February 2008 – February 2009 I had the pleasure of living in Kusatsu-Shi, which is a suburb of Kyoto, Japan. Over the year I fell in love with the language, the people, the culture and the country. So on March 11th when news of the tsunami and earthquake broke, my heart trembled and I immediately started sending out emails to all of my friends, Japanese and non-Japanese alike to ensure that everyone was safe. More information led to my understanding that the disaster affected areas in Tokyo and to the north which meant that the vast majority of my friends were unharmed.
Watching news clips and photo slideshows broke my heart. I was often left with a gaping mouth as I could not believe what was in front of my eyes, one of the richest countries, but definitely THE most prepared country in the world was suffering the worst tragedy it had seen since the second world war.
While my heart weeps for Japan, one of my first thoughts was “Oh goodness, now everyone is going to start donating to Japan.” I am writing this blogpost today, which I know is about ten days too late, to encourage people not to donate their money to large organizations for this disaster and future disasters. The Japanese government has expressed that they are not interested in receiving donations and they have only accepted other help from very few of the 102 countries that have offered help. Below I have included links to blogs from people much smarter than I am to further explain why you should not donate money to Japan. What it boils down to is that when you donate money to a specific disaster, the money is then earmarked for it, in this case Japan. So if for example the American Red Cross receives $34 million for the efforts in Japan and only uses $10 million of that, if a disaster happens in another part of the world, they cannot move the $24 million which remains in the budget to assist in another disaster. It can take years for organizations like the Red Cross to spend all of the money earmarked for a disaster and in the case of Japan it is simply unnecessary. The government is very capable of handling this emergency so you do not need to pay for it. But if you still feel so inclined to donate, donate the general fund or organizations rather than for specific efforts.
Mt. Fuji as seen from the Shinkensen