Building Resilience in Japan

by International Medical Corps
Building Resilience in Japan
Building Resilience in Japan
Building Resilience in Japan
Building Resilience in Japan
Building Resilience in Japan
Building Resilience in Japan
Building Resilience in Japan
Building Resilience in Japan
Building Resilience in Japan
Building Resilience in Japan
Building Resilience in Japan
Building Resilience in Japan
Building Resilience in Japan
Building Resilience in Japan
Building Resilience in Japan
Building Resilience in Japan
Building Resilience in Japan
Building Resilience in Japan
Building Resilience in Japan
Building Resilience in Japan
Hiroyuki Kakuho (center)  from Japan Platform
Hiroyuki Kakuho (center) from Japan Platform

After Japanese Scientists at Tokyo University and Global Seismologists predicted a 70% chance of a 7+ Richter-scale earthquake hitting Japan by 2016, the majority of Japanese non-government organizations realized that ensuring their organizations integrity when they are hit by a disaster is critical to being able to deliver relief to local populations. In response to this realization, International Medical Corps began working with seasoned business continuity planning (BCP) experts from two premier Japanese risk management corporations (Tokio Marine & Nichido Risk Consulting Co., Ltd., and Mitsubishi Corporation Insurance Co., Ltd.), and have successfully completed a three-part workshop series that taught local humanitarian aid organizations the fundamentals of business continuity planning.

Through a combination of lectures and hands-on practical exercises that took participating non-government organizations (NGOs) through a simulated disaster; potential risks were identified (e.g., closed roads, power outages, etc.); the specific tasks staff members must complete to ensure that they are functional and able to fulfill their mandate after the disaster were established; people were assigned responsible for each task; and special strategies that must be used as part of the planning process were decided upon.

Participants then developed a list of action items, including timeframes, to ensure the implementation of their plan was realistic and carried out in a timely manner. At the end of the series, each NGO was able to create a simple, practical BCP plan that fits its organizational needs. A total of 25 individuals from 17 organizations completed this course. For those organizations requesting additional assistance, BCP experts also provided feedback to the organization’s BCP draft and offered suggestions/advice for improvement.

The response from the participants was overwhelmingly positive. Here are a few examples of the feedback we received:

Hiroyuki Kakuho, Administrative Manager for Japan Platform (JPF):

“JPF is known as an emergency response organization. It is vital that we are able to function during an emergency. Clearly identifying what we need to do to be ready in a time of crisis and making appropriate preparations has always been a core issue, but we had been unable to really work on any concrete plans with everyone being busy with their own day-to-day work. We also didn’t know where to begin to better prepare ourselves. This BCP workshop was very important in teaching our staff specific techniques on how to think through and create a BCP plan that fits our organization’s needs. Since we were getting trained with other NGOs, we also benefited from sharing our concerns, ideas and experiences with each other, which allowed us to gain hints as to how to create a more realistic plan of action.”

“We found the BCP creation process outlined by the experts very thorough and with a logical flow. We were surprised at how the workshops spent a lot of time on practical exercises. It was also great that the assignments we received between workshops helped focus our discussions and prepared us for the next lessons. We also appreciated how there was ample time between the three workshops so that we had some time to go back to our organization and think through various issues. We were able to share the BCP learning process with our other colleagues and discuss what should go into our BCP plan.”

“We are currently updating our simple BCP based on what we learned at this workshop series. We are looking forward to more of the same kind of practical workshops from International Medical Corps that will build our capacity and help us to more effectively do our work.”

Japan Platform (JPF) is an international emergency humanitarian aid organization made up of 44 member NGOs, the majority of which do emergency humanitarian aid throughout the world. JPF conducts aid through a tripartite cooperation system, where NGOs, business community, and government of Japan work in close cooperation, based on equal partnership. 


Masayuki Okada, Administrative Manager for Association for Aid and Relief (AAR) Japan:

“AAR Japan has been concerned about how we would respond if a natural disaster should strike our own headquarters in the greater Tokyo area, a likelihood we know all too well could happen in the future.  When we heard about this opportunity to learn about BCP directly from BCP experts, we thought this would be a great chance to brush up on our organization’s BCP approach.”

“Two staff members from AAR Japan including myself participated in these workshops. We learned many specific techniques such as how to calculate the number of staff that would likely be able to come to the office if transportation routes were closed and how to identify priority tasks for our operations during an emergency as opposed to normal times. We also realized that we faced serious issues if the building in which our office is located becomes inaccessible, such as losing the ability to access any of the data we have stored on our server or any workspace our staff would need to carry out their tasks even if they could make it to the office. Thanks to these lessons, we are now creating a backup plan for saving our data and are considering moving our office to a newer building with more advanced earthquake resistance.”

