Harbourville woman offers aid to 2011 Japanese tsunami recovery efforts

Nancy Kelly
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Two and half years after an undersea earthquake unleashed a tsunami that devastated parts of north-eastern Japan, a Berwick-area osteopath returned to the city of Ishinomaki, Miyagi Prefecture, to promote healing in the community she once called home.

 

Jan Tait, a Trager practitioner and osteopathic manual practitioner, has been working out of the Valley Naturopathic Clinic in Berwick since 2011. Now a resident of Harbourville, Tait lived in the city of Ishinomaki from 2000 to 2003, when she taught English to locals. She likened the community to Halifax.

 

“Its population is about 300,000 and it is a port city, where fishing is the main industry,” she explained.

 

In a region where earthquakes are fairly common, there was nothing run-of-the-mill about the tsunami that began after a mega-thrust earthquake was triggered off the coast of Japan mid-afternoon on March 11, 2011. Tait was shocked to learn about the magnitude of the earthquake that caused the tsunami’s powerful 10 metre waves, which crashed into the city, killing more than 3,000 people and completely destroying 20,000 homes.

 

“I was absolutely heartbroken,” she said. “I had immediate concerns for my friends and their families because I knew they were in a very vulnerable situation.”

 

Wanting to help, she joined forces with a network of people to conduct an online search for people affected and displaced by the tsunami.

 

“It was a good three weeks before we heard anything,” said Tait, adding that the city’s communication infrastructure was severely damaged by the tsunami.

 

When information started to get out, Tait learned that some families who had been separated by the rushing waters made their way back to Ishinomaki, only to discover loved ones had perished in the flood waters. She found it heart-wrenching to learn about the conditions survivors were living in and the fact that many people had no food.

 

“I knew right then that I would go back. Not as a visitor or a watcher, but to do something to help. Action is what counts.”

 

When she returned to Ishinomaki in October for a month-long visit, Tait took her osteopathy training and skills with her. Based on the belief that the body has a self-healing system, osteopathic treatment employs manual techniques to balance all the systems of the body to provide overall good health and well-being. 

 

While in Japan, Tait could see that many people who lived through the tsunami remained in a state of shock.

 

“They are not sleeping and haven’t been at ease since the tsunami. In their minds, they are still in flight and fear it will happen again. Some people still can’t believe what they went through.”

 

Her treatment focused on helping patients get to a restful state in order to calm their stress.

 

“Stress is very degenerative. The body cannot heal when it is dealing with stress.”

 

While working out of a host clinic, Tait treated 42 people, providing alignment treatment for their endocrine and nervous systems.

 

“It was all about taking stress off them.”

 

Feedback on her treatment trip has been very positive.

 

“People felt good not only from the treatment, but from knowing their struggles hadn’t been forgotten,” she said.

 

Tait’s trip also presented her with an opportunity to celebrate the resilience of the people of Ishinomake. She was supported by a community of friends back in Nova Scotia, which held a fundraiser before her departure. The event raised $500, which Tait donated to replanting and reforestation efforts in the Ishinomaki region.

 

“I just wanted to hug them all,” Tait said about reuniting with friends and formers students. She characterized the people of Ishinomaki as “sweet, lovely people with a great sense of humour,” and reflected on her time living in the community as “very special.”

 

Despite the devastation, Tait said people of Ishinomaki possess the same spirit and cohesive sense of community that is the hallmark of their culture.

 

“They are so supportive of each other. It was wonderful to be able to go back and give of my time and skills to support them, too.”

 

Visit  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sBtRIRiTJqA to view a video of the tsunami, shot from the rooftop of an Ishinomaki office building.

 

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