During the first week of April, GlobalGiving’s president and co-founder Mari Kuraishi and director of programs, Britt Lake, visited the people and organizations that were supported by your donations to GlobalGiving’s Japan Relief and Recovery Fund. Below is Mari’s account of the time they spent in the Tohoku region.
As I sat in the train back to Tokyo thinking about the week I had just spent visiting GlobalGiving partners in the Tohoku region, three things stuck with me:
We visited over almost a dozen organizations in towns and cities across Iwate and Miyagi prefectures. Along the way, we delivered origami cranes and messages of hope from GlobalGiving donors like you. (Click to see how how the messages were created and then delivered.) We left every visit amazed at how people were beginning to pull their lives back together, but also daunted at the monumental tasks still left ahead.
We visited one temporary housing complex dedicated to families with special needs where a woman kindly invited us into her home. It was immaculate, but tiny. The 300+ sq ft per-household size really hadn't hit me until we followed her in and found ourselves immediately in the main room. It was a combination kitchen, living room, and bedroom, where her immobilized son was on the heated carpeted floor that she explained was essential to his avoiding joint pains that would cause him to cry out. She explained that the size was fine with just the two of them – it got a little crowded when her husband came home once every 3 months. He works as a fisherman in the far south of Kyushu. Despite the size and the location, she said was happy to be in the housing complex. Because every household in the compound had a family member with special needs, they had actually known each other before the disaster through various service centers in the area, so they had a support network within the compound – something most other people didn’t have in their temporary housing. She hoped the families could all stay together once more permanent housing was built.
In a temporary shopping center much further north, we went to a lunch pot in a food mall and, because Britt is vegetarian, got treated to a beautiful set course of , or Buddhist cuisine. It was the last thing I expected in a food mall, but there it was. The chef had owned a highly rated restaurant in the city of Otsuchi before the disaster that was destroyed in the tsunami. He had scraped together enough money to pay for some basic cooking equipment and set himself up in a temporary shopping center and he was beginning to make a living by cooking basic lunch foods for all the workers who had nowhere else to go. He had been thrilled to show off his skills by cooking this special lunch for us.
At site after site, we came across young men and women who had deferred graduate school abroad, given up promising corporate careers at major multinational companies, or had given up jobs abroad in South Sudan, Paraguay, or Uganda to help rebuild their country. Some had grown up in Tohoku, but others came north with no other desire than to serve. Japan is by-and-large a society with very rigid expectations and sense of hierarchy. If you are successful, you attend one of a handful of good schools, then subsequently join the federal civil service, become a doctor or lawyer, or join a major multinational company. And when you do follow that path, there is a pretty long path of seniority to tread. The people who were supporting and leading non-profits or social enterprises, on the other hand, were all getting to make substantive decisions about what made sense, what provided the highest value, and long term benefit to the communities where they lived. Even more, they all seemed happy and fulfilled, if not somewhat exhausted. It was by far the most vibrant group of young Japanese people I have come across ever.
That gave me hope. Or, as a bumper sticker in Ishinomaki, said, "”It's tough to translate, as it's local dialect, but its spirit is closest to: "Don't mess with us, tsunami!"
If you’d like to Mari and Britt’s accounts of each specific project they visited, you can read their postcards from the field on our Japan Updates page.
At the one year anniversary of Japan’s March 11 earthquake and tsunami, we asked you, the GlobalGiving community, to write messages of encouragement that Mari, our President and I would hand-deliver to the people of Japan. We collected more than 135 messages on Facebook and via text message, and last week our staff came together to fold origami cranes, to translate your notes into Japanese, and to assemble cards for people affected by the tragedy. (See some beautiful photos of the messages here.)
Yesterday, after 14 hours of flying, Mari and I arrived in Tokyo ready for a busy trip to visit our partners on the ground. Over the next two weeks, we will be meeting with the organizations and people who you have helped support with your donations to ensure that your dollars are having maximum impact on the people and communities affected by the earthquake and tsunami.