“This workshop even included a review of AAR Japan’s BCP plan by the experts, something we would have had great difficulty getting on our own. Japanese NGOs in general have a great budget limitation, and so getting expert advice is extremely difficult.”

“Based on what we learned, AAR Japan has already started to improve upon a number of measures we already had in place, such as our procedures to check on the safety of our staff and measures to better utilize our satellite phones to ensure communication in case both landlines and mobile phone lines crash during an emergency. We plan on reviewing our BC plan on a regular basis within our organization and make sure that our staff are aware of what is in the BC plan. We hope to run simulations with staff to test how the BCP plan would work. We ask for International Medical Corps and the BCP experts to continue to support our efforts to prepare ourselves for emergencies.”

Association for Aid and Relief, Japan (AAR Japan) is a NGO focusing on emergency assistance, assistance to persons with disabilities, and Mine/UXO action. AAR Japan initiated Tohoku aid and relief activities one day after the Great East Japan Earthquake and they have been engaged in emergency and recovery assistance in the affected areas ever since.

Kazutaka Ueda, Senior Program Manager for SEEDS Asia:

“SEEDS Asia was only created in 2006 and so is still a young NGO. Until 3 years ago, we only had 5 staff members. During these last years we’ve expanded our projects and now have 3 branch offices. It was perfect timing for us when we learned about International Medical Corps’ BCP training, because within our organization we were recently discussing the need to have a continuity plan in the case of an emergency like a natural disaster. We jumped at the chance to participate and traveled the over 500km from Kobe to Tokyo for the workshops.”

“What drew us to this workshop was the fact that it wasn’t just a lecture but a workshop that would actually result in creating a BCP. Like most small NGOs in Japan, we are extremely limited in human and financial resources, and we hadn’t had the time to spend making a BC plan on our own. If we hadn’t participated in a workshop like this that let us put words on paper (i.e., a written BCP), we would probably have never been able to create our own BCP.  In addition, it was important that we shared the BCP process with our staff so we are all on the same page about how we should respond in case of an emergency.”

“It was wonderful to be able to ask questions and receive advice from BCP experts specific to our organization’s needs. Being able to have this one-on-one advice increased the practicality of our BC plan and helped us think more deeply about what we can do to be operationally functioning when disaster strikes at our own doorstep.”

SEEDS Asia has been conducting activities in Asia Pacific region related to development, environmental management and community-based Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR). In Kesennuma City, SEEDS Asia has been assisting community building at temporary housing sites, organizing meetings for leaders of temporary housing sites, conducting DRR education/Education for Sustainable Development (ESD). 

Hiroyuki Okada (far right) from AAR
Hiroyuki Okada (far right) from AAR
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Yumi Terahata Presenting the Day's Topic
Yumi Terahata Presenting the Day's Topic

In January of 2012, Japanese Scientists at Tokyo University and Global Seismologists released a report that put forward a 70% chance of a 7+ Richter-scale earthquake hitting Japan in the next 4 years. Due to this prediction, a significant disaster risk reduction effort is ongoing in Japan, and International Medical Corps is working with local partners to build the capacity of local community-based organizations. 

The majority of Japanese Non-Government Organizations (NGOs) now realize that ensuring their organization’s integrity when they themselves are hit by a disaster is essential to their ability to provide humanitarian aid quickly and efficiently to affected populations. However, many of these organizations do not have the necessary resources and technical know-how to make such preparations. To fill this crucial gap, International Medical Corps is providing risk management expertise to NGOs and helping them to prepare a Business Continuity Plan (BCP) so that they will be ready to respond to future disasters.

International Medical Corps and seasoned BCP experts from two premier Japanese risk management corporations (Tokio Marine & Nichido Risk Consulting Co., Ltd., and Mitsubishi Corporation Insurance Co., Ltd.) are conducting a three-part workshop series that begins with teaching local organizations the fundamentals of business continuity planning; and finishes with each NGO creating a simple, practical BCP plan that fits its respective organizational needs. Assignments are given to participants after the workshops, and are taken back to their organizations to facilitate BCP implementation and to ensure that the BCP drafting exercise is applicable to the organizations.


