Archive for the ‘ disaster relief ’ Category

BBC Interviews It’s Not Just Mud project

 I’m currently up here in Ishinomaki with the group, so I may be a little biased, but thought it would be of interest to FVJ members to see this interview by BBC News with Jamie El-Banna, founder of the It’s Not Just Mud volunteer group, based in the Watanoha district of Ishinomaki, about the early days of coordinating volunteers, and the experiences that drove him to establish a long-term volunteer-based relief organization for Tohoku relief. 
It’s Not Just Mud has already collaborated with Foreign Volunteers Japan on countless projects, such as our events with the orphanage in Ofunato, for doing several soup kitchens, providing a rest station for deliveries with the SaveMinamisoma project, providing a distribution center for the Coats for Kids project, and for hosting many volunteers from FVJ looking to help out up North.    
The It’s Not Just Mud project is certainly my first recommendation now for people wanting to head up to volunteer in Tohoku. Please check out the video at the following BBC New Link:
For more information on the INJM project, please visit the webpage
 I will be writing a follow up post on my latest stay with the group, and will also be doing some posts on local businesses that they’ve helped get back on their feet over the last several months. 

Collating listing of NPO/NGOs focused on longterm Tohoku Recovery.

Sarajean Rossitto of JapanVolunteers is currently compiling an updated listing of organizations focused on the longterm relief and recovery of the Tohoku region. 


She is compiling the list on her JapanVolunteers NGO advisory blog, under the heading “Your help needed – Tohoku relief and recovery org listing.”I have taken the liberty of reposting the tentative listing here as well. 


If you see any missing links, or any other groups that you feel should be included. Please feel free to comment directly on her blog, or to post your comments here and I will share them with her. 


Please send the names of the organizations in English and Japanese if possible, and include any relevant links to their webpage, or a bio of their activities if available.


The tentative list is as follows:

Announcing the FVJ Community Forums

 I’d like to take this opportunity to announce the Foreign Volunteers Community Forums. Although created by Max Hodges a little while ago, I have to admit that I’ve been a little slow on the ball to promote and encourage discussion on the Forums. 
Although most of the FVJ discussions have been taking place via Facebook, there is a lot of information that gets regularly buried under newer threads. That is why the FVJ Discussion Forums have been designed from the ground up to provide a much easier system to interact, plan and organize activities.

These forums are designed to be a friendly and valuable place for like-minded people interested in playing a role in Japan’s disaster recovery efforts to share ideas and opportunities and get connected to and inspired by others.

FVJ Community Forums run on a brand new platform with some snazzy features. We think the design and functionality is very contemporary and fresh and, most important, it feels more social than other systems. A few of the many cutting-edge features include:

-Social Engagement – An intuitive “like” system makes users feel appreciated for their contributions, while integration with Facebook and twitter allows easy registration and sharing.

-Recent Activity Stream – Allow you to easily see all the recent happenings on the forum, beyond just the messages posted. You can follow other members to get your own personalized news feed showing the content you want to see.

-Alerts – Make it easy for you to stay up-to-date with relevant updates. You’ll receive alerts when someone quotes your post or responds to a status update, when you receive a new trophy, and more.

-Private Conversations – are like private threads. Nobody can see your private conversation, not even the administrator. Now here is the cool part; you can invite as many people to your conversation as you like, sort of like three way calling. Go here to start a conversation or click on a persons avatar to invite them to converse. Or access conversations from your inbox above. You can also invite in more people from the conversation thread (you will see the Invite More link over on the right hand side of the conversation).

We look forward to your participation in making the FVJ Community Forums the most valuable destination possible for Tohoku relief volunteers.

You can register with your Facebook account:

Tractor for Minamisanriku

Foreign Volunteers Japan member, and regular contributor to the disaster relief efforts in Minamisanriku, Dru Taylor has spotted a great find. He says that he’s “trying to buy this tractor or something similar so we can get people growing their own fruit and veg in and around Minamisanriku with OGA for AID. We can really make a huge difference with a tractor like this. Any offers ? especially for funding .” He said he’s “willing to drive it at a sponsered rate per KM to raise funds to take it to its final destination after purchase.” He said that the tractor will go to be used on “land suitable for farming but not being used at the moment (in Minami-Sanriku) that has been offered for use.”

OGA for AID is a phenomenal project set up in Minami-Sanriku and organized by the Ortiz family who have expanded a wide disaster relief and charity network centered around the Ortiz International School. As the tractor is up for auction, there is a chance that it could sell quickly, so we’ll need to act quickly to raise funds. The tractor is up for auction in Japan for 998,000 yen (Approx $8000 USD or 5000 pounds.) , which should be manageable if enough people are interested in this project.  If you are interested in helping to acquire a tractor for the people of Minamisanriku, please contact us at foreignvolunteersjapan (at), and we will get you in touch with Dru and the team at OGA for AID soon after.

Great idea Dru! Hope we can help you pick up the tractor!

Back to Rikuzentakata

* Written by Rob Keyworth

Rikuzentakata in mid-May by Foreign Volunteers Japan

Rikuzentakata in mid-May a photo by Foreign Volunteers Japan on Flickr.

Well, it’s been nearly two months since our last trip north and today Andy and I took advantage of the last day of the JR special pass and headed north to Tohoku. It was a long but ultimately rewarding day – up at 4, home at midnight and in the middle we’d managed to drop off 1.5 tons of food to where it was needed. But as ever that doesn’t begin to explain the journey we had.

