After coming within centimeters of death, Arakawa is now fighting to get his business and the Ishinomaki community back to life. One way he is supporting the community is through the Ishinomaki “Genki” Revitalization Association which promotes its member’s products and services through their Ganbappe website (www.ganbappe.biz/e/). Arakawa notes that although the Government of Japan NPOs Help Rebuild Tohoku Volunteering makes a difference has created a revitalization fund for small and medium sized companies, it is not enough for all the small companies that suffered from the disaster, and Tohoku still needs corporate and volunteer support to recover.
Volunteering boosts employee morale, and gives work greater meaning by making employees part of something bigger than themselves. Glynn Brasington of Pitney Bowes Japan told the Journal in a previous article that, “Volunteering really empowered members of my staff. They were so excited to be able to make a contribution. The people who did it, said ‘Yeah, we did that! What can we do next?’”
“Sixty of our 200 employees engaged in volunteer activity in Ishinomaki, in teams of six,” said Brasington. “Each team had very mixed representation from around the country and from different departments. Team leaders, who were not necessarily in leadership roles in their day-to-day work, took real decisions for others about safety and organization.”
To share ideas among companies for increasing CSR, Peace Boat has sponsored idea exchanges for HR directors get together and share information on volunteer preparedness for the big quake that is supposed to hit in the coming years.
Arakawa of the Ishinomaki survival story gave the key note speech at last month’s ACCJ event, “Revitalizing Tohoku: Reigniting Volunteering Efforts for Reconstruction,” which hosted a number of NPOs and their work. The event was MC’d by Shaun Dubin, moderated by Melanie Brock, and hosted by the ACCJ Tohoku Revitalization Task Force led by Jay Ponazecki and Jonathan Kushner. Held at the Goethe Institute in Akasaka, 15 volunteer organizations participated to explain what they have been doing in the past year and what they will do this year to support the revitalization of Tohoku. Seven of the participating NPOs shared their activities for Journal readers here.
Give2Asia is a San Francisco-based foundation that helps donor-advised giving across the Asia-Pacific region. G2A helps private philanthropy focus on Asia and magnifies donor impact. Give2Asia immediately established a Japan Earthquake & Tsunami Fund after the March 11 disaster to raise support for the affected communities. G2A led a relief and recovery campaign with more than 22 other organizations across the country, including non-corporate groups like the Japan Society of Northern California, Keizai Society, Japan Policy Research Institute, and Artists Help Japan. They also brought in corporate help. So far, the group has raised more than $5.6 million.
G2A started by supporting emergency relief efforts but puts a high priority on recovery and redevelopment. It has been in regular contact with more than 50 organizations and done outreach to more than 150 groups in the three worst-hit prefectures.
Examples of projects currently being supported: rehabilitation of oyster and seaweed farms; rebuilding markets for certified-safe produce and seafood from Tohoku; development of social entrepreneurs and nonprofit sector capacity, and mental health counseling and outreach in the affected region.
HABITAT FOR HUMANITY
Habitat for Humanity is a global nonprofit housing organization that seeks to bring people together to build homes, communities and hope. Since 1976, Habitat has served more than half a million families by building and improving homes; by advocating for fair and just housing policies; and by providing training and access to resources to help families improve their shelter conditions.
Soon after 3/11, Habitat for Humanity launched the ‘Rebuilding Japan’ program. Initial efforts focused on providing and supporting volunteers to clear mud and debris from houses, community buildings and communal areas in Ofunato and Rikuzentakata, Iwate and Ishinomaki. Habitat volunteers have already spent about 10,000 days and their work still continues.
HANDS ON TOKYO
Founded in 2006, Hands On Tokyo addresses the critical needs of the community by partnering with other organizations focusing on educational and social issues in Tokyo as well as disaster relief in north eastern Japan. By collaborating with partners to create projects designed to meet their needs, HOT provides numerous bilingual volunteer opportunities for individuals or corporations.
Tohoku projects are mainly conducted on weekends and include debris clean up, supporting strawberry farmers, hosting community cafes and BBQs, delivering supplies to those in temporary housing, and making candles for festivals and ceremonies. The group has also helped restore damaged cemeteries, create new town evacuation routes and even recreated lost wedding photos.
JAPAN EMERGENCY NGO
JEN (Japan Emergency NGO) supports the self-reliance of people in need in Ishinomaki by delivering psycho-social support. JEN also works with companies to provide long-term volunteer opportunities. JEN received a Foreign Minister’s Commendation for 2011 from the Government of Japan for its activities in Tohoku.
NADIA has been working hand-in-hand with residents of Ishinomaki since the disaster. Believing that “hands don’t have nationalities,” the NPO has continuously brought direct volunteer manpower to help clear out left over debris and mud from the Tsunami where government officials couldn’t stretch their help. More than 25 nationalities are represented among the 1000-strong pool of volunteers that went weekly up north.
As NADIA has developed close relationships with local residents, as well as major actors for local economy recovery, the support is made according to real needs. The clearing and cleaning of individual households being almost over, NADIA is now helping to find ways for people to get back to a normal life.
PEACE BOAT DISASTER RELIEF VOLUNTEER CENTER
The mission of Peace Boat Disaster Relief Volunteer Center provides support for the long-term social and economic recovery of the Tohoku region of Japan, focusing on the city of Ishinomaki, Miyagi Prefecture and its environs. Peace Boat works in consultation and partnership with local communities, responding to situations and needs, enabling and empowering them as part of there recovery process. Peace Boat’s operations focus on the training and deployment of volunteers in the belief that volunteers can provide essential support in the physical regeneration of Tohoku, and the human solidarity they provide is a vital factor in a comprehensive recovery of the region.
TOHOKU UP PROGRAM
Tohoku UP Program is a joint program between Microsoft Japan and NPO Sodateage Net. As Tohoku enters its recovery period, two major needs are housing and employment. Tohoku UP program specializes in underserved youth employability to increase employment opportunities of the people of Tohoku disaster-affected areas.
The program enables the NPOs in Tohoku an environment to incorporate IT skills training as part of the support programs for victims of the earthquake. The new skill sets not only support information access but also opens up new job opportunities which may have never been on their radar.
TRACING THE ROUTE
Shaun Dubin, who MC’d the ACCJ event, traveled along route 45 from Kuji in Iwate Prefecture all the way down to Ishinomaki six months before the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami. He returned again last November to trace as much of the route as he did before, including Kita Yamazaki. Dubin says a lot has changed on the geographic level and on the business level. When he asked a merchant in Kita Yamazaki “where are all the tourists?” he was told “the tour buses do not stop here anymore.” He believes it’s time tourists returned to the area to help support the local economy.
Habitat for Humanity Japan:
Hands On Tokyo (HOT):
Japan Emergency NGO (JEN ):
Tohoku UP Project:
Tish Robinson serves on the ACCJ Board of Governors, in addition to job on the faculty of Hitotsubashi University, where she teaches Organizational Behavior and Systems Thinking. She led several volunteer trips to Tohoku and headed the 2011 ACCJ Tohoku CSR YearBook, available at: http://www.accj. or.jp/doclib/csr/2011_CSR_Yearbook.pdf