Response to Japan Earthquake and Tsunami

by Mercy Corps
New Oars Bring New Hope
New Oars Bring New Hope

Along the tsunami-ravaged coast of Minamisanriku, abalone and sea urchins are an important source of income for local fishermen. Unlike other sea crops, these bottom-dwelling creatures are neither cultivated nor caught with nets, but caught by hand and with spears. In order to harvest these high-value species, fishermen need to be able to approach without a motor, using oars

However, all the oars in Minamisanriku were lost or destroyed in the devastating tsunami in 2011. Replacing this resource allows fishermen to restart earning from the bottom-dwelling species, and improve their livelihoods.

Mercy Corps was asked by our partner agency, Peace Winds Japan, to provide funds to create 50 oars. In the end, the combined efforts of both Mercy Corps and the International Rescue Committee provided 200 paddles to fishermen from the Shizukawa Fishing Cooperative. Also benefiting from this program were two local carpenters who gained additional income by finishing the woodwork and adding protective coating on the oars.

Thanks to ongoing support from donors like you, these resilient fishermen will be able to harvest abalone and sea urchins starting this November and continue on in the future!


A child at a movie screening
A child at a movie screening

Mercy Corps continues to aid Japan's recovery by partnering with two local groups to establish the Sanriku Tomodachi Fund for Economic Recovery. This new program will provide grants and subsidies to small- and medium-size businesses with less than 20 employees before the Tsunami. The three-pronged approach will provide one-year long employment subsidy for a minimum of 50 jobs, encourage up to 25 local start-ups, and provide free-interest subsidies to promote post-tsunami reconstruction. The new fund begins accepting applications from businesses this month.This fund was established because of donations from you. Thank you.

As the holiday season approaches we would like to encourage you to continue supporting our efforts around the world by making a donation to Mercy Corps on behalf of a loved one. Make a donation in honor of someone special and get them a gift they will never forget. 

Through GlobalGiving, it’s easy to make this meaningful gift. Just select the ‘gift in honor of’ tab under the orange ‘donate’ button on the left side of the donation page. Choose how you want the recipient of your gift to know that a donation has been made in their honor. Designate the amount you would like to give and hit the ‘donate’ button. Then customize the card as you’d like! 

Also don’t forget to redeem any Global Giving Gift Cards that you may have received this year. Mercy Corps has many important projects that we could use your help with.

And, if you make a donation of $50 or more before the end of the year, we would love to thank you by sending our beautiful 2012 Mercy Corps Calendar. Just forward your email receipt and provide us with your mailing address to

However you choose to give to Mercy Corps this year, know that your gift will help people living in some of the toughest places in the world lead more productive, safe, and healthy lives.

From all of us here at Mercy Corps, thank you and Happy Holidays!

Examples of GlobalGiving Tribute Cards
Examples of GlobalGiving Tribute Cards
Mercy Corps 2012 Calendar
Mercy Corps 2012 Calendar


Map showing the routes of aid reaching Kesemmuma
Map showing the routes of aid reaching Kesemmuma

From Randy Martin, Director, Global Emergency Operations, Mercy Corps:

I'm on my way to Japan to support the emergency relief efforts of our partner, Peace Winds. But I wanted to take a moment to say thank you.

Thank you for what you're doing to help people affected by this terrible tragedy. Your contribution is helping get vital supplies into the hands of families made homeless by last Friday's massive earthquake and tsunami.

Peace Winds has been delivering relief supplies to evacuated families in the tsunami-devastated city of Kesennuma. They've sent large shelters, dozens of tents, tarps, blankets and food including bread, instant rice, apples and oranges.

I've worked side by side with Peace Winds' relief teams, including after the massive 2003 earthquake in Bam, Iran. They are as experienced and effective as any aid group I've encountered.

I'll be supporting Peace Winds' efforts in whatever way I can, and paving the way for additional Mercy Corps emergency responders to bolster relief efforts.

Again, on behalf of Mercy Corps, Peace Winds and the families you are helping, thank you for your generosity.


Randy Martin

Randy Martin
Director, Global Emergency Operations

Tomihiro and Akiko Kashiwagi using business grant
Tomihiro and Akiko Kashiwagi using business grant

If you had never visited Japan’s tsunami-ravaged coast until now, the bleak landscape where homes and businesses once stood would be sobering.

Having watched the relief effort and the recovery, my visits back to the Tohoku region have been increasingly reassuring. In fact, my recent visit with partner colleagues was inspiring. We were there to witness the signs of recovery – and we found many. Thank you for your donation to make these improvements possible!

At a recent event organized by Kesennuma Shinkin, a local cooperative bank we’re partnering with to support small business recovery, 13 entrepreneurs were awarded grants. The recipients from Kesennuma and three neighboring coastal towns have used the funds to start new businesses in the disaster area. Their businesses run the gamut — from a day care center, a fish processor and a baker to a machine repair shop, a mulberry tea producer and an ice-making factory.

