Within three days of the disaster, Mata Amritanandamayi Math (MAM) had sent its first group of volunteers to the affected areas to distribute food and water. After two additional trips to Ishinomaki, MAM’s relief teams focused their efforts on the village of Rikuzentakata, a remote coastal town of 23,000 people in dire need of volunteers and support. After their initial visit, the city’s Disaster Relief Management Office submitted an official request to MAM to continue its disaster relief efforts there as approximately 10% of Rikuzentakata’s population had perished in the disaster, including about one- third of the city’s govt. officials.
By the end of April, almost 70% of the village’s original population were spread across 88 refugee centers, as their households were damaged or destroyed. MAM volunteers worked in coordination with Rikuzentakata Disaster Volunteer Center in activities like cooking and serving food at the camps, providing daycare for children, maintenance and laundry services, removing mud and debris from damaged houses, cleaning up public spaces and damaged government facilities (like the local fire department), helping to clear rubble from fields so that the farmers could resume cultivation, sorting and transporting relief supplies and distribution of clean drinking water.
Beyond helping the authorities in Rikuzentakata, MAM volunteers had chosen to stay back in the affected areas to provide emotional support to the refugees as well as to offer free courses in Amma’s Amrita Yoga and IAM Meditation Technique. In addition, MAM had made arrangements for relief materials to be shipped to the disaster-affected area, as needed.