Taipei, March 2 (CNA) Volunteers from the Buddhist Compassionate Relief Tzu Chi Foundation joined local businessmen Friday to share their experiences in disaster relief ahead of the first anniversaryof the March 11 earthquake last year in Japan that killed over15,000 people.
Chen Chin-fa, a Tzu Chi volunteer who runs a company in Taiwan, said he put his work aside and flew to Japan to help the day after the earthquake struck northeastern Japan.
Chen said he went to the three hardest-hit prefectures -- Iwate, Fukushima and Miyagi -- where he spent more than 180 days helping the victims.
"It is as if you were seeing your own family suffer," Chen said of meeting those affected by the earthquake and the ensuing tsunami that left 15,853 people dead and 3,283 missing.
Tzu Chi volunteers pitched in for help while Japan was reeling fromthe disaster, working a total of 4,283 shifts to help the quake victims, Chen said at a conference in Taipei on the disaster relief efforts.
Foundation volunteers brought donations collected from around Taiwan, which totaled more than NT$2.1 billion (US$71.3 million), and distributed them to more than 100,000 affected households in the disaster areas, Chen said.
The donations also helped students at 18 schools in Kamaishi, Iwate, covering school fees for two semesters, Chen went on, adding that he was touched when Francis Tsai, chairman of Taiwan's MiTAC Technology Corp., telephoned to extend his concerns and care when he was in Japan.
Tsai noted that the company mobilized staff from its Japanese office to assist the Tzu Chi volunteers with relief efforts soon after the quake struck.
The volunteers also headed back to the affected areas to distribute cash and goods several months later, according to Tsai.
A Japanese woman from the disaster area who attended the conference said she was moved to receive the relief funds from the foundation.
"If strangers were willing to help, those affected by the disaster should work harder to get back on their feet," said the 55-year-old woman, who now lives in a prefabricated house.
(By Lin Szu-yu and Scully Hsiao)