On March 11, an earthquake of 8.9 magnitude hit the northeastern part of Japan, with devastating results. The quake was almost 8,000 times stronger than last month’s destructive quake in New Zealand and triggered a massive tsunami that caused extensive damage to life and property. While the earthquake and tsunami have passed, the recovery efforts have just begun. Although help is desperately needed, volunteers are discouraged from entering the country as Japan’s normally highly efficient transportation system has been crippled and power and water shortages are widespread. There are, however, many ways that you can immediately help.
1. Donate Money to relief organizations: The Salvation Army in Japan has sent teams to the severely affected areas, where they are distributing basic necessities to survivors and assessing the damage and potential next steps. You can Text the words “Japan” or “Quake” to 80888 to make a $10 donation or visit The Salvation Army’s Japan Disaster relief donation page. Doctors Without Borders has also sent a team to Japan to assist with the government-led relief effort. Visit Doctorswithoutborder.org for more information and to make a donation. GlobalGiving.org has launched the Japan Earthquake and Tsunami Relief Fund to gather money that will be given to a variety of relief organizations helping the earthquake victims. AmeriCares and The International Medical Corps are also two other good organizations that are providing medical relief and humanitarian assistance in Japan.
2. Help Locate Victims and Connect Family Members: Social networking sites are never more important than in a disaster, as they are often the first and fastest forms of communication and information for victims, their loved ones, emergency workers and governments. Social network updates can also establish connections and provide real-time information about changing conditions and disaster developments. Get on Twitter, Facebook or your favorite social networking site. Check Google’s Crisis Response Site and Wikipedia’s CrisisCommons for earthquake updates and Google’s People Finder to help reunite loved ones.
3. Help Animals Affected by the Disaster: The Animal Refuge Kansai (ARK), a Japan-based nonprofit animal rescue organization is expecting to receive a huge influx of animals and are looking for volunteers or donations. World Vets, a non-profit that provides veterinary aid around the globe are working to coordinate relief efforts for the animal victims affected by these unfortunate disasters and are preparing the deployment of a first-responder team. HEART-Tokushima, Animal Friends Niigata and Japan Cat Network have combined forces to create a Facebook group to focus on information, rescue and support for animals in crisis. Cat Island (an island filled with cats near Ishimomaki City), was rumored to be completely submerged by the Tsunami. Check this page for updates on the status of the island and its inhabitants.
4, Donate Your Time: Although the general public is advised not to enter Japan at this time, those with specialized skills, particularly medical skills, are always in demand. Doctors Without Borders regularly recruits medical workers to assist at disaster sites, but also needs non-medical volunteers at its administrative offices. International Medical Corps provide first response disaster relief and are always in need of emergency response personnel and non-medical administrative workers. Local emergency teams, although competent, are normally taxed to their limits during disasters and are often in need of outside relief.
5. Work with Your Employer: Many companies are able to quickly mobilize help and financial aid to disaster victims and are often in need of rapid-response volunteers both locally at the affected site. Microsoft, for example, as part of its commitment to global community service, partners with customers, governmental and non-governmental agencies to provide quick relief to the hardest hit areas. Employees and customers of both large and small companies work together to pool efforts and utilize existing networks and resources to aid affected communities. If your employer is not involved in an earthquake relief project, take the initiative and join forces with fellow employees to start one.
6. Host a Fundraising Drive: There are two ways to raise funds for Japanese victims, in person or online. In your own community, fundraising opportunities are endless: block parties, garage or bake sales, event hosting, partnering with local organizations and businesses, sponsored marathons or door-to-door solicitations. If you prefer to work online, new technology and support sites have made online fundraising easier than ever. Sites such as About.com, SXSW4Japan and AidMatrix, an organization that works to connect NGOs (non-governmental organizations) all provide detailed directions on how to get started. The online payment processing website, PayPal, will credit any transactional fees for donations made via their site to Japanese earthquake and tsunami charities.
7. Alert Emergency and Rescue Workers: if you are already in Japan and living in an area affected by the earthquake or tsunamis, you can help local authorities to find victims by plotting their location using the mapping tool Ushahidi. If you happen to see someone in need, simply map the coordinates and description on the tool’s map. This open-source program, designed for information collection, visualization and interactive mapping, can also map hospital and aid station locations, places to avoid and provide useful tips to emergency workers, family members and persons in need.
8. Get Your Kids and Teens Involved: Children and teenagers are incredibly resourceful and energetic fundraisers and can make a huge difference, especially when they join forces with their friends, schools, sports teams and clubs. Programs such as Quarters for Kids for children and DoSomething.Org for teens have some great, creative fundraising ideas. Helping others can also provide kids with a deeper understanding of global events and the science and effects of natural phenomenon, as well as teaching them compassion for their fellow global citizens and that anyone, regardless of age or influence, can have a positive impact on the world.
9. Give Blood: The numbers of injured and the demand for blood are expected to rise dramatically in the next few weeks as emergency workers reach devastated areas. Search the Red Cross blood donation site for a blood drive near you and stop by to donate a pint, or better yet, organize and host a blood drive of your own. Spread the word to coworkers, fellow students, club members and neighbors and get them involved.
10. Buy a Lady Gaga Relief Bracelet: one of the first celebrities to respond to the Japanese disaster, Lady Gaga has designed a fund-raising bracelet to help tsunami victims. All proceeds from the sale of the $5 bracelet go directly to tsunami relief efforts. The bracelet is stamped “We Pray for Japan” in both English and Japanese and will ship on March 25th, but can be pre-ordered today at Lady Gaga’s website.
Writers: Simone Cannon de Bastardo and Luis Rafael Bastardo Arjona are The Traveling Bastards, They met while traveling in South America, fell in love, got married and have been happily traveling and blogging about their adventures on the Traveling Bastards Travel and Food Blog.