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2016年7月 6日 (水)

Victim of Dhaka terror attack volunteered in Japan and abroad

July 5, 2016 (Mainichi Japan)
Victim of Dhaka terror attack volunteered in Japan and abroad

As a government plane carrying the bodies of seven Japanese hostages killed in a terrorist attack in Dhaka, Bangladesh, arrived at Haneda Airport on the morning of July 5, among the white-draped coffins it carried was the body of 27-year-old Rui Shimodaira, who had been an active volunteer both in Japan and abroad since she was a student.

Shimodaira graduated from Shibaura Institute of Technology's School of Architecture and went on to study social engineering in graduate school at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, during which time she studied abroad in Thailand. She was involved with the activities of the NPO Japan team of young Human Power since when she was a second-year university student. In March 2009 she was part of a group of about 20 people from this NPO who went to the Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh and to the country's northwest city of Battambang, where together with her fellow volunteers she built swings for elementary schools.

The head of the NPO's secretariat, Masayoshi Kiyokuni, 45, who also took part in these activities, remembers well how amid scorching temperatures of around 40 degrees Celsius Shimodaira still stepped forward to engage in physical labor.

"During breaks she was friendly with the children, and she was mindful of those around her," he recalls.

After returning to Japan, Shimodaira reportedly said of her volunteer experience, "I got back more than I gave." After the Great East Japan Earthquake, from April to May of 2011 she did volunteer work in the town of Minamisanriku, Miyagi Prefecture, to clean photographs pulled from the tsunami rubble so they could be returned to their owners.

Shimodaira gained employment at Almec Corp., an architectural consultant company, in order to help the progress of developing countries. When Kiyokuni learned that Shimodaira had gotten this job, he says he felt, "Her volunteer activities until now and her research at university and graduate school will all prove useful. This is a job that she chose of her own desire."

Kiyokuni mourned Shimodaira's death in the Dhaka attack, saying, "She must have still had many things she wanted to do in her life."

Professor Hideaki Shimura at Shibaura Institute of Technology, who gave Shimodaira guidance for her graduation research, says, "She was a brave student of action. She had a clear goal of wanting to work in developing countries."

Even after graduating, Shimodaira would give undergraduates advice on studying abroad and finding work, says Shimura.

"I had been looking forward to what she could accomplish in the future. We lost a precious, capable person," he says.

The 69-year-old owner of a dry cleaning shop in the city of Fujimi, Saitama Prefecture, near the home where Shimodaira grew up who knew Shimodaira since she was a child says, "When she was little she would often bring laundry here. She was a very cheerful and modest child."

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