Response to Japan Earthquake and Tsunami

by Mercy Corps
Hiroko Mirura leads 400 women who have found jobs
Hiroko Mirura leads 400 women who have found jobs

The compassion of supporters like you has helped women get back to work in Japan - thank you.

Last week, I met Hiroko Mirura. In her early 60s, Ms. Mirura is a former scallop merchant, proud wife of a fisherman, and a strong female leader in the town of Minamisanriku. Hiroko's impressive life boasts many accomplishments, including being the only female board member of the town's powerful fishery association.

But last March, Hiroko's husband was swept away in the tsunami, and her house and business were decimated. Overcome with grief after losing her husband, she went into a deep depression for the next three months. She didn't eat. She didn't get out of bed.

Then one day, she decided that her drive to help her community was stronger than her grief. She wanted to do what little she could to mobilize the other grief-stricken women in Minamisanriku —and it turned out that 'a little' was a lot. She started hosting teas for the unemployed women in town, which led to a community candle-making venture, which led to the need for re-employment.

With a little help from Mercy Corps and Peace Winds Japan, and thanks to the generous support of donors like you and our corporate partners, she is transforming her community.

Today, Ms. Mirura is in charge of mobilizing the 400 women who have gained employment through Mercy Corps' wakame seaweed program.

Wakame seaweed is wildly popular food in Japan and around the world (I’ve already eaten it many times in only four days here). This northeastern coast of Japan is famous for its high quality wakame, but after the tsunami, cultivating, harvesting and processing of this valuable crop had all but ceased because the specialized equipment was washed away. Generously, Walmart donated 26 pieces of the wakame processing equipment, bringing the industry back to life.

I was lucky to arrive just in time for the beginning of the 12-week wakame harvesting season. Each morning at dawn, as the fishing boats return with harvested batches, a group of women gathers around a large metal tub ready to first boil the seaweed, then wring it, then dry it. It's a complicated and intricate process — and one that these women, and Ms. Mirura, are immensely proud of.

Mercy Corps programs are focused on recovery for hard-hit families and children.  We thank you for your ongoing support.

New equipment stands ready for seaweed harvest
New equipment stands ready for seaweed harvest


With Thanksgiving fast approaching, we want to thank you for your generous support of diaster relief in Japan.Your donations embody the spirit of this holiday season and serve as great reminders for all of us to be thankful for what we have and to be generous to those less fortunate. 

Your donations are are so important to what we do. Please watch and share this video of me expressing my appreciation.

Our lifesaving work is not possible without you. Please accept my thanks on behalf of our worldwide team and the millions of people we serve around the world.

I hope that you and your family have a Happy Thanksgiving and a truly special Holiday Season.

Photo: Mao Sato/Peace Winds Japan
Photo: Mao Sato/Peace Winds Japan

More than six months since the massive quake struck Japan, Mercy Corps, with help from Peace Winds, continues to bring relief to people in need while also continuing efforts that include economic recovery and trauma support. Our projects because of your donations have helped 148,000 people who live in the four towns where we are working: Ofunato, Rikuzentakata, Kesennuma and Minamisanriku.

We are helping families that our moving out of shelters into temporary housing provided by the Japanese government by providing bedding and kitchen items. Watch a video of Mercy Corp distributing supplies hereWe have also helped more than 6,000 survivors by distributing vouchers that they can use to purchase supplies they need from local merchants. And since transportation remains a challenge we are helping merchants bring their goods to customers via mobile shops and we are providing people access to stores by running a bus program.

We are also working with fishing associations and chambers of commerce to help vital industries recover. For example, we helped a fish market in Ofunato resume operations by providing much needed equipment like a scales, forklifts, and fish tanks. The market now sells many types of fish including bonito a high demand fish in Japan. We are also helping fishing associations in Minamisanriku purchase essential equipment to restart the production of wakame, a seaweed staple of the Japanese diet. The processing of the seaweed will create jobs for local women who traditionally do this work.   

Mercy Corps is also working to help children and adults deal with the emotional effects of the large disaster. Comfort for Kids is an innovative program that delivers training, books, and pamphlets to parents and teachers designed to help children recover from trauma. To see a copy of the Comfort for Kids workbook in Japanese click here.

Arts and Sports Caravan, a program led by a Japanese art therapist, helps Mercy Corps build and strengthen communities by providing children with fun, creative activities that allow them to express their feelings. It also gives parents an informal opportunity to talk over tea and cookies and speak with trained staff.

Moving Forward, a partnership with Peace Winds and Nike, uses sports to help young people recover physically and mentally from trauma that they have suffered. 

Thank you so much for your continued support, without it none of these projects would be possible.  


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Photo: Christopher Cabatbat/Mercy Corps
Photo: Christopher Cabatbat/Mercy Corps
Photo: Christopher Cabatbat/Mercy Corps
Photo: Christopher Cabatbat/Mercy Corps


Japanese Girls at Mercy Corps
Japanese Girls at Mercy Corps' Program

Last month I visited some of the areas of Japan hit worst by the March tsunami. There, with your help, Mercy Corps and partner Peace Winds are still helping survivors.

I visited evacuation centers where hundreds of Japanese families continue to take shelter. I stood in the ruins of homes and businesses. And I heard plenty of hard stories.

But you know what? I also met folks with remarkable bravery and resolve. I saw lots of smiles. And I heard plenty of laughter — like the children in this video I shot of our Comfort for Kids program.

You are a big reason for their smiles and laughter. With your support, Mercy Corps has helped thousands of kids heal through art, sports and other playful activities.

Because of you, we're also helping communities recover by:

  • Supporting a mobile grocery store that travels to evacuation centers so displaced families can buy their own food.
  • Equipping local Chambers of Commerce with the support they need to rebuild businesses and small-town economies.
  • Helping hard-hit fishermen return to sea, which will restore jobs and help families begin again.

From the wreckage I saw, I can tell you there's a long way to go. But the ruins only tell one part of the story. The smiles of survivors and laughter of children on their way to recovery tell another.

On behalf of the people I met, and thousands of others in Japan who you're helping, thank you for your incredibly caring support.

Roger Burks


Roger Burks
Roger Burks
Senior Writer


Delivering relief to displaced disaster survivors
Delivering relief to displaced disaster survivors

It's been two months since a deadly earthquake and tsunami hit northeastern Japan. Since then -- alongside our partner, Peace Winds -- Mercy Corps' emergency response team has been delivering food, water and other critical supplies to displaced survivors. Your support has truly made a difference after one of the worst disasters in recent memory.

Here's some of the important work we are and will continue to do in the coming weeks:

  • Continuing and expanding our Comfort for Kids program to provide psychosocial support to children
  • Delivering household goods and supplies to displaced families who are moving into temporary housing
  • Distributing cash vouchers to survivors to help them buy much-needed supplies at local stores, which also helps stimulate struggling local economies
  • Supporting hard-hit fisheries and fishing cooperatives to help the region's biggest industry to get going again destroyed local businesses with mobile shops 
  • Providing a bus service for survivors in Rikuzentakata to run to nearby Ofunato, where evacuees and other locals can purchase basic goods, and take care of essential needs like doctor or bank visits 
  • Boosting the capacity of local Chambers of Commerce to support local businesses

Rebuilding and restoring this part of Japan is an enormous task that will take a very long time -- but we feel proud to be part of a team that is leading that recovery. You're part of that team, too.

Thank you for your help.



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Organization Information

Mercy Corps

Location: Portland, OR - USA
Website: http:/​/​
Project Leader:
Carlene Deits
Portland, OR United States

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