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Why Donate? Why Civic Force?

Monday, 21st March, 2011
First of all, I would like thank Mr. Don Brown to give me this free translation for charity.
I really appreciate your quick and accurate work.

Why donate? Why Civic Force?

On the afternoon of March 11th, a film I’d wanted to see for a long time called
“Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives” was in the first week of its
theatrical release, but as it was also available via internet streaming,
I relaxed at home and absorbed myself in the world of this extremely ‘slow life’ film.
Uncle Boonmee’s long lost son casually returns home having transformed into an ape,
and at the family dinner table he says:
“I’ve joined the forest spirits, so now I look like this. Spirits and animals can sense
that father’s death is near, and they’re gathering in the forest…”
The moment those lines were spoken, the ground began to shake.
I immediately switched over to NHK and tried to get some information on the earthquake,
but then the situation instantly became even more alarming due to the tsunami warning
issued four minutes after the tremors. The broadcast switched to live cameras
where the tsunami was about to hit. Black waves swept powerfully into the fishing port.
As I watched these live images of cars, people and pets frantically trying to escape,
I couldn’t for the life of me comprehend what was unfolding, and simply sat there
in a stupor. All I could do was to cry out, “Ah, ah, ah, ah, oh no, oh no, aaaaah!”
The sea is right in front of my home too. If a tsunami even only one meter in height hit,
it’d be terrible! My neighborhood lost power and the traffic lights went out,
so police were sent out to direct traffic, but they had difficulty keeping things
under control and huge traffic jams resulted. The municipal
emergency broadcast system issued an evacuation order,
and for a time it was quite a chaotic situation.
A friend of mine who had worked as a volunteer in the aftermath of the
Great Hanshin Earthquake once told me many stories about realities in the
disaster-hit areas that weren’t reported on by the newspapers or television.
When the tsunami hit, I immediately thought: “Oh no, this is going to be a bigger
tragedy than the Great Hanshin Earthquake. Quakes and fires did the damage
then, but this time it’s quakes, fires, plus the tsunami…
The victims must be in the tens of thousands…”
From then on, I closely vetted the continuous stream of information on Twitter,
and translated and posted information that I thought people affected by the disaster
needed to know. Because such a wide area had been hit, I thought that
there must have been people from overseas traveling in northern Japan when it
occurred. Of course, I also continued to relay information for the benefit of
foreigners living in those areas.  That was because the flow of information via
television was very slow, and confusing.
Some of it was useful, while some of it was just pathetic, and the two became
muddled together, so I didn’t get the information I really wanted.
So what about the internet? It was also a mess of conflicting information that
you had to sift through yourself, but naturally it was much quicker to obtain.  
However, disaster victims wouldn’t have been able to use computers
to access the internet… docomo, au, Softbank and other mobile phone networks
soon became overloaded. With that in mind, Twitter was amazing.
3G network access was stable, and information abounded.
By using Twitter, disaster victims might be able to see it too.
With that hope in mind, I kept tweeting as much information as I could in English.
I frequently travel overseas on business and have had several nerve-jangling
experiences, such as being at Pearson Airport in Toronto when the 9.11 terrorist
attacks occurred, and at Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris when a bomb scare
broke out. Each time I felt extremely anxious about being alone in a foreign country,
especially at the airport in Paris when the announcements were entirely in French,
and I had no idea of what was going on.  
Based on those experiences, I continued to provide information for foreigners.
Two or three days after the disaster, the Japan Times and other foreign language
media published information on the affected areas, safety confirmations,
and disaster contingency measures in English, providing summaries of useful
information, so now I’m leaving it all up to the ‘information experts.’
Now then, on to the second day of the disaster.
Towns were tragically inundated with water after the tsunami.
Ambulances and fire trucks were attempting to save people,
but they could not enter the devastated areas. Realizing that these rescue operations
would be a long-term mission, I decided to set up an online fundraising site and seek
donations, mainly from overseas.
Considering the scale of this disaster, I was sure businesses and other organizations
in Japan would move to provide major support. I felt it was my duty to call for support
from my friends overseas because I wanted to help provide the funds necessary for
saving people right now, and most of all, the heartfelt message that so many people
overseas are on Japan’s side right now.
Right now, as emergency rescue operations are being carried out, films aren’t much
use.  Even so, film industry people and film lovers- who have watched more films
than anyone else and have found inspiration in them many times over – possess
vast reserves of imagination. These are people who are able to envisage how
victims of the disaster must feel and what life must be like for them, thanks to
the countless films they have seen.
I wanted to gather the goodwill of these people and their empathy for the victims
and their devastated regions on one website, so I’m providing updates on the
situation on my company’s homepage.
So, why did I choose JustGiving as a fundraising site?
