Leaders April 2012

Back to Business: Update

Following the success of our “Special 51 Night—Road to Recovery” event on 8 March, at which BCCJ member firms and friends raised more than ¥3.5mn for our Back to Business (B2B) Initiatives, we are now working to allocate funds to suitable projects in Tohoku, and continue facilitating micro-economic growth there.

Before being completely washed away by the 3/11 tsunami, PAO Bakery had been operating in Ishinomaki for more than 50 years. In December 2011, owner Shinichi Abe restarted the business in one of the city’s temporary shopping areas, and sought to buy equipment to support the preparation of his well-known soy milk bread. B2B funds have been used to buy a bread slicer for PAO from a local supplier, leading to increased productivity and the re-establishment of partnerships with local supermarkets, which require sliced loaves.

With profit now at about 30% of pre-3/11 rates, PAO’s five staff members send their thanks to the BCCJ.

Since mid-2011, BCCJ member firm KVH has been working with evacuees from Naraha-machi who have few chances to gather outside their temporary housing complexes in Aizumisato-machi. Approval for building a small community centre has been obtained from town officials, and the BCCJ has allocated funds to provide equipment and infrastructure for this capacity-building initiative.

There are few compelling reasons for younger survivors to stay in Minamisanriku. Many NPOs are concentrating on supporting children and the elderly, so there is little focus on caring for residents who are between the ages of 20 and 35. Although some in this age bracket departed after the events of 3/11, many young families stayed and are committed to the town.

As well as seeking jobs and educational opportunities, these young people lack enjoyment: there are no places to meet, unwind and meet new friends. O.G.A. For Aid has identified this gap, and is working with a committee of young residents to begin clearing, cleaning and redesigning an old shop space, with a view to opening a small bar. The head of the organisation, Angela Ortiz, said: “A bar can be a refuge from a troubled home life or a troubled soul. A bar is a place to rest for people in transit. Or it’s simply a place to shelter from the rain”. The committee will submit a sustainable business start-up plan to the BCCJ; we look forward to providing further updates in BCCJ ACUMEN.

After buying goods sold at our Road to Recovery (R2R) Tohoku booth, a Tokyo businessperson has expressed an interest in securing a distribution channel for handicrafts made by the women of Izushima. Coasters and bags made from fabric rescued from the tsunami might be coming to a shop near you soon.

Nick Wood, of BCCJ member firm Syn Songs, has come together with Julian Lennon, Grammy Award-winning producer John Jones, and Japan’s top-selling record producer Tetsuya Komuro to raise money for the ongoing recovery effort, through a song called Hope, which premiered at our R2R event.

The song, featuring backing vocals by orphans in Tohoku and the Boston Boys and Girls Club, pays homage to a single pine tree left standing in the Iwate Prefecture city of Rikuzentaka, which was destroyed by the earthquake and tsunami. All proceeds from this song, now available on iTunes, will go to Beyond Tomorrow, a non-profit initiative dedicated to supporting young survivors of the earthquake and tsunami through leadership training.