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Local Relief Efforts for Japan

A little over a month ago, on March 11th, a 9.0 magnitude earthquake struck northeastern Japan. It was the largest recorded earthquake in the country’s history, causing untold damage, numerous deaths, and a devastating tsunami. Numerous relief and humanitarian organizations from around the world jumped in to help and support the hundreds of thousands of victims of this natural disaster. One of these organizations — the Japanese Disaster Relief Fund — is located right here in Boston and has been instrumental in providing its services to the Japanese people.

We asked the co-founder of the Japanese Disaster Relief Fund, Ms. Atsuko Toko Fish, to provide us with more detailed insights both into the organization and the overall situation in Japan so that we could share this information with all of you. Below are her responses to our questions.

1) What is the Japanese Disaster Relief Fund?

In order to provide Kibou (Hope) to Japanese people, The Boston Foundation, Japan Society of Boston and the Fish Family Foundation have established the “Japanese Disaster Relief Fund – Boston.” The purpose of the Fund is to provide immediate relief to affected individuals and communities in Northeast Japan. 100% of funds raised will go toward these relief and sustaining efforts and we anticipate that the Fund will be expended within two years.

The Fund will prioritize immediate relief through supporting local NGOs and communities on the ground best positioned to aid those affected by the earthquake and tsunami. Our intention is to disperse these short-term funds as quickly as possible. We anticipate the needs assessment, due diligence, and fund allocation for short-term aid will be completed within approximately 3 months. Over the next two years, the remaining funds will be distributed periodically for mid-to longer term aid.

2) How does it differ from other relief organizations?

This Fund is a unique collaboration with three nonprofit organizations, the Boston Foundation, The Japan Society of Boston and the Fish Family Foundation. Our expertise in grant making and our networks in Japan enable us to make direct impact grants to organizations and communities in Tohoku. In addition, all administrative costs of the fund – including on-the-ground needs assessment and due diligence in Japan— are covered by the Fish Family Foundation.

3) What is needed the most in Japan right now?

What the people of Japan need is Hope. They have lost their homes and livelihoods. They need to rebuild their lives again. They need temporary shelters, medical attention, and better sanitation systems. Many elderly people are experiencing severe health conditions after being taken out of their care environment.   In addition, the children need to return back to their schools and begin a normal life again.

4) How long do you think the recovery process will take?

It is hard to anticipate. Sources say it will take more than 5 years for the region to rebuild itself again.

5) How can individuals support the Japanese Relief Fund?

You can support the grantee organizations of the Japanese Disaster Relief Fund – Boston by donating through our website ( and attending the fundraising events in the Upcoming Events page. We have many fantastic restaurants, businesses, and communities in Boston holding events to support our Fund. It is a great way to spend your weekend to help those in need.

In addition, we are getting involved with social media to actively promote the fund. Please follow us at @jdrfb on twitter and “Japanese Disaster Relief Fund –Boston” on facebook.

6) How has the Boston community responded so far to the disaster in Japan?

The Boston community has been an incredible source of support. For example, the medical community has come together to form the Boston-Japan Medical Relief Initiative to send a group of Japanese doctors to support relief efforts near the evacuee sites. We approved a $30,000 grant to this group for travel expenses and emergency medical supplies for the first two teams of Boston doctors. The first team of doctors will be returning from Japan very shortly.

7) How can the Boston community get more informed and active?

Please keep your thoughts with the victims of the earthquake and the tsunami in Japan. They have lost their families, homes, and livelihoods. The local NGOs and volunteer communities need our financial support to assist these individuals. Please visit for donations. In addition, we are happy to review proposals for fundraising plans. Please email us with your contact information and a brief fundraising proposal at

Please consider supporting the Japanese Disaster Relief Fund today!


A UNited response to Japan Earthquake

Five days after an 8.9-magnitude earthquake and tsunami struck Japan’s north-east coast at 2:46 p.m. local time, the official death toll is now more than 4,300. More than 8,000 people are still missing, and half a million are homeless. Hundreds of national and international rescue teams are leading the relief effort.

Friday’s earthquake in Japan was the country’s strongest recorded quake. It hit north-east of the main island of Honshu; its epicenter was undersea, about 400 kilometers northeast of the Japanese capital, Tokyo. The quake triggered a powerful subsequent tsunami that inundated towns, villages and farmlands along the coast and devastated dozens of coastal communities. The devastation is of such magnitude that it is hard to imagine some of the communities ever being rebuilt. Town after town has been wiped away.


Now, Japan is facing another frightening reality — the possibility of a radioactive leak stemming from a second reactor at the Fukushima Dai-Ichi plant. Since the earthquake knocked out the plant’s cooling systems over the weekend, the crisis at the Fukushima plant has mounted. The first three reactors have already exploded due to build up of hydrogen gases. The repeated releases of different amounts of radiation — some large, some small — are cause for concern.  (For the latest news and updates, check here).

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon voiced his sorrow on Friday: “I want to express my deepest sympathies and heartfelt condolences to the Japanese people and Government, and most especially to those who lost family and friends in the earthquake and subsequent tsunami…” Mr. Ban said the UN would do all it could to mobilize humanitarian assistance and disaster risk reduction teams as soon as possible.

A United Nations disaster team arrived in Japan two days ago, and local officials have asked the world body to dispatch a team of nuclear safety experts as emergency operations continue in the wake of Friday’s catastrophic earthquake and tsunami. The United Nations has also called an emergency meeting to discuss possible solutions to Japan’s deepening nuclear crisis.

According to the UN, a seven-member UN Disaster Assessment and Coordination (UNDAC) team will set up an on-site operations center to help Japanese authorities disseminate accurate and timely information on the disaster and the emergency efforts. The team of specialists will travel to affected areas in the days ahead to assess the humanitarian needs, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). They will also assist the Japanese Government in providing advice on incoming international relief goods and services.

Even though Boston is close to 7,000 miles away from Japan, there are ways for YOU to help the victims of the earthquake and tsunami. Please consider making a donation through UNICEF, The World Food Programme, or The UN Foundation. Every contribution can help make a difference. Consider donating today and please stay tuned for additional ways to get involved as the relief efforts develop!