As I see it, we need to consider two kinds of aid when massive disasters occur.
The first task at hand is the short-term challenge of providing support for relief
efforts. Next comes the long-term task of providing support for reconstruction efforts.
Only three days ago, there was a news report about the Self-Defense Forces rescuing
28 people who were stranded on a quay. Only yesterday, there was a report that
hundreds of people were isolated at a hospital in the middle of a town flooded with
water, and were in danger of starving to death because rescuers had been unable
to reach them.
This terrible situation is far from over, and it could get even worse.
We have to begin thinking about rebuilding the affected areas, but for now,
rescue is still very much the order of the day.
The reason I selected JustGiving was because I believe it can help support both
rescue and rebuilding efforts.
When the disaster first occurred, Civic Force was among the first to act.
They have mainly been flying helicopters to Kessennuma, one of the hardest-hit areas,
to deliver aid supplies such as fuel, food, mattresses, and mobile phones.
They are regularly posting reports and photos of their activities on their website,
so everyone would be able to see how their donations are being used. As things stand,
I don’t think the urgency of this situation is getting across 100%, especially overseas,
so it’s very important that Civic Force is giving us a chance to see what is really
going on.
Civic Force is a non-profit organization that provides disaster relief and trains for
such situations all year round. It was involved in relief activities in Haiti after the
earthquake there, so I chose them for their expertise as professionals in providing aid
to disaster-hit areas.
Most importantly with JustGiving, it’s possible to pay by credit card, and what’s more,
the credit card transaction fee and the system usage fee, which is usually 10% of
every donation, is being waived by JustGiving as a “supplemental donation,”
so 100% of the money you donate will go directly to Civic Force,
making it a fair and transparent system.
Donations made by international bank transfer would incur a high handling fee,
but that’s not the case with JustGiving. I chose them because I think it’s important
that every single yen is used to help the victims of the disaster.
However, the money that you donate now on my JustGiving page will not actually
be received by Civic Force for another three months. 
“Huh? Then that’s not emergency aid at all, is it?”
Actually, that’s not the case.
I’ve learned that Civic Force are also able to receive donations directly by bank
transfer, and that they’ve already received a considerable amount of money,
so much so that they already have enough funds to provide the necessary
emergency aid.
The money that you kindly donate now will be used by Civic Force after a certain
period when the time comes to rebuild. However, your donations are displayed one
after another on the JustGiving site, and if a significant amount is raised for r
econstruction support, it will be easier for Civic Force to decide to use the money
that they already have for their emergency aid efforts.
“Huh? If they have more than enough money, they don’t need any more.”
That’s not the case.
Japan is a nation of earthquakes. Nobody knows when another large tremor will
occur. Civic Force will no doubt purchase supplies in preparation for such an event.
Next time it could be you; a disaster could occur somewhere overseas.
Those supplies could also be useful then. (Of course, considering the scale of
the damage that this disaster has wrought, I doubt that there will be an
excess of supplies.)
For those of us who are far away and powerless to act, the first thing we can send
is an expression of support (which can be tangibly expressed through a donation,
and the message you send together with it).
After a while, when it comes time to rebuild, your money will be sent.
Currently, the funds raised for disaster relief on the JustGiving site come to a total of
over 310 million yen (as of March 21st ).
When the survivors of the disaster are able to access the internet again,
and see all the messages and donations received through my Justgiving site from
people overseas who have expressed their support, won’t it make them very happy,
and maybe even give them a slightly more hopeful outlook?
Incidentally, I set a target amount for my appeal of 500,000 yen, but if we accomplish
that, I won’t just say “Finished, done, over and out.”
In fact, on the JustGiving page set up by entrepreneur Takafumi Horie (popularly
known as Horiemon), a total of 52 million yen has been raised (as of March 16th),
which represents a 522% achievement rate toward his target amount of 10 million yen.
The reason I joined Team Takapon (made up of supporters of Horiemon’s appeal)
wasn’t because I’m a fan of his. He has 600,000 followers on Twitter, and the
momentum of his fundraising efforts has been amazing right from the start.
He also has the ability to disseminate information instantly to a huge audience.
By participating in his team, I believe that if the small amount that I’ve raised is
combined with the money from the other members of Horiemon’s large team and
delivered to Civic Force in one lump sum, it will make a lot of things simpler, which is
important amid all the confusion surrounding us.
First, the overall sum that has been raised is a large one, so it should provide
encouragement to Civic Force. Also, in tangible terms, there’s no need for them to
handle smaller amounts, so organizationally speaking, their accounting work
will be made easier.
By simplifying the source of the funding as much as possible,
I hoped that they would be able to direct all of their energies toward emergency
disaster relief (the destination of the funding), so I chose the most simplified,
maximized option.
Right now, it’s important to know your role, and stick to it.

