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KESENNUMA, Japan — Four months after Japan's devastating earthquake and tsunami, volunteers and charities are still working to help people whose lives were upended by the disasters. Some efforts don't involve any money and are a bit more personal.
I wanted to do something, so I thought because I have the ability to cut hair, I could come up and cut hair.
–Kenichi Ikegame, hairstylist
When the sea overtakes the earth and swallows everything, it takes time to realize all of the things you will miss — Things as basic as a haircut, because the beauty salon is gone.
"It's been really nice to be able to come here and to be able to have these people do it," said Kazuko Koizumi, a homeless tsunami survivor. She spoke with KSL News during our recent trip to Japan.
The people who do it — just because they can — are young hair stylists from Tokyo, which is most of a day's drive away.
"I wanted to do something, so I thought because I have the ability to cut hair, I could come up and cut hair," said Kenichi Ikegame. "But I didn't know whether there would be any need for it."
But he soon found the need was real. Perhaps more than the trim, the volunteer stylists give a person-to-person human touch to people still reeling from trauma.
One group of women we met escaped the tsunami that destroyed their homes in Kesennuma with the clothes on their backs. Since then, they have lived on the floor of an evacuation center in a school gymnasium.
Some of the people there have moved into government-built temporary housing on the school grounds. Admission is by lottery and by critical need.
"In our case, we don't have any older people in our home, no one is pregnant; so we're not high on the list," said one woman said.
The Christian Science Monitor reports that as of last week, more than 100,000 people are still sleeping in temporary evacuation centers in Japan's disaster zone. The government has finished only about half of the 52,000 temporary housing units it said it would build.
But the kindness of strangers, who give in ways big and small, lifts the spirits of both the receivers and the givers of the gift.