15,000 People Assisted By Habitat For Humanity In Japan

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Volunteers Spend 10,000 Days Clearing Debris, Cleaning Homes, Distributing Goods, And Engaged in Community Revitalization Projects In Earthquake And Tsunami Affected Areas

BANGKOK, 11 March 2012: In the year since the devastating earthquake and tsunami wave struck Japan’s northeastern coastline, Habitat for Humanity has supported over 4,000 families, or around 15,000 people, rebuild their lives.

Volunteers working with Habitat for Humanity and partner organizations have spent the equivalent of around 10,000 days clearing debris, cleaning homes, distributing household items, and engaged in community revitalization projects in the disaster affected areas of Iwate and Miyagi Prefectures. “Acknowledging one year since the earthquake and tsunami struck Japan is very sad; thinking about the thousands of people we have lost, the survivors whose lives turned upside down, and areas of Japan that are changed forever,” said Kaji Tomoya, acting National Director of Habitat for Humanity Japan

“We are proud of the work completed so far as our part in helping to rebuild Japan, and are committed to doing much more. Our hands-on, personal approach using volunteers means our disaster relief activities are a rewarding experience for everyone, going beyond just repairing physical structures or providing goods to rebuilding communities and increasing human interaction.”

Habitat for Humanity spent the weeks and months immediately after the earthquake and tsunami clearing debris from homes and community spaces, cleaning buildings and repairing homes. This meant some affected families could return home and start rebuilding their lives.

Habitat for Humanity has also been involved with distributing household items to families living in temporary accommodation – like bedding and heaters to help people through Japan’s severe winter months. More recently, efforts have focused on community revitalization projects as people want to re-establish community ties and communal spaces.

During 2012, Habitat for Humanity Japan will continue to mobilize hundreds of volunteers to repair and upgrade community facilities, rehabilitate homes either directly or by providing technical and financial support, and providing consultations to families starting to construct new houses.

Teruo Sugawara, 72, was a fish factory owner living in Ofunato, Iwate Prefecture, before the tsunami struck. He and his family survived stranded on a hill as the tsunami water rose around them. Both his factory and home were badly damaged, and Habitat for Humanity volunteers helped him to clear and clean: “I just cannot express my appreciation for the volunteers enough. By seeing them every day, I can see their sincerity and how important it is to have human connections. I would like to ask the young generation to join them and know that they are doing something very important by volunteering,” said Sugawara.

Nearly 500 Habitat for Humanity Japan volunteers have travelled to communities in northern Japan to help clean and clear homes, public buildings or spaces, and to distribute items to families living in temporary shelters.

Habitat for Humanity has carried out its disaster response activities in partnership with local government, and other non-profit organizations like All Hands Volunteers and Peace Boat.

The 9.0-magnitude earthquake that struck Japan on Friday 11 March was the largest to ever hit Japan since recordings began. The earthquake, and the subsequent tsunami waves, killed more than 15,800 people, with 3,800 still missing, and damaged or destroyed more than 300,000 buildings.

Those interested in volunteering should email rebuildtoday@habitatjp.org

To donate, please visit habitat.org/japan or habitatjp.org