We are excited to report that we will be visiting almost every project that received support through the GlobalGiving Japan Relief and Recovery Fund. We’re committed to keeping you informed of how your money has been spent, so a full list of the grants that were given in the past year is below:
We’re also excited to tell you about three new grants that were just recently approved:
1) The International Medical Crises Response Alliance (IMCRA) will receive a grant of $100,000 to support direct onsite medical operations in Tohoku. IMCRA currently provides medical resource information, seminars, clinical toolkits and web-based operational platforms to clinicians, administrators, and populations impacted by the earthquake, tsunami and radiation disasters of March 11, particularly in the areas of radiation biology, dentistry in disrupted environment, geriatrics, and infectious disease prophylaxis.
2) Peace Winds received $149,932 to help fishing communities in Minamisanriku. Miyagi Prefecture. This grant will allow them to accelerate economic recovery and create jobs through support to Minamisanriku’s two Fishing Cooperatives and their 800 members.
3) Project YUI was approved for $100,000 to support the establishment of daycare centers for children in temporary shelters including hiring local nurses and mothers as daycare center staff; creating a “mom's community" for the mothers living in the same complex; and expansion to up to 15 sites by 2013.
And that’s not all – generous donors like yourself have donated an additional $2.3 million in the last four months! We will continue to disburse those gifts to Japanese organizations working on long-term recovery over the next few months. We have a busy few weeks ahead of us, but we feel privileged to be able to see first-hand the great work that you’re helping to make a reality and we'll continue to report back to you.
Thank you again for your support and we invite you to leave a comment on the project wall if you have questions you'd like for us to ask while we are in Japan.
Warm wishes, Britt and the GlobalGiving team
This is a personal message from Mari Kuraishi, President and Co-Founder of GlobalGiving. Mari, a Japanese national, is preparing to visit Japan following the 1-year anniversary of the March 11 Earthquake and Tsunami.
To the generous donors of GlobalGiving's Japan Relief Fund,
As you probably know, today is the one-year anniversary of the Great Tohoku Earthquake and Tsunami in Japan. For the last several weeks my colleauges and I have been planning our trip to Japan to visit our project partners in the Tohoku area. Planning for the trip has made us all realize just how much has been accomplished in the recovery efforts since March 11, 2011, and also how much remains to be done.
As we planned the logistics of our trip, I blithely expected we would be able to get to most places by train, because that's usually a pretty good assumption to make in Japan. But not this time. I assumed that hotels, restaurants, and other services would be operating anywhere we planned to be – but that’s not the case. It took many phone calls to uncover the fact that some trains still aren't even operating and lots of business are still closed in the Tohuku area, and that's when it hit home for me.
A year feels like a long time when you think of all the things accomplished since the great Tohoku/Kanto earthquake and tsunami. But a year is not enough for individual businesses to be rebuilt, for people's lives to be brought back to normal, or even for plants to grow back.
I'll be going back to Japan in two weeks, both to visit my home and to thank all the amazing Japanese leaders who are still hard at work putting their communities and their country back together again. I’ll be meeting with people like Hatakeyama-san, a fisherman in Kesennuma who used your donations to buy ropes and build rafts to start oyster farming in his area. I'll be speaking with Japanese women from the civil sector about what it means to be Japanese, a woman, and a leader at this make-or-break time in the course of Japanese history. Finally, I’ll be seeing the cherry blossoms – symbols of hope and renewal – as they bloom again in Japan one year after the devastation.
Each and every one of you has helped in some way. As I meet face-to-face with the people affected by the earthquake, I would be humbled to hand-deliver your messages of support. Will you please share a message of encouragement that I can deliver on your behalf? What questions would you like me to ask of the people who you have helped support? Please share your comments and questions on our Facebook post; I’ll read them, share them with the people I meet, and then I'll send an update when I return from my trip.
I'd also like to ask you to consider giving again on the 1st anniversary of the disaster in order to help more people like Hatakeyama-san re-establish their livelihoods. We are still actively disbursing your donations to local partners who are helping with long-term rebuilding efforts.
There’s still a long road ahead for Japan, but we thank you for standing with the Japanese people in hope for renewal and recovery. I look forward to sending another update about your funds after I arrive in Japan.
In two months, a year will have passed since the earthquake and tsunami that devastated the communities of Tohoku. It has been a terribly difficult year for those who lost their family members, friends, and homes. However, because of your donations, GlobalGiving's partners in Japan have contributed to a steady recovery in the region. We would like to once again thank all of you for your generosity!
