Interviewed by Isao Tokuhashi & Katsutoshi Ito
Written by Isao Tokuhashi
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Sri Lankan Curry Kitchen Project
Today we introduce you to a group of Sri Lankans, who set up soup kitchens for the earthquake victims. They contacted devastated areas and municipalities which received evacuees right after the earthquake, then headed to sites in the disaster area of Fukushima with tons of curry meals.
They’ve visited three shelters in Fukushima and dished out 2000 meals. Also they distributed about 330 portions to people in Asahi City, which is located at the far end of Greater Tokyo area.
What is the biggest motivation for them, who overcame the concepts of country and race and offered helping hands to Japanese victims? We interviewed Medagama Gamage Sunil, the honorary consul general of Sri Lanka in Japan, the spearhead for this whole project.
We want to help them from the bottom of our hearts
The soup kitchen project in Ibaraki (part of Greater Tokyo) which I’ve been heading firstly went to the shelters in Iwaki City, Fukushima Prefecture on March 23. It was about two weeks after the quake occurred. Then we visited several cities in Fukushima with a thousand curry meals. We contacted all the areas where evacuees took shelter in and Fukushima Prefecture asked us to come.
Now we’re heading to our fourth place in Asahi, Chiba Prefecture. We will bring 327 curry dishes to the evacuees there. I have a friend in Asahi and he asked me to come to help.
Japanese media covered people who delivered curry and rice to the shelters from Tochigi(northern part of Greater Tokyo). They are from Sri Lanka, too. Many groups of Sri Lankans in the Tokyo area helped the earthquake victims. Behind the scenes, some people said that we should help evacuees at the initiative of the consulate. I shared their opinion with the Sri Lankan Embassy and then our project started. We’ve delivered more than 10,000 curry meals to evacuees so far.
But we’ve never acted from duty. We’ve been “willingly” doing what we can. We want to help needy people from the bottom of our hearts.
Evacuees have been waiting for Sri Lankan curry meals!
Asahi, Chiba Pref (April 24, 2011)
Finally the country made a move
The country of Sri Lanka will send tea to Japan. Soup kitchens are set up by Sri Lankans living in Japan, but the tea project is conducted in my home country. A 40-feet container load of tea bags will be brought to Miyagi, one of the quake-stricken areas, on April 28, 2011 (*This interview was held on Apr. 24). I guess they’ll be able to enjoy the tea for a couple of months. We hope it would be a kind of soothing relief for evacuees.
Japanese are very courageous. People all over the world support them. So I think recovery is not going to be a long process. Of course monetary assistance is effective. But I believe goods or food supplies are more helpful for people in a time of disaster. We would like to continue this project as long as possible.
We Sri Lankans love helping each other. Parents and teachers tell us to help people in need no matter who they are. They tell us not to mind whether they are allies or foes in an emergency. Of course Japan has been our friend for a long time. We’ve received a lot of assistance from Japan. Sri Lanka and Japan have a deep relationship with each other. Both are Buddhist countries and Japan really helped us when the huge earthquake occurred in the Indian Ocean off Sumatra in 2004. My Japanese friend says that Sri Lanka helped us a lot more.
For example, Junius Richard Jayewardene, former Sri Lankan Minister of Finance, played a major role in re-admitting Japan to the world community after WWII. In his speech, he declared that Sri Lanka would never ask Japan for the wartime reparations. That was approved by many Asian countries and led to the prompt conclusion of Treaty of San Francisco in 1951. Also we are Japan’s biggest horny coat supplier.
But anyway we thought, “Now it’s our turn to give back to Japan.” after the earthquake occurred.
*Voices of evacuees in a shelter.
“This curry and rice is really yummy! I had Sri Lankan curry for the first time in my life. I’ve heard that it’s hot. But to me, it’s good. Moreover a Sri Lankan consul shook hands with me!”
76-year old woman:
“I thought that the Sri Lankan curry would be hotter but it wasn’t. I used to have a co-worker from Sri Lanka at my former workplace. He ate curry lunch everyday, setting 7 to 10 kinds of curry soups on the table. Those were exactly like soup so I thought they would be bland. On the other hand, this curry is thicker but not so hot, very palatable. I thought of him while I was eating. This reminds me of that Sri Lankan co-worker.”