May 19, 2011

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As highlighted in a recent Japan Times article, the Internet and social media such as Facebook and Twitter are playing a new and increasing role in disaster relief efforts in Tohoku. The NGOs being helped by JCIE’s relief and recovery fund are posting calls for volunteers, requests for donations, updates about their work, announcements of charity events, and reflections from those in the field. They are using their websites, Facebook accounts, RSS feeds, and Twitter to reach as many people as possible. All of these organizations have English versions of their websites. Peace Winds Japan and JEN have Facebook pages. And on Twitter you can find NICCO (@KyotoNicco), JEN (@NGO_JEN), AAR (@aarjapan), Peace Winds Japan (@PeaceWindsJapan), and Japan Platform (@japanplatform). These new outlets offer a way for the organizations to assess the needs on the ground, reach potential donors and volunteers, create and capitalize on networks, and offer a higher degree of transparency and accountability in their operations than ever before.

In cooperation with the Rikuzentakata Chamber of Commerce, Peace Winds Japan is supplying four of the chamber’s members with the necessary trucks and products to restart their businesses through mobile sales. This is a trial run for a program to reinvigorate the local economy. At a ceremony held on May 16, one of the members, a Mr. Nakano, was presented with the keys to his new truck, and he was ready to launch his on-wheels shop, “Nakano-ya.” PWJ is planning to launch similar efforts in Ofunato, Minamisanriku, and elsewhere as well. PWJ has also begun distributing shopping vouchers to those moving into temporary housing in Ofunato, which can be used at local supermarkets and shopping malls. This is also intended to help the local economy.