Baptist Global Response

For years, handicapped man has worked for other ‘Triple Disaster’ survivors


Yuya Matsuda kneels in the dirt, planting lavender seeds under the hot, Japanese sun. Until now, he hasn’t been able to keep a steady job, but BGR established this herb garden for people like Yuya—people with developmental disabilities.

The garden sits in Otsuchi Town, part of an area hit by an earthquake and subsequent tsunami on March 11, 2011. That same day, a nuclear meltdown occurred about 180 miles south of the city, as well. People now describe the events as the “Triple Disaster.”

Yuya survived by taking cover under a table in his home. After emerging, he did what he could to assist other survivors, volunteering to clean up rubble near the site where the tsunami washed away the city office, the mayor and 40 workers.

Three years later, he is still working to help other survivors.

NPO Magokoronet, a BGR partner organization, uses the herb garden specifically for handicapped tsunami survivors, but it also doubles as a park for families living in temporary government housing. Yuya has spent many, many hours toiling in the soil. He has helped erect a building, which was funded by BGR, that volunteers use to process herbs into lavender sticks and sachets, which they then ship to Tokyo for sale. The profits of those lavender sticks and sachets go toward relief work, which has been ongoing since the disaster hit. Yuya hopes his work will make others smile.

“I wanted to encourage the people living in the disaster zone,” he says. “The situation here has not changed much since 2011, although many survivors have finally come to grips with their lot in life.”

Yuya receives extra job training from a center in Kamaishi that teaches job skills to handicapped people who could not find work otherwise. He  has not applied for an official handicapped ID because he hopes to stand on his own feet eventually by landing a permanent job.

But for now, Yuya tills the garden in Otsuchi Town, earning money to help those around him recover from the Triple Disaster.

Said Yuya: “I am grateful for the opportunity to work at this garden because it brings encouragement to my own my heart.”

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