Foundation sets up disaster fund for Japan
People carry their furniture from their ruined home 15 March in Kesennuma, Miyagi Prefecture, Japan, four days after an earthquake and tsunami devastated Japan's northeast coast towns. AP Photo/Kyodo News
In response to the massive earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan on 11 March, The Rotary Foundation has established the Rotary Japan and Pacific Islands Disaster Fund, which will support long-term recovery projects in affected areas.
Rotarians and non-Rotarians can donate online. Clubs and districts can contribute cash and District Designated Fund (DDF) allocations to the fund.
The 9.0-magnitude quake, Japan's largest in history, and the tsunami that followed it caused widespread devastation, paralyzing much of the northern coast. More than 10,000 people have been killed, and thousands are missing. Millions have been left without clean water or power, and at least 550,000 people have been forced from their homes.
A series of explosions at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, 140 miles northeast of Tokyo, damaged reactors and forced the evacuation of tens of thousands. The Japanese government is working to contain the situation. Damage from the earthquake and tsunami is estimated at US$170 billion.
RI President-nominee Sakuji Tanaka, of the Rotary Club of Yashio, Saitama, was in Lisbon, Portugal, on Rotary business during the disasters. He was able to reach his wife, Kyoko, on the phone to confirm her safety.
"She said it was the most horrifying experience she'd ever had," says Tanaka. "The northern region of Japan is still in chaos. We are unsure when this chaos will end or when things will get better. However, I am most thankful to know that Rotarians around the world care for us."
Japanese RI directors Masaomi Kondo and Masahiro Kuroda, as well as staff at Rotary International's Japan office, are confirmed to be safe.
Rotary clubs and districts worldwide are mobilizing efforts to bring urgently needed aid to victims.
"I've received many messages from Rotarians all over the world," says Noriko Futagami, the Public Image Resource Group coordinator for Zone 2. "I also have reports that Rotary clubs have begun to start planning projects for immediate help. Unfortunately, there are many Rotarians and families who haven't been able to be contacted. Rotarians in Japan worry for their safety."
Group Study Exchange team safe
Rotarian Robert Blackburn was leading a Group Study Exchange team in Japan when the earthquake struck. The five team members from Illinois, USA, were in a hotel in Tokyo, getting ready for a farewell dinner with their hosts.
"It was our last night in Japan. I felt the whole building shake," says Blackburn, a member of the Rotary Club of Westmont. "It was not just a mild tremor. My hotel room was shaking from side to side. It felt like forever. I have never been so scared in my life."
Blackburn says the earthquake lasted at least two minutes. He used a laundry cart outside his hotel room for protection. After the tremors stopped, he walked 18 floors down to the lobby, where the rest of the team congregated.
"The airport was temporarily closed, so I told everyone on our team that we might have to be here for a day or two longer," he says. "Thankfully, the airport reopened. Our hosts were incredible and were able to get us to the airport on time for our flight."
Tanaka says he is grateful for the warm support of Rotarians worldwide.
"The great thing about Rotarians is that we share everything, including each other's joy and sadness. They have the ability to put themselves in the position of others and act to help," says Tanaka. "Despite the unthinkable hardship we're experiencing now, the people of Japan will not give up on efforts to rebuild their communities."
Learn more about how to contribute to the Rotary Japan and Pacific Islands Disaster Fund established by The Rotary Foundation.