We’ve been planning this trip for a few weeks but had a number of difficulties in arranging the fresh food that we wanted. Our previous suppliers were unable to provide the size of order that we needed and they introduced us to a wholesalers who were happy to provide what we needed but we were unable to provide the documentation in time. And in the end we spoke to the Amazing Paul Yoo of ‘The Fruit Tree Project’ ( and he introduced us to a supplier in Kesennuma who was only too happy to provide us with 250,000 yen’s worth of fresh produce. So Andy and I set off this morning to Ichinoseki on the brilliant JR pass (10,00

0 yen day trip, ends today – why?) where we picked up the truck and headed to Kesennuma.

Our supplier was simply superb and had our entire order ready to be picked up when we turned up at around 11am and had most of his staff ready to load up the truck for us. A short time later we had 250,000 yen’s worth of carrots, potatoes, onions, daikon, leeks, oranges and apples loaded on the truck and we were nearly ready to go. There was a slight delay as the owner then raced around the store to get some supplies for the drivers. After looking at us he decided we had way too much healthy food in the truck so he came back with a bag full of chocolate, crisps and a couple of bottles of water and we were on our way – what a star!

On the drive in to Kesennuma I again realized what I’ve missed over the past 15 years. The area was, and in many places, stunning. Beautiful mountains, beautiful country scenes. Idyllic.

We drove the few extra kilometres into Kesennuma and Andy wondered if there was a race track nearby as there was a smell that  was very strong smell in the area. It took us a while to realise that that was actually the smell of the town. The smell of rotting houses, rotting fish, rotting everything.

The last time I was in Kesennuma we skirted around the most devastated areas and this time we had to drive right through it. What was surprising was that although the majority of the ships that had been stranded ashore had been moved, the homes and businesses looked very similar to what we had first season at the end of March. It was as though they’d been forgotten.

The major difference between now and then was the temperature. My first visit to Kesennuma and it was trying to snow. Today it was 30 degrees. Which creates a whole new set of problems.

Our initial plan was to drive from Kesennuma to Rikuzentakata and drop off aid at the temporary housing. However, for whatever reason we were unable to find the temporary houses and ended up in Rikuzentakata.

250,000 yen worth of fruit and vegetables bound for Rikuzentakata.

A bit lost, a bit confused, but also genuinely stunned. On my last visit there was 7-8 km of devastation and I genuinely thought that it would take years to clean up. If you haven’t been there, it’s difficult to explain the current situation but there has been massive progress; There are mountains of wood, steel, rubber. A field with hundreds (thousands?) of cars that have been destroyed but all put together. It’s almost unrecognizable from the fields of devastation from two short months ago. It’s still bad. It’s still very, very bad. But on the surface at least, it is improving. We went looking for shelters/temporary housing where we could deliver our supplies. We dropped off at a couple before heading to the main distribution center who gladly took what we had left. It was unfortunate that we were unable to deliver directly to the temporary housing but due to time constraints this was simply impossible. We did manage to deliver 1.5 tons of food for which the people were very grateful.

As ever, there are many people to thank for making this happen.

IFG for donating some of the money raised from the Futsal tournament. And everyone who attended.

The Black Lion and all of it’s customers who supported the Big Iwate Drive and the Books sales.

Paul Yoo for the introduction and his supplier for making it happen.

Thank you for your support. And please keep helping us and everybody else that is trying to help.

>Items Needed at Saitama Super Arena


Lino Harada, a member of Foreign Volunteers Japan, was at the Saitama Super Arena today doing some translation work. She snapped these pictures of posters requesting items. The items needed are:

Instant soup, backpacks, bags, face lotion, paper cups, boxes of tissues, Tiger Balm/medicated compresses (“shippu”), instant congee, intant noodles, coffee, duct tape, canned drinks, belts for men, UNUSED sweat pants, jeans for men, thermoses, heat packs, snacks, soap, toothbrushes, batteries, NEW underwear, tupperware, adult shoes, markers, eco bags, fabreeze, cleaning supplies, sewing kits

As mentioned in the post below, before you rush out and send these items to a donation center, please make sure they are accepting them. For example, not all donation centers are accepting clothing at the moment. Of course, if you live in Saitama and can deliver some of these items directly to the Super Arena, the folks there would be sure to get them.

>Recap: Donating Material Aid in Tokyo

>Some places in Tokyo accepting material donations:

Second Harvest Japan

Second Harvest Japan Disaster Relief Food Drive
Mizuta bldg 1F Asakusabashi 4-5-1, Taito-ku, Tokyo


Phone: 03-3838-3827

Site: (English) (Japanese)

Tokyo International School

TIS Disaster Relief Supplies 3-4-22 Mita, Minato-ku, Tokyo 108-0073


Phone: 090 6569-7038

Site: (English)今、みんなでできる事/ (Japanese)

Peace Boat

Peace Boat Center Tokyo

B1, 3-13-1 Takadanobaba, Shinjuku, Tokyo 169-0075, Japan


Phone: 03-3362-6307

Site: (English) (Japanese)


  • Before sending donations to any of the above, please read the information on the corresponding web site. All the donation centers have their own restrictions about what they will and won’t accept. They also have requirements for how to package items.
  • In general, remember that if you put only one category of items (Baby care goods, Health care goods, Food, etc.) into a box and label it with the exact contents, it saves the volunteers at the center a lot of work sorting and repackaging donations.
  • If possible, please label the contents in Japanese. Even though there are foreign volunteers at some of the centers listed, if the box has been properly packed it may be sent as is to the evacuation centers. It will make life easier for Japanese volunteers in Tohoku if they don’t need to open the box to find out what it is.
  • No matter how good your intentions, or what you have heard is needed at evacuation centers, please do not donate any items which are not listed as acceptable. The centers will have to sort these items out and likely just end up disposing of them.
  • I have listed telephone numbers for some of the donation centers, but please do not call them unless it is a real emergency. They need their phone lines open for other communications.