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Japan Society Announces First Earthquake Relief Grants for Kumamoto Survivors Totaling $205,000

New York, NY – October 20, 2016 – In April Japan's Kumamoto Prefecture was struck by a series of earthquakes, including a 7.0 magnitude quake that killed nearly 50 people and displaced over 100,000. Immediately following the disaster, Japan Society expanded its Japan Earthquake Relief Fund (JERF) to support relief and recovery in the region, and today announced the first grants supporting Kumamoto survivors to five organizations and totaling nearly $205,000. The fund has received over $14M to date.

"Thanks to the concern and generosity of the public at large, we have collected nearly a quarter of a million dollars for our relief fund earmarked for Kumamoto," said Japan Society President Mr. Motoatsu Sakurai. "Japan Society's ongoing efforts to support recovery in Tohoku after the 2011 earthquake put us in a unique position to help in this new crisis. We were able to quickly identify key organizations working on recovery, and are pleased to announce this first round of grants for Kumamoto, while maintaining our commitment to Tohoku."

The grants for Kumamoto are being given to Association for Aid and Relief, JEN, Katariba, Kumamoto Wellness Support Institute, and FUMIDAS, for projects ranging from health and wellness aid for residents in temporary housing and for survivors with disabilities, to community and business revitalization projects, and projects targeting young people junior high to college age. Full details on the individual grants:

The Association for Aid and Relief (AAR), an international organization that works with people with disabilities in emergency situations, is rebuilding Tanpopo House, a center for disabled persons in the village of Nishihara. JERF will provide institutional support and fund the purchase of equipment for the house and kitchen, which will serve the disabled, the economically disadvantaged, and the elderly.

FUMIDAS, which engages and nurtures college students through mid-to-long-term internships on Kyushu, will accelerate the work of local businesses and organizations working on recovery by partnering them with professionals, called right arm fellows, who have specific business knowledge such as branding, sales, IT, and management. JERF will provide institutional support and the right arm fellows.

Recognizing that many of the local NPOs in Kumamoto have limited experience in recovery and reconstruction, JEN – a leader in post-disaster relief, recovery and reconstruction in Japan – will partner with 20 local community leaders to enhance recovery and reconstruction efforts and strengthen the capacity of local leaders. JERF will support training programs for local leaders.

Katariba, which works with junior and senior high schools students throughout Japan, started the Kumamoto Collab School in Mashiki village to provide support to junior and senior high school students with afterschool tutoring, mental health support, and a place to hang out, and talk about their hopes and desires for the future. JERF provide institutional support and four retreats over the next year to engage students, expand their horizons and knowledge, inspire them, and bring them together with other students.

The Kumamoto Wellness Support Institute started KumaCafe to support residents living in temporary housing in Mashiki, Mifune, Minami-Aso, Ushiki, Uzuchi and Kousa towns in Kumamoto. Through the café, it builds self-reliance and healthy living through programs such as exercise classes that prevent health problems due to inactivity, including the so-called “economy class syndrome”, stress elimination classes, and community gardening. The Japan Earthquake Relief fund will support the purchase of equipment and the work of healthcare professionals at Kumacafe.


In addition to these grants, JERF continues to support recovery in Tohoku, following the Great East Japan Earthquake on March 11, 2011. With a full list of organizations and projects funded to date available here (as of September 2016), current and ongoing projects in Tohoku include supporting high school and college age social change makers with Ashoka Japan, which continues to work on recovery throughout Tohoku; support for organizations with exceptional leaders who can serve as hubs in the region to ensure long term community and economic recovery with ETIC, and support for a data project that covers Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima Prefectures with the Sanaburi Foundation.

Launched March 12, 2011, the Japan Earthquake Relief Fund has received $14,333,847.32 (as of June 30, 2016) from over 24,434 individuals, companies and foundations. With over $14M allocated to date, one hundred percent of the money has gone to relief and recovery in Tohoku and Kumamoto. Contributions have been received from all 50 states, and nearly 60 countries around the world. With 48 organizations supported through JERF to date, 71 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.

Following the Kumamoto earthquakes, Japan Society's relief fund was included on Governor Andrew M. Cuomo's list of official New York-affiliated organizations assisting earthquake relief efforts.

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, noting "It is very, very evident in Japan this recovery process will continue for more than 10 years."

In June 2012, the Society presented a short video highlighting work of three JERF grant recipients, including JEN, which supported 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.

Since JERF has started, members of the team overseeing JERF have traveled to Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima Prefectures numerous times to meet with grant recipients to monitor and observe projects first hand and to better understand the work and challenges grantees face going forward. Additionally, they monitor progress through regular reporting on active grants.

Japan Society just completed a three-year leadership project to complement the work done in Tohoku by JERF grantees. As a result of this project, the U.S.-Japan Leaders Exchange, four of the organizations started data projects to help them understand the current state of affairs and measure progress in the communities in which they work; one participant started a new project to address health issues seniors face; one organization launched a series of social entrepreneurship pitch contests for high school students in five towns in Fukushima; one organization has been inspired to start a pitch contest and are looking to introduce the concept of mentors for start-ups; and Japan Society and ETIC partnered to implement Think Tohoku 2011-2021 to commemorate the fifth anniversary of the Great East Japan Earthquake, which took place in Sendai and Tokyo in November 2015 and February 2016.

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" and specify "Tohoku" "Kumamoto" or "Fund Admin" on the memo line of the check. For additional information, email japanrelief@japansociety.org.

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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