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Approaching Earthquake's 5th Anniversary, Japan Society Allocates $410K from Relief Fund

New York, NY – February 18, 2016 – Approaching the 5th Anniversary of the Great East Japan Earthquake, Japan Society announced two new grants from the Japan Earthquake Relief Fund (JERF) totaling $409,733. Of the more than $14 million donated since the fund's inception following the earthquake on March 11, 2011, $13.95 million has been earmarked for 44 organizations in support of 66 grants. One hundred percent of the money donated to JERF goes to recovery and reconstruction in Tohoku, the northeast region of Japan most devastated by the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear crisis.

The latest JERF grant recipients are:

Entrepreneurial Training for Innovative Communities (ETIC) is a leading organization in Japan that trains and supports young social and business entrepreneurs. With the most recent grant from the Relief Fund, ETIC will organize a series of events to commemorate the 5th Anniversary with programs that reflect on the accomplishments in the region, but also looks to the future. Past grants have supported ETIC’s efforts to nurture and support “hubs” that emphasize human resource development to promote self-sustaining economic and community revitalization; to match Fellows with specific expertise to small businesses, entrepreneurs and NPOs in an effort to help revitalize local economies; and to identify the most vulnerable (the elderly, disabled, those with special medical needs) and match them with the critical services they needed in the immediate aftermath of 3/11.

Sanaburi Foundation, founded after the earthquake, is the only community foundation in Tohoku. This grant supports its Data Initiative, which explains complex data on issues relevant in Fukushima, Miyagi and Iwate Prefectures in easy to understand reports that clearly articulates the challenges the region faces.

"As Japan approaches the 5th Anniversary of the Great East Japan Earthquake, Japan Society is pleased to support and collaborate with ETIC on a series of commemorative activities in Japan that will not only give the organizations we support in Tohoku the opportunity to reflect on what has been achieved so far, but to come together to look to at what remains to be done in the next five years and how we can come together to create a vision for the future," said Mr. Motoatsu Sakurai, President of Japan Society.

He added, "As a result of the 3/11 disaster, Tohoku must address key challenges it faced before the disaster – depopulation, an aging society, and economic downtown – earlier than it otherwise might have been able to. As a result, Tohoku has the potential to be a model for how other communities, in or outside of Japan, can respond to similar challenges."

In an effort to complement the work done in Tohoku by Relief Fund grantees, Japan Society has organized two complementary exchange programs to help strengthen the organizations supported through the Relief Fund (the Relief Fund was not used to implement these exchange programs). The most recent exchange program, a three year project called the U.S.-Japan Leaders Exchange, engaged leaders from Tohoku on issues critical to their work, including social and business entrepreneurs, innovative ways to engage a younger generation in small towns/rural communities, and the use of data in recovery. Participants met with leaders in New Orleans, LA, Wilmington, OH, Detroit, MI and New York, NY. The latest grants reflect lessons learned during the exchange program. In New Orleans, participants met with leaders who discussed the importance of commemorating the 5th and 10th anniversaries of Hurricane Katrina and participants met with a number of organizations that discussed how important access to data that everyone can understand is to their work.

Betty Borden, who manages the allocation of funds from the Japan Earthquake Relief Fund and the Society's exchange programs, added "Japan Society’s goal is to add value to the grants we made by providing unique opportunities for Relief Fund grantees to share their experience and knowledge with leaders in the U.S., and to gain insights, new ideas, and new ways of approaching their work. Through carefully developed exchange programs, we strive to contribute to the participants’ growth as leaders and help strengthen their organizations so that they can contribute to the overall resilience of the communities they serve."

These grants represent the ninth round of allocations since the inception of JERF. With 44 organizations supported through JERF to date, 66 grants have helped projects on the forefront of economic and community revitalization; engendering business and social entrepreneurship; providing mental and physical healthcare; and supporting youth, education and arts initiatives, among much more. For a complete list of organizations and projects, visit www.japansociety.org/fund_recipients.

Launched March 12, 2011, the Japan Earthquake Relief Fund has received $14,017,035.62 (as of December 31, 2015) from over 23,900 individuals, companies and foundations. Contributions have been received from all 50 states, and nearly 60 countries around the world.

In October 2013 members of the team overseeing JERF traveled to Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima Prefectures to meet with 14 grant recipients to monitor and observe projects first hand and to better understand the work and challenges grantees face going forward. Staff and volunteers were passionate and committed to their work and knowledgeable about the situation on the ground. Many shared concerns about fundraising in the future, as well as increases in suicide, alcoholism, domestic violence and divorce, and whether the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo will drain financial and human resources and supplies needed for reconstruction in Tohoku. Although many individuals and families have moved from Tohoku resulting in increased concern about depopulation and the elderly, the team noted that some young people are returning or moving to the region to help with the recovery process. “

In June 2012, the Society presented a short video highlighting work of three JERF grant recipients, including JEN, which supported four fishing villages on the Oshika Peninsula in Ishinomaki; the Japanese Medical Society of America in collaboration Kokoro-no-Kakehashi Iwate delivering of mental health services to Otsuchi, Iwate Prefecture; and the Supporting Union for Practical-use of Educational Resources and its partners to organize and implement the Fukushima Kids Camp.

In a 2012 Reuters profile of the Society’s relief work, Mr. Sakurai stated that focus of the relief fund should be on local entrepreneurship and lasting sustainable projects. “It is very, very evident in Japan this recovery process will continue for more than 10 years," he said.

Those wishing to donate to the fund can go to www.japansociety.org or mail a check to Japan Society, 333 East 47th Street, New York, New York 10017; Attn: Japan Earthquake Relief Fund. Checks should be made payable to “Japan Society” and indicate “Japan Earthquake Relief Fund” on the memo line of the check. For additional information, email japanrelief@japansociety.org.

Marking five years since the triple disaster—earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear crisis—Japan Society presents Commemorating the 5th Anniversary of 3/11, an institution-wide series of programming that commemorates the tragic loss and fundamentally changed society, and examines the recovery process and the tremendous challenges that remain. Events include Japan Society Gallery’s centerpiece exhibition In the Wake: Japanese Photographers Respond to 3/11 (March 11-June 12), the Local Innovators Forum in Tokyo co-organized with ETIC (February 27), the symposium New Directions in Japanese Art & Architecture after 3/11 (March 11), the New York premiere screening of the documentary Nuclear Nation II (March 17), a reading of the play Girl X (March 21), the artist dialogue Confronting Disaster (April 15), and more to be announced.

Japan Society is an American nonprofit committed to deepening mutual understanding between the United States and Japan in a global context. Now in its second century, the Society serves audiences across the United States and abroad through innovative programs in arts and culture, public policy, business, language, and education. For more information, visit www.japansociety.org or call 212-832-1155.

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Media Contacts:
Shannon Jowett, 212-715-1205, sjowett@japansociety.org
Asako Sugiyama, 212-715-1249, asugiyama@japansociety.org

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