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Apr 24, 2012

GlobalGiving report from Japan

Mari meets residents in the temporary housing
Mari meets residents in the temporary housing

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.

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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:

  1. The tsunami damage stretched for hundreds of miles up the Japanese coast north of Ibaragi prefecture all the way up to Iwate. For most of the trip we drove a car up the coast roads; as we would round a bend high above the coast, the road would then descend into a low lying flat area--and there would be the tell-tale signs of a vanished town: concrete house foundations. Sometimes we’d see ten or twenty foundations; sometimes they would stretch far into the horizon. Town after town after town, all low-lying communities were gone.
  2. People are rebuilding.  This rebuilding is almost always commercial structures – often gas stations, convenience stores, and pachinko parlors. In some instances entire factories have been rebuilt – a pulp factory in Ishinomaki was one of the most visible examples. The debris is all neatly piled and sorted, but it looms over the damaged areas in piles that are sometimes several stories high, clearly with no place to go. Residential housing, on the other hand, is in limbo. Many multi-story houses remain standing with their first floors gutted by the tsunami, but people still live on the intact second floors.  Other homes remain abandoned. In many areas the government has not given permission for residents to rebuild.  The lack of explicit permission to build does not yet amount to an outright ban, and no compensatory payments have been issued for people whose homes and business are in what will likely become no-build areas. 
  3. Many people are still living in temporary housing compounds.  These temporary homes are built from containers and are about 300+ square feet per household.  They are generally located far uphill and away from the coast, so people are now living quite far from where their homes were originally located.  The temporary housing placements were determined through a lottery system, so communities and neighbors are split up and are often located far from one another. People are making do by buying cars and driving to where their jobs, schools, or family are located. But for those who do not drive, the temporary housing compounds are a lonely place – far from anything familiar, and filled with people they have never met before the disaster.

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!"

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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.

A building near Ishinomaki
A building near Ishinomaki
A fisherman helped by JEN's program
A fisherman helped by JEN's program
One of the temporary fish markets
One of the temporary fish markets
Apr 3, 2012

Project of the Month Update: April 2012

Prevent Youth Involvement In Drug Trafficking
Prevent Youth Involvement In Drug Trafficking

Dear Project of the Month Club,

We’re pleased to share with you that last month, you and the 125 other Project of the Month Club members raised $3,999 for “Prevent Youth Involvement In Drug Trafficking” a project offering 50 young people after-school activities, like tutoring, arts, Capoeira, and dance, to prevent their involvement with gangs in the favelas of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Thais Corral of CEMINA wanted to share with you that your generous donations have helped support fun, creative ways to promote healthy eating in the favelas. This will be accomplished by cultivating 50 roof gardens to grow fruits and vegetables, and by hosting 12 communal student gatherings to cook and eat healthy food. CEMINA will be promoting these nutritious diet changes by building a campaign through short videos and plays promoting healthy eating, produced by the young people involved in the program.

We are also very happy to introduce to you April’s Project of the Month,Action for Health: Empowering Communities in Mali.” This project provides health case for children in West African slums in exchange for their parent’s public service, contributing to programs like community clean up days and health festivals.

Anna Ninan, project leader, wanted to share with you her message of excitement upon learning that she was selected to participate in the Project of the Month Club:
“Across Mali 1 in 5 children die before celebrating their fifth birthday– and 90% of those deaths are from preventable and treatable illnesses. Your gift will help ensure that nearly 300 children in Sikoro receive the health care they need while empowering their families to address the underlying causes of disease, like poor water and sanitation, in their community. Thanks for joining our team in the fight for health change!”

We are so grateful for your support, and hope that you are proud to know that you are providing healthcare for hundreds of children and support for their families in Mali in a sustainable, community-driven way.

Thank you again for your generosity. Your support is having an earth-changing impact around the world.

Warm regards,
Mari and the GlobalGiving Team

Action For Health : Empowering Communities in Mali
Action For Health : Empowering Communities in Mali
Apr 2, 2012

Meet the Girl Effect Challenge winners!

Happy New Year, everyone!

We hope you’re enjoying 2012 so far.  Since we last wrote, there have been some exciting changes in the Girl Effect Fund, and we’re thrilled to tell you about them.

As of December 2011, the Girl Effect Fund is now supporting a great new group of girl-focused organizations!  As we mentioned in our last update, the first annual Girl Effect GlobalGiving Challenge took place in October and November of 2011, and of about 50 participating organizations, we have 12 amazing winners that will benefit evenly from the Girl Effect Fund through November 2012. The winners (in alphabetical order) are Afghan Institute of Learning, Asha Trust, Care for Vrindavan, Carr Educational Foundation, Girls & Football SA, Lotus Outreach, the Mariposa DR Foundation, the Nyaka AIDS Orphans Project, Shining Hope for Communities, Soccer Without Borders, Solar Sister, and Vacha Charitable Trust.

With each of our Girl Effect Fund updates this year, we’ll plan to feature three of the winners.  This update’s highlights include:

Food for Life Vrindavan, which is preventing child marriage by sending 100 girls to school in Uttar Pradesh, India. The girls will receive free tuition, healthy meals, clothes, school supplies, healthcare, and family support services; and upon graduation, they will receive proceeds from a savings account to help give them a head-start after school.

Shining Hope for Communities, which is enabling adolescent girls in the Kibera slum of Nairobi to become economically self-sufficient through a holistic program of entrepreneurship and vocational training, sexual health education, artistic opportunities, and more.

Solar Sister, which has a girls’ empowerment program that reaches out to girls in Uganda living without access to electricity and provides them with access to safe, clean solar light.  The girls form micro-enterprise clubs and sell solar lights to their communities to earn money for school fees and learn about technology and business opportunities in a hands-on program that brings light, hope, and opportunity to girls and their communities.

These are just some of the inspiring programs your contributions to the Girl Effect Fund will be enabling this year.  Thank you from us and them for all of your generous support!

Best wishes,
The GlobalGiving Team

 
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