Mar 15

Earthquake: Volunteer Information for People in Japan

Via AJET Website.  Thanks to JET Mike Maher-King (Fukui) of Smile Kids Japan for all his efforts with this:

AJET and Smile Kids Japan, with support from the JetWit JET alumni translators and interpreters group, have compiled a list of prefectural volunteer organisations (PVOs) mobilising volunteer groups to do ground work in areas affected by the earthquake and tsunami. The list of PVOs can be found below.

The current state of affected areas in the Tohoku region is still being assessed. Until a final assessment has been made, no volunteers will be allowed into those areas. Because PVOs are being formed on a prefectural level, each prefecture is at a different stage in organisation. This list will be updated frequently so please keep checking back here for the latest news about your prefecture.

Although we recommend that JETs in unaffected areas stay safe at home, we know many of you have volunteer experience and want to get involved at ground level. We highly recommend that interested volunteers contact their PVO before contacting any NGOs. PVOs are prepared to work with large numbers of untrained volunteers and know how to create safe, secure ways to volunteer in Tohoku; most NGOs cannot do this as effectively. In addition, by working with your PVO, you will be helping the affected areas rebuild themselves while promoting grassroots internationalization by bonding with your local prefectural volunteers.

We must also remind all JETs that you are under contract. Your role in Japan is first and foremost as an educator or community relations officer. If your contracting organisation or school asks you not to volunteer, you must not go. Also, as a JET you should only be volunteering your time during school holidays.  Keep in mind that relief efforts are going to take many months; even if you cannot get permission to volunteer now there may be other opportunities to volunteer during Golden Week, summer holidays and beyond.


Should you volunteer away from home?

  • You may be able to help more from home:

You can help from your prefecture by making material/monetary donations, doing fundraisers, donating blood or hosting displaced people through CouchSurfing.  Going to the Tohoku region isn’t something to do because of peer pressure, it is a serious decision.

  • Do not go to Tohoku without support:

Going alone without the support of a recognized PVO/NGO puts you and disaster victims in danger. Especially if you are untrained/unskilled, you can make matters worse. This was a major problem for NGOs in Haiti and we do not want anyone slowing down the emergency response.

  • Tohoku is not yet safe for untrained volunteers:

Not one volunteer organisation is allowing untrained/unskilled volunteers into the disaster zone yet. It is not safe. Organisations will start sending lay volunteers when the region is deemed stable and safe. Be patient. Be safe.

  • Make sure you’re physically and mentally prepared:

AJET and the volunteer organisations ask you to seriously consider your physical and mental health. You will be going into a disaster zone, one that in places may look worse than a typical war zone. There will be things that you may not expect or want to see.  You will be doing heavy, physical labor after a very long journey by bus or car. Are you ready to handle that?

  • Make sure that you can afford to pay your own way:

You will be responsible for your own travel, accommodation, food, water and other basic expenses.

  • Be prepared to stay in very modest accommodation:

It is likely that you will be camping near your work sites but accommodation may vary by location.

  • Be sure that you can can complete all work duties in addition to volunteering:

The volunteer dates may not fit your work schedule, if volunteer opportunities fall outside of spring break/Golden Week, you may not be able to go. Also your contracting organisation may not approve your request to do volunteer work/take nenkyu. If they do not approve, you must not go.

  • Be ready and able to leave on short notice:

PVOs will send notice of the chance to volunteer only very shortly before they actually move out. Will your schedule and contracting organisation allow that?

  • Be aware of the risks:

PVOs will do their best to make the trip safe for everyone. The ones we have contacted so far are providing special volunteer insurance to cover you but please know that if anything happens, it was your decision to be there and you are responsible for your own well-being.  We will organise a contact person in your PVO and in your home prefecture, so that we can remain in touch at all times and quickly address any issues that may arise. However, there will still be some risks to volunteering.


If you are not accepted by your PVO for any reason, AJET and Smile Kids Japan are currently working on a list of NGOs that may later accept groups of foreign volunteers. No matter how you volunteer, it will be essential to register with AJET and keep your B.O.E informed so that we can always account for every JET’s whereabouts and safety.

Please direct any questions to


Find Your Prefectural Volunteer Organizations Here:

AJET SKJ Earthquake Volunteering Info

[This list will be constantly updated — check back if you can’t find what you’re looking for!]


Donate Money here –
Donate Food/Goods –
Host displaced people here –
Counseling Services – /

Compiled by
Smile Kids Japan
with help from

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