We continue to allocate funds to our partners in the field, helping them to give heaters to keep evacuees warm in their temporary housing, delivering daily supplies, holding events to keep the ties of the communities strong, and more. We are planning on expanding our partnerships further, and we will continue to distribute your donations to organizations that will help the recovery of the region more directly.
Here are some highlights of the activities that our partners have accomplished with your support since our last report:
Associations of Aid and Relief (AAR Japan)
AAR JAPAN has been providing rehabilitation and health-related services, mobile clinics, sanitation services, psychological care, and community interaction & exchange events for roughly 3,000 people, focusing on persons with disabilities, the elderly, displaced people, and people staying in temporary housing in the disaster-affected areas of Miyagi and Iwate prefectures. Through these comprehensive efforts, AAR JAPAN continues to support people in the disaster zone as they work to maintain both their physical and mental health.
Japanese Emergency NGOs (JEN)
JEN continues to coordinate volunteer activities in wider community. To date almost 4,000 JEN volunteers contributed to clean both public and private properties. In addition, JEN is now supporting fishermen who work in the fish production industry who were forced to stop their business for nearly 7 months due to a shortage of tools and a lack of human resources. JEN is helping by providing financial and volunteer support to this community. JEN is reaching the remote area of Ishinomaki, an area that had been previously abandoned for months. JEN works to establish good relationships with locals, helping with both physical and psycho-social recovery. This holistic approach is essential in order to fight massive depopulation as the remote area, as the area was suffering from depopulation even before the disaster hit the area.
Peace Winds is helping to keep 8,000 families warm this winter. Many of the temporary housing units in Iwate Prefecture lack adequate heat. As temperatures cooled this fall, local governments identified 8,000 households that were vulnerable to the freezing temperatures. Lacking funds, the municipal governments is partnering with Peace Winds to keep 8,000 families will stay warm this winter.
Though much has been done, it will take more months and years to restore the communities back to where they were before March 11, 2011. Your support is greatly appreciated. If you would like to read additional updates, please visit our Japan Relief and Recovery updates page
Six months after the March 11 earthquake and tsunami devastated communities throughout Japan, donors like you are still helping to improve the lives of survivors who are rebuilding their lives. From supporting lunches for schoolchildren to constructing community centers and repairing fishing boats, your funds are making a difference where it is needed most.
During the first few months following the disaster, we directed your support to meet the immediate needs in Japan’s affected areas including food, shelter, and medical care. Now we’ve shifted the focus to long-term rebuilding in communities, including job creation, community development, and nuclear safety.
We are proud of our partnership with high-impact organizations in Japan that are passionate about the work they’re doing to rebuild Japan. Last week, GlobalGiving and GlobalGiving UK sent $600,000 to three organizations working to rebuild the local economy and civil society through business and youth involvement. We’re excited about these organizations; here’s how they will use your donations in their rebuilding efforts:
Entrepreneurial Training for Innovative Communities (ETIC) - $310,000
ETIC’s Disaster Recovery Leadership Development Project pairs socially-aware, entrepreneurial-minded young leaders with local leaders and businesses with the dual goals of creating jobs in the disaster-effected area and developing Japanese leaders. $210,000 will fund the work of ten fellows who will collaborate with local organizations. The remaining $100,000 will be disbursed by ETIC in small grants to the local non-profits and businesses working to rebuild the Tohoku region where fellows are placed.
Ashoka: Youth Venture Japan - $250,000
A recent survey in Iwate and Miyagi prefectures found that 87.4% of youth want to do something to help their local communities in the disaster-affected area. Ashoka will use $250,000 to establish a Youth Venture program in local high schools that encourages passionate students to develop community recovery projects. Ashoka will also engage local adults to act as panelists and mentors for the students.
Durable Social Innovation Asia (DSIA) - $40,000
In an effort to help economically rebuild the Tohoku region, a $40,000 grant will help connect small- and medium-sized businesses in the tsunami-affected area with well-established companies. The business partnerships will support Tsunami recovery through finance, technology, knowledge and human resource support.
If you’d like to read more detailed updates directly from the ground, we encourage you to visit our Japan Relief and Recovery updates page.
We’re grateful that donations are still coming in, and we will continue to distribute them to high-impact rebuilding efforts around Japan. Thank you again for your support and we will continue to update you on the impact that your donations are making in the lives of women, men, and children in Japan.
Warm wishes,Britt Lake and the GlobalGiving team
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