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Ishinomaki Red Cross Nursing College

When a disaster strikes, Red Cross employee and volunteers are some of the first responders on the scene. In the case of the March earthquake and tsunami, the Japanese Red Cross dispatched medical teams and set up its operations center within 5 hours. With an expertise in building and operating medical facilities and a network of 92 Red Cross hospitals throughout the country, the Red Cross was able to receive patients and launch mobile health teams almost immediately.

One “victim” of the destruction was the Ishinomaki Red Cross Nursing College, which flooded when a wall of water crashed through the college, forcing the 120 student nurses and teachers to evacuate to higher ground. But the students continued to assist others with no supplies, and helped others find refuge in a nearby evacuation centre. It was three days before help came to relieve them; they had been working around the clock.

“Our students were very active and applied themselves to the work without feeling tired; they were very proactive and seized the chance to learn what to do in a disaster situation without equipment, without bandages, etc.” said Mieko Kudo, vice president of the college. “They supported their teachers who worked shifts overnight, they volunteered to stay up and help to take the sick and injured to the toilet.”

Ms. Mieko Kudo, Vice Principal of the Ishinomaki Red Cross Nursing College, stands amid the mud and remains of the college.

Today, a calm has returned. Third year nursing students have resumed their normal lives and studies. The nursing college has rented space from a local university in order to continue functioning after its building was rendered unusable by the tsunami. It’s a first step, but more is needed.

“We need more space,” said one nursing student. “At the moment we have only these classrooms, so we even have lunch in our classroom. “

To respond to this need, the American Red Cross is supporting the Japanese Red Cross in the rebuilding of the nursing school, which will be dedicated to training specialists in disaster medical care. Red Cross donations also are supporting the construction of four temporary hospitals, one permanent hospital and a community health clinic as well as strengthening local emergency medical capacities.

Ms. Takako Inoue, head nurse from Akita Red Cross Hospital talks to a blind and elderly disaster affected person during the morning check up at the evacuation centre in Iwate Prefecture. Japan Earthquake and Tsunami One Year Update and Slide Show Japan Earthquake and Tsunami One Year Update