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MSD employees in Japan are proving that a “can-do” attitude and an ongoing commitment to volunteerism can change lives – not only for the people in the communities where they work, but for the volunteers themselves.

Thanks to the hard work of MSD employees in Japan, this summer marks the first full season that residents of Iwate will be able to head to KiriKiri beach.  More than 80 employees from divisions across MSD in Japan made multiple trips to help clean up the beach, which was devastated by the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami of 2011.  Employee volunteers worked tirelessly to restore the white sandy beach, which had been a favorite recreation spot for local children.

After the earthquake and tsunami struck, children were afraid to venture too close to the ocean, which took the lives of so many people. The beach itself was hit hard with debris that became embedded deep in the sand, making the terrain dangerous.

MSD volunteer teams, along with volunteers from other organizations and local districts, sieved the sand to remove all traces of debris. Although progress was slow, the team provided the necessary manpower and was able to make an impact. They also spent time repairing drainage ditches in town.

“We had a very dedicated team who used paid volunteer time as well as their own time to help with these efforts.  For most colleagues it was a half-day trip just to get to the beach,” says Kiyoshi Kinoshita, associate principal scientist, Preclinical Regulatory Affairs, who currently leads the MSD volunteer network in Japan. “These dedicated employees juggled their own work and personal obligations so they could make a difference in the lives of so many people.”

Apart from seeing the scale of the destruction first-hand, MSD colleagues in Japan met local residents and heard their stories. When these volunteers returned home, they helped spread the word about the needs of the people in Iwate. Employees were inspired to hold a charity bazaar of used books. The funds raised were used to purchase new library books for elementary school children near the KiriKiri beach.

Although many towns in Japan are still struggling to recover and rebuild, by taking action, MSD employees showed they cared. They helped Iwate and its people slowly get back to normal. Today, because of them and countless other volunteers, KiriKiri beach is open and ready for fun.

“We put our heart and soul into everything we do,” comments Kiyoshi. “The clean-up of KiriKiri beach truly shows the amazing things that can happen when we work together - and that our efforts matter.”

This project is just one of many activities that have been coordinated through the MSD in Japan volunteer network, which encourages colleagues to participate in volunteer activities that are aligned with MSD’s core strengths. In the process, employees are not only improving the communities where they work, but they are also reaping the benefits of teambuilding, personal growth and development.




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