The Nissan Technical Center and the Nissan Advanced Technology Center located in the city of Atsugi, Kanagawa Prefecture have been actively involved in the Nice Wave program, designed to build good relations with the local community. Nissan employees and their families take part on an ongoing basis as volunteers in a range of activities including neighborhood clean-ups, planting flowerbeds, and helping out with community events. After the Tohoku disaster, lots of people approached the Nice Wave office asking what they could do to help. Following coordination with the Disaster Relief Volunteer Center in Iwaki, Fukushima Prefecture, home to a Nissan engine plant, the Iwaki regeneration volunteer program started in April. A similar program got underway in September in Ishinomaki, Miyagi Prefecture, working to clear away rubble and sludge and clean out roadside ditches. Many local people expressed their appreciation for the volunteers' efforts. "We're happy you came to help, rather than just sending words of sympathy," one said. Another commented, "We are extremely grateful for the continuing work being done."
Hirozumi Kato is responsible for coordinating these volunteer activities at the Nice Wave office. Kato has thrown himself into preparations alongside his regular work in the R&D Engineering Management Division at the Nissan Technical Center, and has taken part as a volunteer in almost all the activities himself. As coordinator, Kato had two main concerns. To avoid imposing a burden on the communities they were trying to help, volunteers slept either in the doorways of the company dormitory or inside their buses. The other concern was the safety of the volunteers. Kato made sure that a supervisor was present at all times to check the nature of the job before work started. "During the hottest periods of the summer we were worried about heatstroke. But thanks to prudent safety measures we haven't had any serious injuries or illnesses," Kato says.
Nissan has large numbers of employees originally from the Tohoku region, many of whom were particularly eager to volunteer. "Employees from the affected areas want to do everything they can to help with recovery and reconstruction," says Kato. Kosei Sugimoto of the Vehicle Component Technology Development Division at the Nissan Technical Center was among those who took part. Sugimoto says he wanted to make a physical contribution to the rebuilding effort. He helped with a clean-up mission that took place on May 14 and 15 along the Nagasaki coast area of Iwaki city. He says he felt overwhelmed when he first arrived and saw the lines of collapsed houses with his own eyes. "I couldn't even imagine how long the rebuilding process would take to finish," he says. Determined to do whatever he could to help, he threw himself into clearing sludge from the ditches and separating out piles of rubble.
Although two months had passed since the disaster, conditions were still shocking in many areas and aid from the national government was not getting through. Sugimoto says he felt keenly the need for companies to get involved in disaster relief. Along with everyone else who took part, he worked hard to make sure that the local people felt glad to have Nissan as part of their community.
By the end of October, a cumulative total of 854 people had taken part in 16 separate missions (equivalent to 1,200 days of work).