Leaders January 2013

Thank You for Your Help

Gonged for post-quake and business community work

Immediately on the heel of the Great East Japan Earthquake, we became a hub of information, disseminating to our extended networks requests from Japanese and foreign non-profit organisations, volunteers and survivors. We co-ordinated donations from individuals and firms here and abroad, with members showing great solidarity to the cause.

An initial fundraising event enabled us to fund plumbing in Ishinomaki for Peaceboat’s central kitchen. At its busiest, it provided more than 2,000 meals per day for survivors and volunteers.

On 30 March we held the Disaster Relief Forum at the British Embassy Tokyo. Representatives from the private, public and civil sectors discussed how best to mobilise resources. As a result, member firm KVH Co. Ltd. built a bilingual platform to facilitate and support requests for supplies, funding and information. The We Care Japan site continues to offer a portal for responding to those in need.

When I first visited Ishinomaki, Miyagi Prefecture, I beheld vast swathes of apocalyptic landscape; families were living on the second floors of tsunami-ravaged houses, thousands of survivors were moving to temporary housing, and NPOs were active.

We met local leaders and heard community voices, and recognised that the expertise and experiences of those directly affected by the disaster were key to a successful rebuild. From then on, we were supporting a recovery area, not a disaster area.

Marking the end of the emergency relief phase in June 2011, we set up the Back to Business (B2B) Initiative to support projects with the potential to demonstrate measurable results, generate economic returns, and/or produce outcomes with long-term benefits for businesses, communities and families.

We moved from giving donations, to spending the ¥8.3mn we had subsequently raised on providing sustainable, enabling resources to help businesses get back on their feet.

These included a bread-slicer to increase productivity at an Ishinomaki bakery; a freezer so Funakoshi fishermen could bridge a supply-chain gap; generators to help Izushima fishermen resume night fishing; a multi-cultivator so Minamisanriku farmers could restore fields to commercial productivity; sewing machines for a Wataricho social enterprise making handicrafts from fabric rescued from the tsunami; supplies for community cafes in Yamamoto-cho temporary housing complexes; solar panels for a shopping street and equipment for a night school in Onagawa; and resources to kick-start a Green belt project in Wataricho.

I believe we truly made a difference. Complementing larger relief and recovery programmes, we ensured real and efficient outcomes by working closely with the people of Tohoku.

I’m truly honoured and humbled to have been appointed MBE for services to post-earthquake reconstruction and the British business community in Japan. The award is dedicated to those who perished in the disasters, everyone who supported our B2B Initiative and the wider clean-up and reconstruction of Tohoku, as well as those who are still battling to rebuild their lives and businesses. The rejuvenation of the region continues.

Thank you very much for your unwavering support.