On Friday, March 11, there was a major earthquake in northern Japan. Exactly three weeks prior, my four children and I relocated back to the US. Exactly two days prior, my husband did the same. I have received a lot of calls and emails from family and friends, as well as my family receiving calls from their friends and coworkers too, to ensure my family's safety. First of all, I would like to thank everyone for thinking of me and caring enough to check. I lived in the city of Kobe, which was over 600 miles from where the earthquake struck, so it was not affected. I know a few of my husband's former coworkers saw projectors shake and some of my neighbor's children had to hide under their desks at school.
I remember when I first moved to Japan, my son hid between two buildings and my husband freaked out that if there were an earthquake, he could be sandwiched between the buildings- that's when I had to really become aware that the potential for that type of disaster was there every second of the day. But, no matter how much you are aware, you can never truly be prepared for what this disaster can bring with it. Sitting in my parent's house, watching the events unfold on the news, I realized I had no true sense of how bad it could really be. I don't think anyone truly does until it happens to them.
I am very relieved to be safe at home, yet my heart is aching for the people of Japan and all my friends and neighbors I left behind. Even though we were so far away from the devastated area, if nuclear problems amount to something, you just never know. There are talks of rolling blackouts throughout major cities to redirect power to the north and hoarding at grocery stores and gas stations. I have even heard of some countries that are trying to remove their citizens from Japan until the nuclear threat is under control. I know my husband's company is doing a great job of keeping its employees and their families informed. Even though I know if I were there, they are not allowing civilians to go up to the affected areas to help, it's hard to know I won't be there when that might be a possibility. That country was my home for the past 4.5 years and I grew to have the highest regard for the Japanese people.
Yesterday, I mentioned that I was going to post about ways to help Japan. I have come up with a few, most of them you probably already know, but in the case that I reach one person that didn't, I helped Japan a little more.
1) Donate money to the Red Cross. I have been looking around online and honestly, am not a fan of donating to big organizations. I always wonder is my money going to pay for administrative fees or will it help. They actually have a blog, and I read about their initial response and then I read ALL of the comments to their post. A lot of people are hesitant to donate because it is Japan relief and Pacific Tsunami fund. Most of us are feeling like the Pacific Tsunami wasn't a big deal at all and all the money should be sent directly to Japan. Only a small amount will be sent to the Pacific, and the Red Cross did send 10 million dollars upfront, not to mention, they have store houses of supplies around the world, which they are releasing a lot of these supplies to the people of Japan. I think at this point, given the fact that we are so far away, and dealing with a different currency, this organization might be the best and easiest choice as far as an organization to donate to. (I am looking for places in Japan that will accept foreign currency donations and I know are in direct need).
2) Donate to one of the organizations on this link, I read this article on CNN that warned of fake organizations, especially ones that show up as soon as a disaster has occurred, those people should certainly be ashamed of themselves.
3) Donate old clothes/shoes to Salvation Army. They might reach Japan. They are currently NOT looking for direct clothes, food, water donations because the shipping cost to Japan is so high and in the affected areas, postal service is actually stopped.
4) If you have a friend, classmate, coworker or neighbor that is Japanese, has family in the affected areas, or is a former expat from Japan, do something nice for them. Initiate a Random Act of Kindness. In many cases, if a person is here away from their family in Japan, it is too expensive for them to go back right now, not safe for them to go back, or just plain not possible. Imagine how it must feel to be here not knowing or feeling helpless.
5) Encourage your children to donate some money from their piggy banks, let them help you choose which organization to donate to. Have a bake sale or car wash to raise money, teach your children about giving. I plan on making cupcakes with my kids and putting a pick with a Japanese flag on top and selling them at our local grocery store, after the baby of course.
6) If you know someone with family or friends in the affected areas, ask how they need help, maybe you can directly send them money. I plan to ask a friend of mine whose husband's parents house was destroyed if I can send her money to help them and their neighbors fix up their house.
7) Make paper cranes. I went to Nagasaki while living in Japan, and many of my visitors went to Hiroshima and there are millions of paper cranes hanging there. There was a story about the 1000 paper cranes, when a girl was ill after the atomic bomb and the cranes are a symbol of peace. I say make the cranes to symbolize a wish for peace for the Japanese people affected by this earthquake. I have been in numerous places in Japan, when my children were handed paper cranes from Japanese school children, it is a small gesture to show we wish the best for you. I looked online and found out there is even symbolism in the colors: green is for healing, harmony, and finding balance; white is for hope, a fresh start, and innocence; and tea (light brown) represents remembering and fond memories. Of course, you can make any color crane you want but these colors would represent wishes we have for the Japanese people now. I plan on posting a tutorial when I get out of the hospital. For now, here is a link to a video.
8) Be positive. This week, I noticed on the news and then online forums, there are just rotten totally negative people out there who have nothing better to do with their time than criticize a country that has had a national disaster. No one deserves to be in that situation, not to be punished for how they built something or what their ancestors did in wars past. If someone is being rude, mainly it's to draw attention to themselves, walk away, change the channel, or just plain set them straight.
9) Accept things as they are. It is frustrating to be far away and not be able to help. Let this be a time for you to initiate some type of volunteer effort near your home where there is a need for your presence. Also, accept the fact that every where in the world poses some type of threat from natural disaster and DO NOT criticize the Japanese people for living in the ring of fire or close the the sea. I have lived in many places, each one posing their own potential threat (northeast US- hurricanes, southeast US- hurricanes, snow disaster due to ill preparedness, midwest US- tornadoes, in fact, I am currently building a house in tornado alley). Japan- earthquakes, I didn't even have a disaster relief kit and didn't even have the emergency numbers posted in my house. I didn't have an "it can't happen to me attitude", just a "it won't be that bad if it does happen". People all over the world live near nuclear facilities and use their power, after the tsunami in the Indian Ocean, people are still vacationing in Thailand and Indonesia, people still live in New Orleans after the hurricane disaster, and people are still living all around the bases of volcanoes world wide. So, please, if you can do nothing else, do not criticize, but accept the fact that no matter what, we can not completely protect ourselves from natural disaster and that when disaster strikes, people need to be helped, not criticized.