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Supporting Disaster Survivors in Japan: An Innovative Response to the Great East Japan Earthquake
Sachiko Aoki & Kim Gould Ashizawa

Supporting Disaster Survivors in Japan: An Innovative Response to the Great East Japan Earthquake

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One of the few silver linings of the Great East Japan Earthquake was that—perhaps in part due to the indelible images of the events as they unfolded—people throughout Japan and around the world quickly jumped into action. They sent supplies, volunteered, held fundraisers, and donated money to NPOs to assist in the aftermath. In fact, nearly $750 million in support was provided by private US-based donors alone, including nongovernmental organizations, individuals, and corporations. In addition to providing disaster relief aid, these contributions have played a critical role in supporting the nonprofit sector—which was relatively underdeveloped in the Tohoku region and badly in need of financial and human resources—and in assisting the communities of Tohoku on their long path to recovery.

This report highlights the work of four nonprofit organizations that received $2.8 million in funding from a United Way Worldwide (UWW) grant on behalf of the generosity of Polo Ralph Lauren, as well as from others. The grant program, “Mobilizing the Voluntary Sector to Support the Psychological Wellbeing of Survivors of the Great East Japan Earthquake,” focused on promoting integrated activities to alleviate the psychological burden of survivors in communities in Iwate Prefecture and help them recover from the disaster. With multi-year support, these organizations—Kamaishi City Social Welfare Council, Kodomo no Empowerment Iwate, Kurashi no Supporters, and SakuraNet—were able to respond to the evolving needs on the ground and carry out innovative, long-term programs in several key areas:

    (1) support and training of community social workers
    (2) providing tutoring and mental health care for children
    (3) training coordinators for volunteerism in the region

The report describes the work of each nonprofit organization, the impact it has had on the community, and lessons to be learned from their experiences.