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3 Years after Japan's Earthquake, Japan Society Allocates 10 New Grants totaling $750K towards Recovery and Reconstruction

東日本大震災 災害支援のための 「The Japan Earthquake Relief Fund」 第八回支援金付与先 決定のお知らせ

New York, NY, April 28, 2014 – Japan Society announced today 10 new grants from the Japan Earthquake Relief Fund (JERF) totaling of $753,835. Of the nearly $14 million donated since the fund's inception following the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami on March 11, 2011, $13.63 million has been earmarked for 43 organizations in support of 64 projects. One hundred percent of the money donated to JERF goes to recovery and reconstruction in Tohoku.

"Just over three years after the triple disasters struck Japan, people are still working tirelessly on the ground to rebuild communities and to revitalize and reestablish local economies." said Mr. Motoatsu Sakurai, President of Japan Society. "The latest grants highlight a range of innovative and vital projects from leaders in the region with a commitment to deep rooted, long-term recovery."

The current round of grants supports community revitalization, business and social entrepreneurship, children and the arts. Specific projects create opportunities for local craftsmen and artisans, facilitate student-designed initiatives to rebuild the region, preserve local festivals and folk entertainments, promote mental wellbeing through storytelling, and collect and analyze data to help measure change and impact on future endeavors. One special project supports education initiatives honoring an American teacher working in the region, who was killed by the tsunami. Another highlight, part of a larger reconstruction project, is a collaborative community mural spearheaded by architect Shigeru Ban, whose new train station and public bath in the city of Onagawa will be a symbol of the town’s reconstruction.

Of the ten latest grants, five are awarded to new grantees and five are awarded to grantees who have received JERF funding in the past. The latest JERF grant recipients are:

Ashoka Japan, a two-time JERF grant recipient, provides opportunities for junior high, high school and college students who have creative and innovative ideas for revitalizing the Tohoku region. After pitching their ideas as part of the Tohoku Youth Venture, successful students receive seed funding to put their ideas into action. The Youth Venture initiative was launched with the vision to change society by enabling and empowering youth.

Association for the Corporate Support for the Arts conducts research, surveys and seminars to build partnerships between business and the arts. With a second grant from JERF, the Association provides communities in Tohoku with funds to revitalize local festivals and folk entertainment as part of its Hundred Festivals Revival Fund, which play a vital role in bringing communities together and preserving cultural heritage.

Fukushima Solar and Agriculture Experience Association is an agricultural project powered with its own solar energy park. As part of the programming, the Association started the Green Academy, an experiential learning program for students, elementary through university, which emphasizes teaching students to think and act. The Japan Earthquake Relief Funds supports the construction of a permanent facility for the Green Academy.

IIE works with craftsmen to market and brand the highest level crafts produced in Tohoku as part of an effort to revitalization local communities. JERF will support IIE’s Tohok Produce Project, which provides educational opportunities for local craftsmen, assistance to develop new products, and disseminates information on the crafts through a website and publication.

JEN, a three-time JERF grant recipient, is an international humanitarian relief and development organization with experience responding to disasters around the world, including Japan. Funds from JERF support JEN’s work in Ishinomaki, Miyagi Prefecture, and enabled JEN to provide emergency relief and debris and sludge clean up, and support to aqua-farmers and fishermen in four ports on the Oshika peninsula. The third grant supports JEN’s “Memory Program,” a storytelling contest that will highlight the work of individuals active in Tohoku reconstruction.

MAKOTO supports and trains entrepreneurs in Miyagi, Iwate and Fukushima Prefectures and started the Council of Supporting Entrepreneurs for Recovery, which brings together organizations, government officials, corporations and universities interested in supporting entrepreneurship in Tohoku. MAKOTO’s programs included cocolin, a co-working space in Sendai; a crowd funding site, Challenge Star; and a crowd sourcing program to match entrepreneurs with expertise. With a second JERF grant, Makoto will continue to support entrepreneurs in Tohoku.

NPO Asueno Kibo works to build connections between the NPO, public, and private sectors to support entrepreneurs and NPO leaders as part of the long term reconstruction and revitalization of Onagawa. With support from JERF, Asueno Kibo will undertake a groundbreaking effort to collect relevant data that local government, the civil sector and businesses can use to better understand the current situation in Onagawa and better measure impact and progress as stakeholders move forward on reconstruction and revitalization. Onagawa will serve as a model for the data collection and analysis project, and two other towns will participate to assess the value and relevance of data collection and analysis project for their respective towns.

NPO Riku Café started as a small community space where local residents could relax, come together over tea or coffee, and share information in Rikuzentakata. Given the success of the space, the JERF supports the building of a larger café designed by architect Yuri Naruse so the organization can provide more services and activities for the community. A second grant to NPO Riku Café will help bridge the increased costs of construction due to the building boom in Tohoku.

The Taylor Anderson Memorial Fund was started by Taylor’s family to honor her memory after 3.11. Taylor was teaching English in Ishinomaki as part of the Japan Exchange and Teaching (JET) Programme when the earthquake and tsunami struck Tohoku. The Memorial Fund focuses on recovery projects in Ishinomaki that benefit students, schools and families, starting with creation of reading corners in schools and inviting Japanese students to the United States. The Memorial Fund now supports eight projects in Ishinomaki.

Voluntary Architects Network was established by Japanese architect Shigeru Ban as a disaster assistance organization that focuses on architectural projects in post-disaster areas around the world. Mr. Ban designed the new train station in Onagawa, which was swept away by the tsunami. A public bath was included as part of the train station and the Japan Earthquake Relief Fund supports the Onagawa Town Onsen Hot Bath Facility Tile Art Project. Local residents and individuals involved in the recovery process will be invited to paint tiles that will be made into two murals that will decorate the public bath. Working with Mr. Ban, Hiroshi Senju, artist, and Eiji Mitooka, industrial designer, will oversee the design of the murals.

These grants represent the eighth round of allocations since the inception of JERF. Upon the announcement of the previous round of grants in November 2013, Mr. Sakurai complimented "the passion and commitment of community leaders working in Tohoku." Grants during this round were allocated to revitalizing agriculture and fishing industries, as well as support for children, education, community revitalization and social enterprises. For a complete summary of organizations and projects supported by JERF to date, visit http://www.japansociety.org/earthquake.

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. “As we approach the three year anniversary of 3/11, we will keep these concerns in mind as we move forward with future grants and related programming," said Mr. Sakurai.

In June 2012, the Society premiered a short video highlighting work of three of the 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.

Launched March 12, 2011, the Japan Earthquake Relief Fund has received $13.88 million (as of March 31, 2014) from over 23,600 individuals, companies and foundations. Contributions have been received from all 50 states, and nearly 60 countries around the world. One hundred percent of the fund goes directly to support people affected by the disasters.

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.

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:
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