Helping Japan as the crisis continues

Helping Japan as the crisis continues

Read the full story on the Chicago Tribune website.

Kelsey Collister/Tribune Newspapers April 11, 2011

The people of Japan have been through hell since a 9.0-magnitude earthquake and a tsunami hammered the northeastern coast on March 11. While many are sending assistance from the U.S., Casey Calamusa, an international news officer for World Vision, traveled to Tokyo 36 hours after the earthquake hit and joined the Christian humanitarian organization’s relief efforts in Tome City, Miyagi Prefecture, located 70 miles from the earthquake’s epicenter.

“It was really heartbreaking to see the entire coastline washed out,” he said. “I went up north, past Sendai, which was the hardest hit area, and worked with local authorities to see where we could help.”

Calamusa stayed in an evacuation shelter and felt “numerous, large aftershocks” during his seven day trip. He thought the damage was apparent, because many houses were destroyed.

A few days later, blizzard-like conditions ensued, creating a challenge for rescue workers in Japan’s quake and tsunami zone. Because of the weather, Calamusa was worried about the people in the evacuation shelter.

“It’s freezing cold and most of the power is out, so there’s no heat and no electricity… They were running short on bottled water for awhile” he said.

World Vision has directed its attention towards Japan during this critical time, utilizing the organization’s “Disaster Response Fund.” Thus far, the relief organization delivered 4,500 blankets and 6,000 water bottles to the Japanese. World Vision plans to gift 30,000 people affected by the natural disasters with mattresses, winter clothing and blankets in the next few months.

For those who have family in Japan, Calamusa suggested sending notes of encouragement via the internet “because it means a lot to them right now.”

The unexpected earthquake and tsunami left 12,157 people dead and 15,496 others unaccounted for, according to the National Police Agency. Many are left wondering how to make sense of such a large-scale disaster.

The country continues to experience aftershocks from the March 11 quake, with a 7.1-magnitude earthquake striking the eastern coast of Japan on April 7 resulting in two deaths and more than 90 people injured according to Japanese broadcaster NHK World. On April 11 another quake hit 22 miles west of Honshu, Japan. The earthquake had a magnitude of 6.6 according to the United States Geological Survey’s Earthquake Hazards Program.

Joshua Taylor, lead pastor at MissioDei in Chicago, Ill. said “sometimes it takes a tragedy to awaken our hearts to our fellow man — to see things on a broader scale. My hope is that we would take action, instead of just having that initial emotional response.”

One way to take action is by donating to relief organizations such as World Vision or the American Red Cross. Japan will cost approximately 300 billion dollars to rebuild, according to Martha Carlos, senior manager of marketing and communications for the American Red Cross of Greater Chicago. Donations to American Red Cross’ Japan disaster fund are used to help people affected by the earthquake, tsunami and the evolving nuclear crisis, she explained.

“So far we’ve given 60 million dollars to the Japanese Red Cross and we’re also funding about half of the United Nations logistical operations in Japan,” Carlos said.

When asked what the Japanese people need more than anything, Pastor Taylor said, “they need absolute love. Some of them need a place to stay, a meal or a blanket. For those individuals, that could be the most unique expression of God’s love.”

Here are some ways you can help the people affected by the earthquake and tsunami in Japan:
• Text “REDCROSS” to 90999 to donate 10 dollars to help the Japanese, or visit the American Red Cross to donate online.
• Calamusa explained that World Vision has received enough donations to fully fund its’ intended 24-month response in Japan. • The World Vision team encourages prospective donors to contribute to World Vision’s “Disaster Response Fund” instead. Visit World Vision to donate online.
• Band together with friends and family, and host a bake sale, and use the revenue to support a humanitarian organization that’s responding to the crisis in Japan.
• Remember the Japanese people in your prayers, regardless of your religious background.
• Get involved on Twitter with #PrayforJapan, a general hashtag where you can show support for the victims of this crisis.
• Host a movie night with friends and co-workers, where attendants can donate at the door. Then give the proceeds to a charitable organization that’s helping Japan.
• If you would really like to help and have the necessary time and funds available, find a religious group or humanitarian organization that needs volunteers in Japan, and assist with relief efforts on the ground.