When the children got off the bus, their smiles were so bright that your heart swelled. The clapping from a group of people who were waiting for the children made their smiles even broader, as if they could feel the warm welcome. If no one had told you, you would never guess that all these cute children are from families devastated by the 2011 tsunami that left 18,000 dead and parts of the Tohoku region in northeastern Japan in ruins.
It was noon when the buses stopped at the National Iwatesan Youth Centre, the venue where the youth camp was being held. Communication was sparse at the beginning as the children and the international volunteers spoke different languages. Gradually, the atmosphere became more relaxed as games of icebreaker and Dodgebee were arranged.
As part of its social services programme for children affected by disaster, HSBC Japan offers support for communities in Rikuzentakata, one of the most severely damaged cities with over 10% of the population killed or missing and 80% of the houses damaged. Bank staff helped clean up the area and the bank provided scholarships to students in Rikuzentakata to support school activities, as well as sponsoring a group of junior high and high school students to participate in a two-week International Workcamp programme in Asia.
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