It has been 18 months since the tsunami in Japan, 3 years since the quake in Haiti, 7 years since Katrina and 8 years since the Indian Ocean tsunami and yet there are still people in each of these places whose lives are far from normal. The world quickly moves on to the next tragedy or news story while people continue to grieve, recover and rebuild what is left of their communities.
In the first few days after the tsunami hit Japan, the organization which I founded CRASH Japan (Christian Relief, Assistance, Support and Hope) which is the parent organization of OperationSAFE, responded immediately with relief supplies, volunteers and the establishment of a command center and forward bases to mobilize help throughout the entire disaster area. It was a massive task and help poured in from everywhere, whether expertise from partner organizations, funds and volunteers from 83 different nations or messages of encouragement and prayers for Japan. As televisions around the displayed the shocking pictures of the tsunami washing away much of the northern coastline of the nation, the world galvanized behind Japan. But keeping the attention and support of the world has been a much more difficult endeavor.
Since the disaster CRASH staff and volunteers have logged 40,000 work days, keeping a continuous presence in dozens of communities along the tsunami coast and inland in Fukushima working with evacuees and those who are trying to rebuild their neighborhoods. We have worked with everyone from the elderly to children and done everything from scooping tsunami muck out of homes to trauma care camps and seminars. But the reality is that we are running out of funds to keep the work going. We knew this day was coming and have taken some steps to prepare for it. What have we done?
1. Local Partnerships – We have worked with local partners in each community who are now taking over the work that CRASH began. Over thirty of these partners in dozens of communities are leading initiatives serving disaster survivors. Even without funding or volunteers from us, these local partners are raising up local volunteers and funding of their own.
2. Sustainable Work – The key is that each of these local partnerships are doing the work that they can continue to do long-term. CRASH continually brought in fresh volunteer teams and was able to visit temporary housing shelters daily. Local partners won’t be able to visit as many shelters or as often but will continue to be there for the survivors.
3. Strategic Exit – In disaster relief work one of the most difficult things is to avoid creating dependencies. CRASH is following a two-year plan whereby we continually get smaller and the local partners increase. This helps the partners to be ready when relief efforts close in the near future to be able to continue the work.
4. Thinking Ahead – CRASH is preparing for the next disaster today. According to the UN every dollar spent on disaster risk reduction before a disaster is worth seven dollars in relief afterwards. We are training, making local networks and working together with partners to make plans to respond to future disasters.
5. Million Cranes for Japan Campaign - A simple way to help support Japan and raise awareness of ongoing needs.