Many years ago, I spent two years as a JET (Japan Exchange and Teaching) participant in Northern Japan. I remember receiving the letter from the JET program in the summer of 1989 letting me know I would be teaching at three high schools in Ichinohe in Iwate Prefecture. I had lived in Tokyo as an exchange student previously and didn’t have a clue about life up north in rural Japan. I had an inkling it would be cold, as I had heard about the Siberian winds that blew across the region. Little did I know what awaited me there.
What I found was a beautiful, rugged, and pristine landscape. The prefecture is dotted with rice fields, green forests, snow capped mountains (Alpine skiing is a popular sport), and a breathtaking coast line. It is quite a ways from bustling Tokyo and seemed to be a different world altogether. The pace was slower, and there was room to breathe. The sky appeared to be bigger.
The people I met there welcomed me into their community so warmly and graciously. I was like the foreign long lost relative who came to visit. They forgave me for my horrible Japanese (although I am a 3rd generation Japanese-American, I didn’t grow up with the language and learned it in college) and various social faux pas I made during my stay.
I made friendships there that I have kept to this day. One of them is a person who was my guardian angel that first year. She was an English teacher, single, female, and young, like me, whom I taught with at the high school. Happily, she was also my next door neighbor.
The Fates were good to me. Without her, who would have explained the social politics of the teacher’s room? Who would have translated what the oldest male teacher was saying to me (he had a thick regional accent that had little resemblance to the one I learned in school)? How would I have known that I could keep my face warm during the cold winter nights (having no central heat indoors and no gas heat for fear of carbon monoxide poisoning) by putting cold cream and saran wrap on my face??
Memories of my time living there have come rushing back to me during these past few weeks. I have been filled with sadness and concern for the people of Japan and my beloved Iwate. Its coastal towns have been wiped off the map. It’s still hard for me to fathom and to truly grasp. The magnitude of the destruction is just so great…
I was incredibly relieved to find out that my dear friend (and past guardian angel), Yukari, and her family (who live in Sendai) are all OK. My heart goes out to all those who weren’t so lucky.
We, outside of Japan, may feel removed and helpless to really make a difference, living so far away. But we CAN help. And in a very local way.
Todd of Todd’s Wanderings has organized Blog for Japan. He and his wife, who is from Tokyo, are both professional aid and and recovery workers with the United Nations. They witnessed the recovery phase of the 2004 Tsunami and are spreading the word that there is a tremendous need to not only raise donations but to make sure those funds are used responsibly and are in the hands of organizations with not only technical expertise but also local knowledge. They put together a list of local Japanese organizations that you can donate to.
Also, if you have a blog and would like to participate in Blog 4 Japan to spread the word, please do so!
Below are the links for the organizations from the original post at Todd’s Wanderings:
Japanese Organizations We Trust
Please consider donating to one or more of these organizations. All are local Japanese organizations and we have found the English Pages for you. Even a small amount like $10 is useful, but we hope you donate more!
Peace Winds Japan is one of the largest Japanese organizations providing humanitarian relief such as food, clothing, fuel and medical supplies to the affected areas. You can Donate Here.
JEN is a well known NGO dedicated to restoring a self-supporting livelihood both economically and mentally to those who have been stricken with hardship due to conflicts and disasters. They are currently supporting emergency relief items such as food, woman’s hygienic items, clothes and other essentials to the survivors of the Japan Tsunami. You can Donate Here.
Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) is donating food and essential items to the survivors of the tsunami. They also keep a well maintained English blog of their activities in Japan for the tsunami which you can Follow Here. You can Donate Here.
The Japan Organization for International Cooperation in Family Planning is taking donations for their response to the tsunami that will focus on the reproductive health needs of women and mothers in affected areas. You can Donate Here.
The Association of Medical Doctors of Asia (AMDA Japan) team is delivering essential medical services through mobile clinics and delivering relief goods to the nursing homes and schools (evacuation shelters) in Aoba and Miyagino Wards. You can Donate Here.
OXFAM Japan is working with two partners in Japan on providing support to those on the margins of society who might otherwise have difficulty accessing emergency relief. One group is assisting mothers and babies and the other is providing information to non-Japanese speakers living in Japan. You can Donate Here.
Habitat For Humanity Japan is still assessing the situation but will be involved in the reconstruction of housing once the emergency period ends. This is one of the most vital aspects of recovery and the homeless will need a lot of help to put their lives back together. You can Donate Here.
The Institute for Cultural Affairs Japan (ICA) is still assessing the situation but is accepting donations. You can Donate Here.
All of these are worthy organizations to support and you can match your own personal interests to the organization that you think will work the best on what you want to support. Even if you are unable to donate please pass this on through social media, word of mouth or even in print. I have waived all rights to this post so please feel free to copy and reproduce any part of it for the good of the Japanese people.
If you do want to reproduce this please see the Blog4Japan page where you can find out more details.
Thank you from my family and friends who have been affected by this terrible disaster.