As no-one could have foreseen this disaster, let’s leave it to the professionals who
are well trained to deal with such an event.
So let’s provide these professionals with back-up.
It could be money, or even your prayers and wishes; they’ll all get through,
Let’s believe in them and let them do their jobs.
I’ve heard that the Self Defense Forces are doing superb work in the affected areas.
“These amazing Self Defense Force members don’t do things by halves.
I saw one tough guy carrying four elderly people -two on his back and one in each
arm – through mountains of debris, and then they just sprint like it’s nothing…”
…So said one tweet I saw.
“Give me a break!”, you’re probably thinking to yourself, but I have a friend in
the Self Defense Forces, and when I think of the way he’s built,
a feat like that wouldn’t be altogether impossible.
Let’s leave the physically arduous rescue operations up to the professionals,
the Self Defense Forces and/or operation TOMODACHI by US forces.
Let’s leave the medical challenges up to the professionals,
the Japanese Red Cross Society’s disaster response teams.

I saw the following advice on a blog by a survivor of the Great Hanshin Earthquake.
If you’re not called upon, stay away from the disaster sites.
If you’re not asked to, don’t send anything.
Under no circumstances should you make enquiries about the safety of people
you know.

Right now, all you can do is respond to calls for assistance. And donate money.
To read the full article, click here (in Japanese only): 
In fact, I understand that the Japanese Red Cross Society is currently saying no to
individuals who want to volunteer. What’s more, even Civic Force has had difficulty
securing transport for its supplies, so it is only accepting donations of relief supplies
from companies. In short, small-scale support from individuals can prove to be a
hindrance to professionals working in the field.
Leave it to trained pros. Gather together as many small donations as possible.
Know your role, and stick to it.
I’ve rambled on quite a bit here, but to sum up:
First, aid.

Heavy duty muscle is being provided by the Self Defense Forces and
the U.S. Forces Japan with their Operation Tomodachi. Most of all, they have tanks,
helicopters, and lots of other equipment! Having 6,500 trained Self Defense Force
reserve members on site would be far more useful than 10,000 civilian volunteers.
About Self Defense Force reserves (in Japanese only):
Medical aid is being provided by the Japanese Red Cross Society, which has
dispatched its largest possible contingent of medical staff to the disaster zones.
They are carrying out a wide range of medical aid activities, such as compensating
for vaccine and medical supply shortages, treating injuries, and caring for the elderly.
Japanese Red Cross Society emergency relief news
In terms of independent aid organizations, Civic Force is comparatively quick to
respond.Straws and spoons for children, phone calls between family members,
mattresses for sleeping… they provide a wide variety of support. For now, their
activities are focused mainly on the Kessenuma region. 
Civic Force’s website
Of course, there are also many other capable aid organizations.
Next, recovery.

As for my ideas about how films can contribute to disaster recovery, I’d like to wait
a little while before voicing them. Right now we can’t do anything,
but soon there will definitely be a chance for film fans who are itching to
help to say “OK! Now’s the time for film!”
In times of crisis, relief efforts should be left to the experts!
Instead of thinking “I have to do something!”, it’s important to consider:
“What would the disaster victims want me to do?”

So, if you want to donate money, I think the most effective way to do it is by directly
supporting medical aid organizations such as the Japanese Red Cross Society,
or private aid organizations such as Civic Force.
When large corporations donate money to organizations such as the Japanese
Red Cross Society, they qualify as tax deductible, which makes it easier to gather
large donations. Uniqlo president Tadashi Yanai has donated 1 billion yen,
Sony has given 300 million yen, and many other offerings of support have been
announced. (I’m not sure whether these donations were made to the
Japanese Red Cross Society.)
Large corporate donations are easier to obtain, and accumulations of small
individual donations are effective. These points influence decisions regarding
which organizations to support.   As for myself, I’ve given to both the Japanese
Red Cross Society and Civic Force.
A donation would be great, or you could even just pass this information on to
friends and acquaintances who’d like to donate money but aren’t sure what
organization to support. Even if you’re only able to send your positive energy
and goodwill, just a message saying something like “Let’s all work through this
together,” it’ll definitely be heard!
Of course, it’s important for everyone to make their own decisions
about which organization to support, so if you know of other worthy groups,
please send me information about them
so I can share it here.
By the way, Softbank has created a mobile phone application that makes
donating money easy.  Funds will be donated to international emergency
humanitarian aid organization Japan Platform.
Softbank’s “Kantan Bokin” application (in Japanese): 
Japan Platform
It is my sincere wish that those affected by this disaster are able to return to
a safe, comforting environment as soon as possible.
If you agree with my way of thinking, by all means, please support my appeal
at the JustGiving website.
pictures dep company’s website.: 
Yuko Shiomaki’s JustGiving challenge page
* Apparently there are donation-seeking emails going around that falsely claim
to be from the Japanese Red Cross Society, so when you choose an
organization to support, by all means use your better judgment, and be careful.
Japanese Red Cross Society warning regarding fraudulent emails (in Japanese only):
Live first. Survive first.
Then we will work together to regenerate Japan.
Sion Sono (filmmaker)
right now, they need a helping hand….we’ll make a better day, just you and me.
click read more… watch prayforjapan on youtube.