Workshop Part 1 (August 20, 2013): “An Introduction to Business Continuity Planning for NGOs”

International Medical Corps, together with its corporate partners and Japan Platform (the consortium of Japanese Emergency Response NGOs), successfully conducted Part One of this three-workshop series. A total of 28 staff members from 19 organizations participated in this workshop.

Yumi Terahata, International Medical Corps Country Representative, introduced the day’s topic and presented on the need for NGOs to keep themselves functional in times of emergency so they can recover quickly from a disaster and effectively provide assistance to the affected population. Takahiro Ono, BCP Manager at Mitsubishi Corporation Insurance Ltd., taught participating NGO senior management personnel about risk management and the various steps that go into an ever-evolving business continuity plan. Workshop participants then completed a BCP simulation exercise of an emergency scenario, incorporating what they learned during the previous lecture and basing their responses on their own organization’s unique resources and capacities.


Workshop Part 2 (scheduled for September 11, 2013): “Risk Assessment and Priority Action Items.”

Topics the NGOs will examine at this workshop include: identifying the particular risks they face (e.g. natural disaster, etc.), the specific tasks they must complete to ensure that they are functional and able to fulfill their mandate after the disaster, persons responsible for each task, and special considerations that must be addressed as part of the planning process. Participants will then develop a list of action items, including timeframes, to address the implementation of their plan.


Workshop Part 3 (scheduled for October 9, 2013):

Based on their work in the previous workshops, each NGO will draft a BCP plan that meets its organizational needs. BCP experts will provide feedback to each organization’s BCP draft and offer suggestions/advice for improvement.

Takahiro Ono Teaching Risk Management
Takahiro Ono Teaching Risk Management
Noriko Yoichi Providing Sample Responses
Noriko Yoichi Providing Sample Responses
Workshop Participants Completing a BCP SImulation
Workshop Participants Completing a BCP SImulation
Masayuki Tanaka Presenting his Responses
Masayuki Tanaka Presenting his Responses
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Before the earthquake, Mrs. Toyoda and her husband lived and worked an agricultural farm with their son, his wife, and two grandsons. After the earthquake, their home town of Odaka District was designated as a no-entry zone due to the radiation, and the family was forced to move to Tamagata. However, Mrs. Toyoda and her husband could not get used to living in a new place, and they moved to the Chikura temporary housing site. They believed it would be better to live near their hometown, even though there were fears of radiation.

The Chikura temporary housing site is one of the few places in the area where the residents are allowed to keep pets. The Toyoda’s family dog joined them in Chikura, and kept the couple company as they did not know anyone else in their site. Sometimes, Mrs. Toyoda went to see friends in other temporary housing sites, but the travel was often difficult as her husband had to drive her from place to place. She eventually stopped going, and soon she was spending her days watching television and talking to her dog. Her husband, also lonely and depressed, began drinking every day.

Their new life was so much different than their old lives – prior to the earthquake, they had a house and a farm to take care of. Now they had nothing to do. Even though they were receiving compensation for the disaster and the loss of their home, there were not many activities to participate in. “I would dream of my hometown Odaka, and my farm and house whenever I was awake or asleep,” said Mrs. Toyoda.

In February of 2011, International Medical Corps, with Japan International Volunteer Center and the local organizations of Tsunagappe Minami-Soma and Yappe Minami-Soma, created a community space in Chikura temporary housing. At first, Mrs. Toyoda was not interested. She did not want to talk to people she did not know.

Soon after, Mrs. Toyoda received a flyer advertising a traditional folk song class called Minyo, taught by the famous local singer Sadao Sawada. Mrs. Toyoda attended the class with the intention of only listening and watching – but she realized that she enjoyed the singing and missed local music. Although she was not a very skilled singer, she enjoyed participating in Mr. Sawada’s lesson. She made friends from different districts in the town.

Ms. Dochuchi, the community space manager at Chikura said, “Mrs. Toyoda seemed kind of scared when she first came to the community space. She did not try to make friends. She often talked about the fact that she cannot go back to her district. But gradually, she became social and started to do many things here.

Mrs. Toyoda now visits the community space almost every day to visit and participate in activities. Her new friends became a close-knit group, often working on patchwork sewing. In August of 2012, Mrs. Toyoda and her friends asked the staff if they could hold an exhibition of their patchwork in the community space.  Tsunagappe staff advertised the exhibition in the city, and more than 100 people came to the community space to see the patchwork sewing. Television media came as well, broadcasting the show on both Japanese National Television and French Television.

