SOC PhD student Kayleigh Ward shared her experiences researching in Japan

April 6, 2020

This article was originally published in Japanese by the newspaper Minamisanriku Now and has been translated to English through Google Translate. For the original article, go here.

Further unity and bond in Minamisanriku ...! How to make a warm town? / Kayleigh Ward


Kayleigh Ward is a PhD student in Sociology at Michigan State University and has been on a long-term stay in Minamisanriku for research. Through volunteers and agricultural support, we have been interacting with local people. We asked Kayleigh about his thoughts on Minamisanriku.

I hope to rebuild the community of Minamisanriku from my experience

Kayleigh Ward first visited Minamisanriku in 2014. I studied Japanese at a university in the United States, and went to the stricken area of ​​Tohoku while studying in Japan for five months. Then, I met a representative of an NPO that provided community support in Minamisanriku, and decided to participate in activities if I could do something. Since then, I have stayed in Minamisanriku for about three months every year to volunteer. From September 2019, we will be staying for one year until August 2020 for graduate doctoral research.

"I was interested in Japan when I was in high school. I learned about Japan in class, and I learned about Tohoku. When the Great East Japan Earthquake struck, my heart was sore ..." said Kayleigh. In fact, Kayleigh has also been affected by the disaster. His hometown of Ramona, California, was hit by a major wildfire in 2003 and 2007.

"My town was burned down by wildfires, and disaster recovery was an important theme for me. When I visited Minamisanriku, the situation was like Ramona and I didn't think it was something else. After the fire, Ramona's infrastructure was restored, but the community was fragmented, people's ties were broken, and they fell apart, and I don't want Minamisanriku to look like Ramona. It is my hope that Minamisanriku will become a city as a united city by increasing the unity of the people, "says Kayleigh.

Kayleigh speaks in fluent Japanese about the background behind Minamisanriku

Kayleigh takes community and bonds very seriously. In addition to volunteering at the annual Christmas event, she helps with farming during her stay. He actively interacts with local people, participating in fisherman's party events and teaching English conversation classes. Therefore, it is a little celebrity in town. He seems to have a lot of calls. "There are a lot of warm people in Minamisanriku. I'm very happy with the human relationships here," he says with a smile.

Kayleigh explaining the damage caused by typhoon 19 in October 2019 to volunteers in a leek field helping agriculture

How to strengthen connections and create new ones?

After learning the skills needed to rebuild the community at college, Kayleigh is currently studying the restoration of affected communities in the Sociology Doctoral Program at Michigan State University. While staying in Minamisanriku, we are working on a project that seeks ways to improve and strengthen community relationships by understanding residents' relationships and relationships.

"Community events are an effective way to strengthen bonds and create new connections. This project will show you what events are appropriate to make good connections. My research Could be used to help unite the community ... and the project could be extended to other areas that have the same problems as Minamisanriku, "says Kayleigh. By August 2020 , there will be an opportunity to compile the research data and share the results with local people.

Kayleigh's drawing of the structure of community capital in sociology. Social capital is important to create a good town

"In Minami-Sanriku after the earthquake, the social capital was high, that is, the residents were united. However, it gradually fell ... I want to support the people in such a town, "says Kaley. For example, Kayleigh suggests holding community events not only in Shizugawa but also in Iriya, Tokura, and Utatsu, and building new relationships through cross-regional exchanges.

"Minami Sanriku is a town that lives with nature, such as the sea and mountains, but for the future I think it must be a town that lives with people. What is unique to Minamisanriku is the heart of the town The heart of the town is the heart of the people and the hope of the people.If a warm hearted person lives, and if everyone is united, it will be a warm town. If Minamisanriku becomes such a town, More people will come. Let's create such a town together! "

Kayleigh hopes to work with the town hall and tourism association to organize a community event when returning to Minamisanriku in 2021.