In only five months since its inauguration, this Mercy Corps program has funded the startup of 20 new businesses (like the three featured in this video) and supported the recovery of an additional 50 businesses through a loan subsidy program. Well over 300 jobs have been created in the process.

But the program does more than restore jobs — it recreates livelihoods and self-determination. Each of the entrepreneurs has an incredible story to tell and an important contribution to make.

Like Tomohiro Kashiwagi, whose repair shop was completely destroyed by the tsunami. Without a building or the capital to buy or build one, he and his wife, Akiko, are starting from the ground up with a completely new — and very innovative — business in their home. They are recycling cooking oil into fuel.

Kashiwagi has lined up a string of restaurants as a source of used cooking oil. He collects it and refines it using a machine that he bought with his grant. He then sells the fuel for use in converted diesel engines. It’s not only good for the couple — and good for the environment — it’s good for customers, as it sells for about 30% less than commercial diesel fuel. The city of Kesennuma, in fact, is Kashiwagi’s primary customer, having converted some of its garbage trucks to run on his recycled vegetable oil. He says they smell like fried chicken when they drive by!

It was a very moving day. Because of your support, the lives of hardworking entrepreneurs, their families and their community ar being transformed. Thank you.


Smiling girl displaced by Japanese tsunami
Smiling girl displaced by Japanese tsunami

One year after the worst natural disaster in Japan’s history — the massive earthquake and tsunami of March 11, 2011 — Mercy Corps continues to work with our partner agencies, Peace Winds Japan and PlaNet Finance Japan, to help the Japanese people rebuild. Thanks to your support, we have brought much-needed assistance to four towns where 148,000 people live and are recovering from the disaster. On their behalf, we thank you and offer this brief report of the progress they have made.

After the Disaster: Bringing Relief

In the first days and weeks after the earthquake and tsunami, our team focused on providing a wide range of relief items to survivors.


Mercy Corps and Peace Winds provided relief supplies — tents, tarps, blankets, mattresses, space heaters, kerosene, medical masks, clothing, bottled water, diapers, toilet paper, school supplies and food — to 42,000 people living in shelters.


We provided vouchers that 6,300 survivors used to purchase goods — food, clothing and other supplies — from local merchants. People prioritized their own needs while supporting local economies.


We supported 15 mobile shops in two cities that brought goods to local people and provided a living for merchants in Rikuzentakata, where almost all commerce was destroyed.


We started a bus program that provided 7,330 rides to allow survivors to shop for basics and access essential services like medical care and banks, while boosting the business of damaged shops.

After the Disaster: Helping Children Recover

Mercy Corps recognized that the disaster was profoundly upsetting to children. Our programs, described below, helped 2,300 children and the adults in their lives heal from the trauma.


Comfort for Kids builds up the ability of local communities to help children recover from the emotional effects of a large-scale disaster. We customized this program for Japan and incorporated activities for adults.


We partnered with Peace Winds Japan and Nike to introduce Moving Forward, a program that uses sports to help young people recover physically, socially, mentally and emotionally from traumas associated with disasters.


We worked with a Japanese art therapy specialist to offer art activities to affected children. Art Caravan helps kids by letting them express themselves through creative play.

Looking Ahead: Boosting Economic Recovery

As the cleanup continues, our team has shifted focus to economic recovery.


We provided equipment and funds to quickly rebuild the hatchery in Minamisanriku, which processes more salmon than anywhere else in Japan. Our rapid response allowed the hatchery to harvest eggs and raise fish in time for spring release. These fish will provide a huge boost — $8 million in annual sales as well as jobs — to the town’s economy.


We provided a generator, forklifts, fish tanks, ice storage and scales to help reopen the Ofunato fish market, which supports the fishing industry of the entire town. The market employs 20 people who serve dozens of fishermen and 100 vendors who buy, sell and process salmon and other kinds of fish.


We are supporting fishing associations in Minamisanriku to restart the production and processing of wakame, a seaweed staple of the Japanese diet. Wakame processing employs 400 local women who traditionally do this work. Mercy Corps helped purchase 100 sets of equipment — tubs and containers for boiling, cooling and preserving — to grow the seaweed and harvest and process the crop.


Mercy Corps partnered with local groups to establish a fund that provides grants and subsidies to help small and medium-size businesses rehire workers and rebuild their operations. The program also supports the start-up of new local businesses.

Because of your donation, progress has been made and will continue. Thank you.  


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Organization Information

Mercy Corps

Location: Portland, OR - USA
Project Leader:
Carlene Deits
Portland, OR United States

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Combined with other sources of funding, this project raised enough money to fund the outlined activities and is no longer accepting donations.

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