult emotionally. After the disaster we were responsible for collecting photos that had been found on the ground, cleaning them, and returning them to their owners. Of course it was fantastic to unite people with their valued possessions, but it was also quite an upsetting experience.