Chairman of the St Elizabeth Municipal Corporation Derrick Sangster has a picture in his mind of Japanese intern Shingo Oba for an unlikely reason. According to Sangster, who is also mayor of Black River, his sharpest memory of Oba, who volunteered his services in St Elizabeth in 2014-16, was of a man “who hardly spoke”.
However, during his two years assigned to the disaster preparedness office at the municipal corporation in Black River, Oba — a practising fireman in Japan — didn't need many words to make a big difference.
Seeing first-hand the catastrophic consequences of bush fires during a period of prolonged droughts, especially in arid southern St Elizabeth, Oba initiated a project for which he will be long remembered.
In collaboration with the Disaster Preparedness Coordinator in St Elizabeth Claudine Forbes and the St Elizabeth Fire Department, Oba developed a plan which has borne fruit with the donation by Japan of three fire-fighting trucks and a water tanker to the St Elizabeth Fire Department.
At the formal handover of the four trucks at the Junction Fire Station in south St Elizabeth on Friday, Sangster hailed Oba, claiming the delivery of the trucks “speaks volumes to his initiative and contribution to the people of Jamaica”.
Sangster wasn't the only one heaping praise on the Japanese fireman. Japan's Ambassador to Jamaica Masanori Nakano, who formally presented fire truck keys to Local Government Minister Desmond McKenzie, hailed the former volunteer for working “assiduously with the fire brigade offices to help bring the project from its incubation stage right to the signing ceremony”.