Now, Mrs. Toyoda is a much more cheerful person. She often jokes with the volunteers, “In the temporary housing site, I don’t have to clean such a large place so living here is much easier! I was so busy farming in Odaka that I never had time to learn new things like patchwork sewing.”

International Medical Corps is proud to work with local organizations Tsunagappe Minami-Soma and Yappe Minami-Soma to provide continued relief for earthquake and tsunami victims. Providing a sense of purpose for residents empowers them, encouraging recovery for those affected by the disasters.


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International Medical Corps’ work in Japan continues.

  • International Medical Corps is prioritizing support for Fukushima’s evacuee-children. Through partner IVY, we are supporting the first day care center for children of displaced families. The majority of IVY caretakers are themselves evacuee-mothers from Fukushima. We also worked with Association for Aid and Relief Japan (AAR) to install playground equipment for the Gangoya Temporary Housing Complex, which is home to 264 families.
  • One major area of need identified by local organizations was the lack of places where displaced residents could go to alleviate feelings of anxiety and loneliness. International Medical Corps is supporting partners JVC, Shapla Neer and The People to run community spaces throughout Fukushima Prefecture where evacuees can meet other evacuees, receive psychological support and critical information about available resources, and take part in recreational workshops and activities.

On March 11thGlobal Giving is matching donations to International Medical Corps’ Japan programming two-to-one! Your generous donation will be tripled, providing three times the impact and three times the results in regions of Japan still recovering from the earthquake and tsunami.

Your gift will build community centers and daycares, providing key meeting areas for affected populations that need places for support. Your gift will also support long-term disaster preparedness planning throughout Japan, bringing together the Japanese government, local Japanese organizations, and international non-governmental organizations for an integrated, holistic approach to preparing for the next disaster.

Your dollars make a difference, especially on March 11th. Please donate and help Japan’s recovery.

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It has been two years since a 9.0 earthquake devastated Japan, initiating a massive tsunami and radiation crisis. International Medical Corps is still responding in Japan, and this is your chance to support our work. Global Giving is matching donations one-to-one from March 1st to March 15th, up to $1,000 per donor. Your donation will immediately be doubled, amplifying International Medical Corps’ efforts two-fold.

It gets better. On March 11th, to mark the two-year anniversary of the earthquake, Global Giving will match donations two-to-one, up to $1,000 per donor. Your ten-dollar donation becomes thirty dollars. Your hundred-dollar donation becomes $300. Your $1,000 donation becomes $3,000. This unique opportunity to multiply your gift enables International Medical Corps to continue our critical efforts in Japan.

Today, International Medical Corps continues to work in Japan, partnering with local organizations to reach families with critical services in Fukushima Prefecture.

“Due to complications from the nuclear plant accident, many residents have been forced to evacuate their homes in Fukushima and are still living either in temporary housing sites or in rented apartments. Countless survivors are still struggling to rebuild their lives after the disaster without knowing when or if they can return home,” says Yumi Terahata, International Medical Corps’ Country Representative in Japan.  “International Medical Corps is committed to working with local partners to address the long-term needs of the Japanese people.”

Today, International Medical Corps has built on its collaboration with local Japanese agencies to address ongoing humanitarian needs and support disaster-affected communities in becoming more resilient.

  • International Medical Corps, with the Japan Volunteer Center, Shapla Neer, and the People, now run community spaces throughout Fukushima Prefecture where evacuees can meet other evacuees; receive psychological support and information about available sources; and, take part in recreational workshops and activities.
  • International Medical Corps is also focusing support on Fukushima’s evacuee-children. With the Association for Aid and Relief, International Medical Corps is installing playground equipment for Gangoya Temporary Housing Complex, which is home to 264 children. With partner IVY, International Medical Corps is supporting the first daycare center for children of evacuee families from Fukushima, hiring evacuee-mothers as the majority of IVY caretakers.
  • International Medical Corps is funding the NGO Center for International Cooperation to establish and maintain a collaboration space for non-governmental organizations in Fukushima to facilitate information dissemination, networking, and collaboration among local community-based organizations, nonprofits, and international NGOs to assist Fukushima survivors and displaced families.

This is your chance to help.

Only $100,000 is available for matching funds, so donate now!

International Medical Corps thanks you for your continued support and interest in our Japan programming. We look forward to giving you continued updates on the Global Giving site, and encourage you to visit for further information on our programming worldwide.

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International Medical Corps

Location: Los Angeles, CA - USA
Project Leader:
Erica Tavares
Director, Resource Development
santa monica, CA United States

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