Remembering Fukushima

Kirsten and Ayumi in Japan

Authored by Kirsten Koppang Telford, ePACT Co-Founder & COO

It’s hard to believe it’s been five years… five years since our dear friend Ayumi landed in Vancouver with her two girls in tow. She’d booked the visit many months before, and at the time had no idea that the reunion trip we had planned would instead turn into a month of recovery. Recovery from trauma of the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear reactor meltdown that a few months earlier had separated her from her children for three terrifying days. Recovery from the stress of repairing her damaged home and working around the clock to save her impacted business. Recovery from the anxiety of constantly wondering and worrying about the long-term effects of the radiation in her town.

Ayumi is one of those quietly resilient people. Widowed a few years before the earthquake, she’s raised two wonderful girls on her own, and in the aftermath of the disaster, she again quietly pulled herself together, held her daughters close, and began to work on recovering. When she got off the plane she was smiling. Before we got halfway home she was in tears. ‘You just can’t imagine…’ she said. I couldn’t. I didn’t want to.

Five years ago this month, sitting under the plum tree in my backyard, I confided in Christine that I was scared. I had sent my kids back to school, filled out some emergency forms, and armed them with a comfort kit of Kleenex and granola bars. I had literally no idea what would happen if a disaster like the one in Japan hit my home. As a parent I felt wholly unprepared, and I wasn’t sure how prepared the many people and organizations I depended on each day were either.

kirsten and ayumi japanBut I had the inkling of an idea. A way to maybe take those emergency forms I’d just filled out on paper and bring them online. Not just because filling out paper forms drives me to tears and wine, but because online we could store the information in one place, and we could create online connections between families, caregivers, emergency contacts and schools.

Over many cups of tea…OK, who am I kidding…Over many bottles of wine, boxes of chocolate and very late nights, Christine and I built that inkling into a real idea, and then a plan – an emergency network that would make lives easier (no more paper forms!) while at the same time making families safer, and organizations better prepared.

It has been the most amazing five years. It’s challenged every facet of our business knowledge. It’s introduced us to countless people who have provided their support, encouragement, and input. From that inkling under the plum tree we have grown to a network that connects families to organizations across Canada and the US, and to their extended family in 101 countries around the world.

Today, Ayumi, her children and the rest of the people of Fukushima continue to recover and rebuild their beautiful Prefecture. I think of them almost every day and look forward to our next reunion. This time I hope it will be under the stunning cherry blossoms of Ayumi’s home town.