HMAS Sydney’s Goodwill Ambassadors

HMAS Sydney's Goodwill Ambassadors

A group of HMAS Sydney (IV)’s finest have made a touching goodwill journey to lend support to victims of Japan’s 2011 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear power plant disaster.

The 14 RAN ambassadors made a five hour journey from Sydney (IV)’s berth in Yokosuka, to Iino, in the Fukashima Prefecture, to meet with the displaced people from Iitate Village.

The entire population of Iitate were evacuated from their homes because of radiation level concerns following the Fukashima nuclear power plant explosions.

The Sydney (IV) group handed out gifts of stickers, posters, rulers, pens and balloons to the children at the Iino pre-school, before moving to a junior-high school.

They were given the opportunity to listen as students told of their experiences since the disaster and their hopes and dreams for the future.

SMNMT Ben Jay said it was amazing to hear what the children had been through.

“They were exposed to radiation through their water and through the snow, but they were the happiest, nicest people with great spirit,” said SMN Jay.

“It was the best and most rewarding day I’ve had since we’ve been in Japan,” he said.

Australia has had close links with the area since the disaster.

The Australia-Japan Foundation recently funded a playground in Iino for the displaced children and sponsored a visit to the Gold Coast by 24 children from the tsunami devastated town of Minami Sanriku.

Sydney (IV)’s volunteers also helped students with their English lessons.

LCDR Linda Morris said she was inspired by the Iitate people’s effort to stay as one community.

“I was really honoured that they took the time to tell their stories,” said LCDR Morris.

“Their future is in limbo but they demonstrated their strength and happiness and it was very inspirational,” she said.

The group met with the Mayor of Iitate Village, Norio Kanno, and local government officials who expressed their gratitude for the assistance Australia has provided, and for the ongoing support.

Naval Today Staff, October 16, 2012; Image: Australian Navy