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2011 Tōhoku Earthquake and Tsunami Recovery: Two Years Later

Communities Working Together: A Look at Recovery in Tohoku

As we remember those who suffered due to the multiple disasters in northeastern Japan two years ago, we have the opportunity to reflect on accomplishments and strategize new directions for the region’s future. Since March 11, 2011, Give2Asia has sought out projects that do more than provide immediate emergency support and that target revitalization of the disaster-affected areas taking into account longer-term community goals, innovation and addressing gaps in needs not met by other responders.

In the early stages of the response effort, most organizations focused on emergency needs. As people moved from evacuation centers into temporary housing, responding organizations had to refocus to address the new priorities, and in particularly the elderly and others who were less agile. Handrails, steps, storage areas and benches had to be installed in temporary homes and community centers to ensure the safety and well-being of the elderly. In the second year of recovery, local responders again re-focused to meet more individual, personal needs and to catalyze economic redevelopment.

As temporary housing created new communities of strangers living in close proximity, Give2Asia identified projects to bring people together and to share ideas about redevelopment. In communities where there were previous connections between people, it was easier to build those programs to include hearings with public officials and economic development programs.

Involving the local affected community is critical to current development efforts. Some projects are working with local people to produce community papers providing information on the opening of new businesses, transportation routes, government hearings and news about reconstruction. Other projects have organized hearings with government officials and have created a community dialogue,. Including diverse community members, particularly those not often heard in traditionally structured communities – women and young people – is part of a broader recognition that the participation of all is important for the region’s future.

On the ground, people continue to feel isolated due to limited access to services, information, transportation and work opportunities. The work of nonprofits, in particular those offering psycho-social programs, continues to play an important role in the daily lives of people in Tohoku. Life in the temporary housing has become more accepted and stable and the role of nonprofits in northeastern Japan has become part of this “new normal.”

The government is focusing much of its funding on construction and disaster-proofing as well as business development. Where individuals are not eligible for government aid, nonprofits are able to fill the gap by bringing in experienced business people and others to support redevelopment programs.

We have seen the creation of more practical skills training programs and efforts to promote Tohoku products and local businesses. Projects have helped local people to innovate using existing resources, create new products and brands, and promote the safety of food from Iwate and Miyagi prefectures.

But continuing needs persist and nonprofit organizations have a role to play in ensuring that nobody falls through the cracks as Tohoku recovers. Some projects focus on basic needs provisioning for those most vulnerable – namely female-headed households, the chronically unemployed, the elderly, the poor, and those directly affected by the Fukushima nuclear disaster.

Looking at efforts in Tohoku over the past two years, there are many reasons to be optimistic. Many projects that were initially started by nonprofit organizations are at a turning point as the management of programs is passed on to local government leaders and business groups. As we look ahead to the next stage of recovery in Tohoku, we find many communities working with new networks built over the past two years to both assess the impact of recovery work and to be better prepared for the next disaster.

-Sarajean Rossitto, Give2Asia Field Advisor, Japan

In the two years since March 11, 2011 Give2Asia raised nearly $8 million to support immediate relief, economic revitalization, health care, education and much more.

Read about projects from the first year of recovery at

Project Reports for Year 2

Give2Asia Japan Earthquake & Tsunami Fund
Total: $1,704,145

1. Creating a Community Space for Most Vulnerable Survivors
Bridge Asia Japan

According to a report conducted by Bridge Asia Japan, the elderly, persons with disabilities, and the unemployed are also the most vulnerable to isolation, solitary death, and suicide among affected survivors. This grant works with local NPO Oraga-Ostsuchi Yumehiroba to establish a community space that provides program activities for displaced individuals to generate income while engaging in social interchange. The project targeted a total of 4,562 survivors living in 48 temporary housing communities, and now serves as a model for replication and expansion in other affected areas.

2. Developing New Industry for Fishing Communities
Tohoku Relationship Capitals

The destruction of food processing businesses in the region has led to devastating economic losses for Tohoku’s fishing industry. In order to create more sustainable forms of community building, this project helps fishermen redevelop business in the manufacture and sale of smoked seafood. Since this industry is new to the region, specialists and managers familiar with the traditional method of smoking seafood helped establish 10 local fishing businesses in Kesennuma and Minami-Sanriku. It is expected that approximately 100 job opportunities will be created in the two towns, thereby increasing economic growth in what might otherwise have become an obsolete industry after disaster.

