Mar 29

Perspectives: “A Glass Half Full: Japan’s Disaster Response at One Year” by James Gannon

The below article by Jim Gannon (Ehime-ken, 1992-94), Executive Director of the Japan Center for International Exchange (JCIE/USA), appeared originally on Smart Assets:  The New York Philanthropy Blog

“A Glass Half Full:  Japan’s Disaster Response at One Year”

Here’s an excerpt:

One constant refrain in the disaster zone is the need for more effective mental health interventions. Women who lost family members, men who are ashamed that they can no longer support their families, and children traumatized by the disaster are all grappling with psychological trauma. In response, numerous Japanese nonprofits have established salons and other kokoro no kea (literally, “caring for the heart”) programs to give survivors opportunities to socialize, but these tend be rudimentary in nature, with little input from experienced mental health professionals, and they often fail to engage people at risk who are unlikely to seek out support on their own. Overseas funders can make a difference by encouraging and supporting more specialized and nuanced approaches.

Greater support is also needed for economic revitalization. A number of innovative programs have been launched to jumpstart local economies. In Kamaishi, for instance, the Fuji Social Welfare Council has started renting food trucks to unemployed chefs who lost their restaurants so they can get back on their feet. The trucks also help stimulate economic activity by gathering where new shops are opening in order to attract local residents. Meanwhile, numerous groups are pioneering new methods for small donor support of fisheries and oyster farmers in return for promised portions of future harvests. However, these efforts are only a drop in the bucket, and much greater investment is required.

A third area where funding from the United States and elsewhere can have a particularly significant impact is non-governmental organization (NGO) capacity building. Hundreds of small nonprofits have been established in the wake of the disaster, and while many will eventually fail, others have the potential to prosper and produce the next generation of Japan’s nonprofit leaders. However, the nonprofit sector can only live up to its potential if it becomes more professionalized and if the infrastructure that supports it is strengthened.

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