The INJM team is made up of a combination of Japanese and international volunteers from all over the world and varying backgrounds. Without their motivation, hard work and sacrifice INJM would not be the group it is today.
Yasean-Martin (Jamie) El-Banna – Chairperson & Operations Manager
Before the earthquake, Jamie was working as an English teacher in Osaka. After travelling to Tohoku for a volunteer trip in May, and feeling like he could do more to help the region, Jamie left his job and moved to Ishinomaki to volunteer full time. Through the use of social media and his website, Jamie was able to inform others of the situation in Tohoku, and encouraged them to come and volunteer, this being the beginning of what would become It’s Not Just Mud. As the Chairperson, Jamie collaborates with the other Directors to establish INJM’s long term goals and projects. He also represents INJM in the public eye and is responsible for PR and social media. His functional role has him handling day-to-day operations of INJM, including sourcing new projects and general management. Before coming to Japan, Jamie worked as a legal secretary and in event management.
Masae Ishikawa – Acting Vice-Chairperson & Community Liaison
Masae was born and raised in Ishinomaki. She studied in America during high school and college, and then returned to Japan. She moved back to Ishinomaki following the 3/11 disaster to help her family. In July 2011 she got involved with INJM and felt that she too could be doing more to help her home town. Initially Masae was helping the day-to-day volunteer activities. Since then she has taken on a central role and her knowledge of the regional businesses, infrastructure and culture, makes sure that INJM can make a real difference at the grass root level. Masae’s family was directly affected by the tsunami, suffering the loss of relatives as well as serious damage to their business. The story of their recovery from the disaster is a model in itself and inspires her to help others in similar situations.
Damian Keyte – Director
Damian, or “Hippy” as most people know him, is an Australian who first came to Ishinomaki in the summer of 2011 when INJM was just starting to form as a solid group of volunteers in Tent City at Senshu University.
Having a background in construction in Japan, he was looking for a group to join, and after answering a Facebook request for camping equipment, found himself coming back again and again to be part of what INJM is today.
Hippy’s day job is working at sea on a ship that moves Oil Rigs in Australia but with a total of 6 months vacation each year, his time is split between the team effort INJM’s various projects and living in Hokkaido.
Shaun O’Dwyer - Director
Shaun first volunteered in Ishinomaki in July 2011, and started working with It’s Not Just Mud shortly after. Since then he has helped co-ordinate volunteer trips to Ishinomaki and other locations in Miyagi for Kizuna International, a student volunteer group based at Meiji University, where he is a teacher and researcher. A New Zealand and Australian dual citizen, Shaun has lived in Japan for 9 years.
Choko Chiba – Project Manager
Choko is a Tohoku resident from the town of Morioka, in Iwate prefecture. She first came and volunteered with INJM in September 2011. Having seen first hand the difference she was able to make, she started balancing her time between Ishinomaki and Morioka, working half the week in Morioka, and then volunteering for half a week in Ishinomaki. Initially, Choko worked as a team leader for INJM and managed the volunteer base. Choko now leads INJM’s flagship community project, Tsuna Café. Her responsibilities include visiting the temporary housing facilities, planning project details with the residents and managing the volunteers required for the project. Her exuberant personality as well as her ability to empathize with others makes her a natural choice for working on this community-based project. She also supervises day-to-day running of the organization along with the other INJM staff. She is a qualified Japanese Language Teacher, and taught at the Aoba Foreign Language School, Sendai before the 3/11 disaster. She studied English literature and culture at Morioka University.
Yannick Hiryczuk – Project Manager
Yannick came to Japan for 3 weeks as a tourist in 2009 and fell in love with the country. He returned to his responsibilities in France but when he saw videos of the 3/11 disaster unfolding, he quit his job, packed up his bags and moved to Japan in June 2011 to volunteer. He came into contact with INJM in September 2011, back when the group was working out of a temporary campsite. Since then Yannick has become an integral part of the organization and fulfills key functions. A DIY enthusiast, Yannick is responsible for planning, organizing and supervising INJM’s construction projects. He is INJM’s resident carpenter, making sure that jobs are completed to his very high standard of work. He also assists in day-to-day logistics, planning and general volunteer support in collaboration with other INJM staff. Yannick is from the French town of Avignon. He has 11 years of experience in logistics, planning and retail.
In addition to those above, we presently have many other members who contribute to INJM activities on an on-off basis. It would actually take more time and space than available to name everyone who has come up here, or helped us from a distance. Most of our members come back after coming once. Volunteering is highly addictive!