3. Creating Financial Independence for Single Mothers

IMPACT Japan and Women Help Women are organizing a five-year training program for 100 single mothers who lost their husbands in 2011. With little to no employable job skills, many single mothers had great difficulty generating revenue after the disaster. By providing women with on-the- job seamstress training, the women are involved in a cooperative that supports and widens their livelihood opportunities. In addition, a microfinance program was set up to provide loans for entrepreneurs who are interested in starting in their own sewing businesses. With an estimated average annual income of ¥3,360,000 ($37,333), these single mothers will gain the tools to reach sustainable economic independence for their families.

4. Empowering Social Entrepreneurship through Resources and Support Platform
World in Asia

Social entrepreneurship coupled with strategic expertise and support has the potential to deliver innovative solutions to alleviate community issues in affected areas. Building upon World in Asia’s expertise and its work since the 2011 earthquake, this grant expands the scope of resources and support available to social entrepreneurs addressing disaster recovery work in two forms: the Hands- On Incubation program and the Local Platform Building program. The Hands-On Incubation program provides 15 effective social entrepreneurs with hands-on training and one-on-one consulting to assess impact, replicate and scale. The Local Platform Building program, in collaboration with Sendai Miyagi NPO center, facilitated six workshops and six peer consultation activities to initiate a sustainable support platform.

5. A Space for Community Dialogue in Sendai

An essential component toward recovery is dialogue: between entrepreneurs and non-profit organizations and among youth and community leaders. Miratsuka’s Sendai Future Center for Collaborative Action brings together community groups to a common space to design, conceive and carry out collective action. Miratsuku is organizing more than 50 events at the Sendai Future Center, including monthly dialogues for existing entrepreneurs and non-profit organizations, Youth Community Leader Dialogues, Community Dialogues and Subject Area Dialogues. Miratsuka aims to initiate 10 new collaborative projects and partnerships that will be undertaken in local communities across the disaster region.

6. A New Livelihood for Fishermen, From Sea to Land
Ippan shaddan houjin O.G.A. for Aid

O.G.A. for Aid responded to the affected community’s need to improve access to fresh produce and to restore livelihoods by creating the Green Farmers Association (GFA). GFA is an independent and sustainable local farmers association in disaster-affected Minamisanriku-cho, Miyagi. GFA offers an alternative livelihood to former fisherman by training 10 local part-time farmers on contract farming and partnering with the local Japan Agriculture Cooperatives (JA) to provide access to free classes and seminars. GFA will also expand its vocational training to secondary food processing, such as pickling. The agricultural harvest from contract farming will consequently increase access to cheap fresh produce in Minamisanrikucho and Kesennuma.

7. Revitalizing the Spirit of Rice Cultivation and Sake Production in Kesen
NPO Aichi Net

The disaster severely disrupted the rice farming and sake industries in the Kesen area, losing with it a long history of popular Kesen sake. This two-year project began by engaging local young farmers with the mentorship from local elderly agriculture leaders on local rice cultivation. Through collaboration with a local sake brewery in Rikuzentakata, rice cultivated in the Kesen area will then produce 9,000 liters of sake to be sold in consumer cooperatives in Aichi Prefecture. The revitalization of the Kesen sake industry will help promote the Kesen area as a destination for sake tasting and green tourism with the assistance from the Youth Town Planning Kesen Regional Tourism organizations and the local chamber of commerce.

8. Volunteers Help Sustain Local Fishing Businesses
Peace Boat Volunteers

With the support of this grant, the Peace Boat Disaster Volunteer Center is providing 90 volunteers to 50 disaster-affected fishing families. The volunteers provide labor to seed and harvest oysters, and in return are offered food, accommodation, and opportunities to learn about sustainable living from the affected families. This pilot program serves as temporary economic relief to these individual families, ands long-term support for sustained local fishing industry in the region. A total of 10 fishing villages and 345 volunteers will participate in the program over the project year.

