Sponsor Fellows for Tohoku and Japan's Recovery

by ETIC
Busy making jewelry
Busy making jewelry

Over the past two and a half weeks, I’ve been traveling through Japan and the Tohoku region visiting the areas affected by last year’s earthquake and tsunami and seeing the progress that has been made by organizations supported by GlobalGiving donors.  Every day I have asked people one question: What is most needed for the recovery of the Tohoku region; and every day I hear the same thing: jobs.  In a region largely known for fishing and agricultural industry, the tsunami destroyed the livelihoods of thousands and thousands of families.  People are eager to get back on their feet, but need help restarting businesses that were washed away in the tsunami.


After hearing so much about the importance of economic recovery in the Tohoku region, it was wonderful to visit ETIC staff and see the great work that this organization is doing to create employment in the region.  ETIC matches talented young professionals with social enterprises in the Tohoku region.  These young professionals leave their jobs to work full time for up to a year helping to launch small businesses or other social projects in the tsunami-affected area.  This model both brings new, innovative ideas to the affected area, and also helps foster a sense of community involvement and public service among fellows that last throughout their lives.

On April 4, I visited two ETIC small business projects, along with GlobalGiving co-founders Mari Kuraishi and Dennis Whittle.  First, we visited a group of mothers in a small fishing community on the Oshika Peninsula in Ishinomaki, who were making high-quality necklaces and earrings out of antlers.  The group sells the necklaces for Y2,000 (about $24) online and in local shops. The ETIC fellow running the project meticulously measured the jewelry and tested the quality before accepting each one.  But what was most amazing was not that the group was making a high-quality project, but that they had more demand than they could fill!  So often we have visited projects where people are creating items that no one was buying.  This was a great case of a small business that was working, thanks to the hard work of both the mothers and the ETIC fellow.

We also visited a new restaurant in Ishinomaki’s city center.  Just days from their grand opening, the staff was bustling trying to get things ready – painting walls, finalizing menus, and rearranging furniture.  Their goal was not just to create a restaurant, but to create a center where the community could come together to share a meal and conversation to start rebuilding their lives.  The bright walls were inviting, and the location – near other shops and across from the train station – was perfect.

We had a chance to talk to some of the staff.  We heard stories about how they survived the tsunami and why they wanted to join in this new enterprise.  One of the new cooks told us about how he escaped last year’s tsunami by climbing on the roof of his business and swimming to safety.  Another told us of her desire to give back to the community.   While we talked, the staff brought us food from the new menu.   The goal of the restaurant was good food and conversation, and that’s exactly what we experienced.

In just one day we saw the very real impact that ETIC is having in the lives of people – from Fellows to tsunami survivors – throughout Tohoku.

ETIC fellow visits the jewelry project
ETIC fellow visits the jewelry project

We have published an annual report including our activities, results, interviews, questionnaire survey and plan for the next fiscal year.

Thanks to your support, our recovery project have made steady progress. The number of Fellows reached 74 at the end of February 2012. To respond the increasing needs for young people with entrepreneurship and practical skills, we raised our 3-year target from 100 to 200 in November 2011.

Please see the report to find how young Fellows have contributed to recovery project as a core staff.


Attachments:
Tomoya Tada (Fellow)
Tomoya Tada (Fellow)

Oshika Peninsula is a secluded area in Tohoku. It takes an hour to get there from Ishinomaki-city by car. It is too far for aid goods and people to reach. People couldn't get enough help because of living in such an isolated place.

Tomoya Tada had been working at a global management consulting firm for two years. He wanted to do something for Tohoku’s recovery. However, as he was very busy with his work at the firm, he could finally visit Mr. Yuichi Tomohiro in Oshika in July 2011. They have known each other for a long time, since their university days.  Tomoya found that all of those he met there took pride in their work. This made him want to help them. On his way home, he send a email to his boss, telling that he would like to quit his job for heading to Tohoku.

From September 2011, Tomoya  took a leave of absence and from his job, and started to launch a new business in Oshika with Mr. Tomohiro. They hired women in Oshika, and started to make accessories using local materials such as fishing nets and antlers. Tomoya is in charge of the product development, production management, sales promotion, and accounting.

Tomoya said that the project is not only for business and job creation, but also for community building. Oshika is thinly-populated place with a little chance for the local to get together. Tomoya said, "I’m really happy to see local people working with  positive attitudes. Our goal is to create sustainable business and community. I’m thinking that I will be here for a long-term, at least 3 years.”

Profile: Tomoya worked for two years in the consulting firm in charge of marketing strategy, operation turnaround and new business development. He works for a job creation project through production of accessories using local materials. Mr. Tomohiro, the leader of the project, has studied in the same university. 

Mr. Narita (left) with Mr. Nitta, his colleague
Mr. Narita (left) with Mr. Nitta, his colleague

Ofunato is a major seaport city in Iwate with about 40,000 people. The terrible tsunami swept and ruined buildings and housings in the town. About 1,800 temporary housings have been built. However, it is often a challenge to build a new community of people from different areas. Imagine staying with whom you don't know or are not familiar with. You would be much stressed.

In order to ensure a healthy and comfortable life to all inhabitants, the local government hired 89 local staff. However, as the governmental function was heavily damaged, there were few people who could manage such a large number of staff effectively.

Mr. Hiroto Kikuchi, a nonprofit leader in Iwate, started a project to manage communities of temporary housings, in partnership with the local government and various support organizations. And, in the late of September, Mr. Yoshitaka Narita, who had worked as a manager of an IT company, joined in the project as a Fellow to support Mr. Kikuchi.

With his experiences in corporate planning, project management, human resources management, etc., Mr. Narita has been supervising local staff hired by the government’s budget so that they can address various issues in temporary housing communities. Mr. Kikuchi said, “Thanks to his contribution, I became able to secure my time for other important works.”

Mr. Narita believes it is important for the local people themselves to discuss and rethink how to they rebuild their own community. “In partnership with the local government, we will promote such kind of resident participation in the recovery,” he added.

Minami-Sanriku, a small town devastated by the earthquake and tsunami on March 11th, is famous for its octopus fishing. In 2009, its tourist office started to produce and sell a good-luck charm in the shape of octopus, which has become very popular especially among entrance exam-takers. The pronunciation of the word “Octopus” sounds like, “Okuto-pasu” which means “place and you will pass” in Japanese.

After the earthquake, in order to create jobs for affected people, some local volunteers launched a project to restart production and sales of the octopus charm as the symbol for recovery.

In September 2011, Ms. Murai joined the project as a Fellow. Using her years of experience in a fair trade company and in a major travel agency, she has been in charge of sales channel development, product management, and online sales promotion and marketing.

Mr. Abe, the leader of the project, said, “She has played an important role in the project. She always empowers and motivates co-workers while making a large contribution to the sales.”

Ms. Murai said, “The goal of our project is to revitalize Minami-Sanriku, where all residents will be able to have a hope for future, while creating jobs for them. I think that my main role is to provide local people with a place where they can work vigorously and creatively.”

She added, "The town is now facing a population outflow. What I can do is really a small thing, but I will continue thinking about a vision for the future with local people. I believe there are lots of hints for Tohoku and Japan’s recovery.”

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Organization Information

ETIC

Location: Shibuya-ku, Tokyo - Japan
Website: http:/​/​www.etic.or.jp/​
Project Leader:
Koji Yamauchi
Director
Shibuya-ku, Tokyo Japan
$13,033 raised of $168,000 goal
 
121 donations
$154,967 to go
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