Ways to Help Japan


Image ©2011 ~Sian0410 (The Japanese characters say “hope,” “love,” and “support”)

Although it’s been more than a month since the massive earthquake and tsunami in Japan, the disaster continues to unfold and people are still very much in need of assistance. In the last few weeks, many organizations have begun to organize fundraising and volunteer efforts, but it can be hard to sort out which one might best suit your purposes. I am personally recommending that friends donate to an NGO called JEN. A friend of a friend provided this testimonial about their organization:

“As some of you may know, I worked with [JEN] briefly, and I can say with confidence that they do amazing work. They have been working in emergency situations—postwar and post-disaster—since the 1990s, and they are considered to be one of the best. In addition to projects in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, etc., they have a program in Niigata where they’ve been supporting a small community of elderly farmers to rebuild their lives after the Niigata Earthquake in 2004. Seeing their work there, I know that JEN can and will respond with care to the needs of victims, not only in the immediate relief, but in the long years of recovery ahead.

There must be other large organizations mobilizing for action right now. While they also do good work, it can also be limited. Small but highly skilled NGOs like JEN can do what large agencies cannot do—be attentive to the multiple local needs and act according to each situation. This means that they can choose to work in neglected and hard-to-reach areas, work flexibly according to the fast changes of post-disaster conditions, without large overhead costs, and without bureaucratic constraints. They will also continue to be there when others have left after the relief phase. In short, your donations will go far to help victims directly.”

If you’d like to contribute to JEN, you can do so using your credit card (in English or in Japanese) or by postal transfer (for those who live in Japan).

There are tons of ways to donate and to volunteer these days. Many individuals and organizations such as the Terasaki Center for Japanese Studies at UCLA have put together lists of various opportunities, and I’ve tried to aggregate some below. This is by no means an exhaustive list (things are changing all of the time), nor can I personally vouch for any of these organizations—but it’s a place to start!

General Relief:

  • Japan Platform: A consortium of NGOs, the private sector, and the government that pools together money and resources so that selected professional NGOs can respond quickly to emergency situations.
  • Japanese Red Cross: Japanese Red Cross teams are already in the field helping those in need. A Japanese-language update on their activities may be viewed here. The Japanese donation page accepts credit card donations. Instructions for bank transfers are available on the English donation page.
  • Second Harvest Japan: Japan’s largest food bank is helping to provide food and general disaster relief. You can donate online, or if you’re in Japan, you can also volunteer.
  • Peace Winds Japan: An organization that responded immediately to the disaster and is
    cooperating with other organizations to provide shelters and emergency supplies in the hard-hit Kesennuma area. Find out more about their activities here. Donate by check or credit card.
  • Salvation Army: Teams in Sendai and Mito are distributing meals and supplies to evacuees. For more information, please check the activity blog. Credit card donations are accepted online and by phone at 1-800-SAL-ARMY; or text “JAPAN” or “QUAKE” to 80888 to make a $10 donation. (You must respond “YES” to a confirmation thank-you message.)
  • Convoy of Hope: Convoy of Hope reports shipping 50,000 meals from the Philippines to Japan. Supplies are being sent to partners in Japan to be distributed to evacuation shelters and national churches. [Source] Donate to its Japan Disaster Relief fund online. Accepts credit card.
  • United Airlines: United is offering frequent flyer miles to those who donate to the American Red Cross through the International Response Fund. You can also donate your frequent flyer miles to the American Red Cross or Operation USA through their Charity Miles program; these miles can be used by both organizations to assist in getting aid workers to affected areas.
  • A long and ever-growing list of musicians are participating in fundraisers or issuing special releases such as “Songs for Japan”. Pitchfork has a list here that includes efforts by Radiohead, Arcade Fire, LCD Soundsystem, Beastie Boys, Bowie, Gorillaz, and more.

Medical Aid

The elderly in particular are struggling due to illnesses that require constant care.

  • AmeriCares: This organization and its relief workers in Japan are working to deliver medicines and supplies to hospitals, shelters and health responders to treat and care for survivors. [Source] Donate to their Japan online. Accepts credit card.
  • International Medical Corps: Their emergency response team is assessing the post-disaster needs of isolated coastal villages north of Sendai that have yet to receive humanitarian assistance. They found acute shortages of food, water and some medicines, and survivors in need of mental health support.” [Source] Donate to the emergency response fund online or text MED to 80888 for a one-time $10 donation.

Children’s Needs

An estimated 100,000 children have been displaced from their homes. The following groups focus on seeing to the needs of these children and their caretakers.

  • Save the Children: Teams are in Sendai to help children affected by the earthquake and tsunami, and are in the process of setting up child-friendly spaces. These are protective play areas that help relieve the anxiety faced by children and allow them to spend time with other children and play while being supervised by responsible adults. The play
    areas also give parents much needed time that they can dedicate to finding food sources, work, accommodation and locating other friends and family. [Source] Donate
    to the Children’s Emergency Fund online. Accepts credit card.
  • World Vision Japan and World Vision USA: Blankets, bottled water, and sanitary and hygiene supplies are among the items in World Vision’s distribution to assist more than 6,000 people in urgent need in Minami Sanriku, where 9,600 townspeople have been displaced into 40 shelters. [Source] Donate online in Japanese or “>in English. Accepts credit card.
  • UK-Japan Children Disaster Relief (“Play for Japan”): An organization led by the Japanese Culture Workshop Leader Akemi Solloway. Together with volunteers from the UK, Akemi is organizing a trip to Japan for young British people to personally distribute items such as toys, books, dolls and essentials to children who have nothing and cannot yet return home. The trip will run from April 18-24, 2011. Everything people give will be marked in Japanese and English: ‘A Gift from the People of Britain.’

Opportunities to Volunteer

For those of you looking for ways to donate your time, there are an increasing number of ways to get involved:

  • Shelterbox International: A UK-based organization that has been in Japan for several weeks and delivered boxes of aid to the victims. Its volunteers are on standby to deploy for relief mission.
  • Food for Life Global: A US-based organization calling for volunteers to help them with food handling, transportation, medical supplies. Just fill in the form to be considered.
  • Save the Children: They have a team of volunteers to help children by setting up “Child Friendly Spaces” where anxiety-ridden children can spend time with other children and play while being supervised by responsible adults. The play areas also enable parents to dedicate time to finding accommodation, food sources, locating other friends and family and work.
  • Second Harvest Japan: Japan’s largest food bank is helping to provide food and general disaster relief. Find out more about volunteering here.
  • Peace Boat: Peace Boat is now coordinating teams of volunteers to travel to Ishinomaki City as soon as possible to assist in rebuilding the lives of those affected, and particularly to prepare hot meals.
  • All Hands: A US-based volunteer non-profit already set up on Fukushima.
  • Christian Relief, Assistance, Support and Hope (CRASH): A network supporting Christians to do relief work in Japan and around the world. Also on Facebook.
  • Earthday Money: Information on how to host evacuees in your home.
  • Nikkei Youth Network: A group of young volunteers based in Tokyo.
  • Japan Volunteers: A resource site for people interesting in volunteering.
  • Foreign Volunteer Japan: Another resource site for people interested in volunteering.

As the international media coverage dies down, it’s important to remember that many people are still undergoing great hardship in Japan. The lives of those affected are often the hardest when the world has begun to forget, and sadly, those are the times when donations drop drastically. If you can, please consider helping out again next year, and the following year.

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