9. Loans to Small Businesses Promote Long Term Economic Recovery
Planet Finance

It is estimated that 60,300 individuals in the affected regions of Tohoku will be receiving social benefits based on a lack of post- disaster employment opportunities. A microfinance and microgrant program will provide loans and grants for affected small and medium sized businesses. While government grant programs focus on major industries and large fishing cooperatives, the program’s ¥16 million investment will be in the recovery of smaller projects that provide much needed support to neglected business industries.

10. Sharing Best Practices and Lessons Learned to Improve Recovery
Japan NGO Center for International Cooperation

Japan NGO Center for International Cooperation conducted a peer review of local disaster relief and recovery efforts. The resulting surveys, interviews, web page and workshops serve to promote and share best practices on recovery and disaster preparedness established in the region over the two-year recovery period.

Project Reports for Year 2

Advised & Co-funded Grants
Total: $1,201,615

In addition to the following grants, Give2Asia worked with several anonymous corporations and individuals on nine projects with eight separate local partners.

1. Providing Educational Support For Low-income Families
NPO Asuiku
Advised by: Keizai Society Japan Earthquake & Tsunami Relief at Give2Asia

With the support of local volunteers and collaborative organizations, NPO Asuiku established the Learning Support Center to support marginalized populations coping with the devastating aftermath of the earthquake. Located within walking distance of Sendai and Tsutsujigaoka metro train stations, the community center targets at-risk elementary and middle school students across various areas in Miyagi Prefecture. As disasters exacerbate poverty and social vulnerability, the program works to break cycles of multi-generational poverty by providing educational support that is easily accessible for low-income families during these trying times.

2. Equipping Students to be Future Change-makers
Global Fund for Education Assistance
Advised by: The Boston Foundation: Japanese Disaster Relief Fund

The Academy at BEYOND Tomorrow selected 10 university-bound students from disaster- affected areas to participate in The Global Track of the 2012 Summer Program. Students traveled to the east coast of the United States to participate in English language workshops, world history and global leadership modules and community service. This cultural immersion experience not only equipped student leaders with the practical skills and experience to be change-makers in their affected communities, but also promoted public- mindedness among the Academy-track programs and youth community.

3. Engaging Youth in Video and Photography
Kokkyo Namki Kodomotachi (KnK) Japan
Advised by: Peter Reed through Give2Asia Hong Kong

Following the model of successful programs in Indonesia, India and Cambodia, Kokkyo Namki Kodomotachi (KnK) engaged local affected youth in Tohoku through video and photography workshops. Children aged 10-12 were given the opportunity to present their own stories with the help of a professional editing studio and mentorship from Iwate Menkoi TV. This grant supported two video production workshops and three photography workshops in Rikuzentakata and Kamaishi, where the youth participants then distributed 50 copies to schools and partner organizations.

4. Food Truck Rentals Give Restaurateurs New Business, Isolated Housing Communities Fresh Food Ippan Shadan Hojin DSIA
Advised by: Japan Society of Northern California Japan Earthquake & Tsunami Fund
Co-funded by: Give2Asia Japan Earthquake & Tsunami Fund

The earthquake and tsunami left many restaurant owners with inoperable businesses and survivors in isolated housing facilities with limited access to fresh food. Meeting the needs of two issues in one community, Ippan Shadan Hojin DSIA leases food trucks to affected restaurant owners at subsidized rates to restore their former businesses. These new food truck operators also reaches out to “shopping refugees”, communities with limited access to shops and groceries. The three additional food trucks, provided by this grant, restore six restaurant businesses and offer access to freshly prepared food to approximately 43,200 people living in temporary housing units in Kamaishi and Otsuchi. These food trucks not only stimulate the restaurant economy but also increase the demand for products from the agricultural and fishing industries.

5. Orphans Build Confidence in the Snow
NPO Living Dreams
Advised by: Japan Society of Northern California Japan Earthquake and Tsunami Fund & Seattle International Foundation.

The lives of children living in homes and orphanages in Iwate and Fukushima prefectures have been further disrupted by the damages resulting from the disaster. In Tohoku, their facilities and equipment have been damaged or destroyed, and in Fukushima, many children fear the effects of radiation. This grant enables 35 children from homes and orphanages, ages 9 to 17, to participate in the English Adventure Snow Camps. This camp helps children learn English while participating in team-building winter activities, such as building igloos, skiing and snow-shoeing. The camp fosters confidence and motivation to help create positive new experiences and overcome post-disaster difficulties.

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