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Tuesday, March 29, 2011

LIFELINES

Hosting, contacting survivors


Reader DB says: "I've created a Facebook group to provide Japanese victims with accommodation. Right now there are about 20 offers from different countries around the world. We need help contacting Japanese locals and/or organizations so people can actually get help."

I briefly covered this in last week's column, but I'll go into a bit more depth here.

First of all, The Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare told us that individual prefectures should be contacted for specific information. At this point in time, each prefectural office is generally responsible for relocating evacuees. Miyagi Prefecture (one of the worst-affected areas) said they are currently trying to move evacuees in groups to places within Japan (many, if not all, prefectures are offering free municipal housing for evacuees). They also said it would likely be a couple months before they are able to consider individual requests, due to the logistics required. Right now they have no system in place to handle individual offers of accommodation.

Shizuoka Prefecture (largely unaffected by the disasters and able to receive evacuees) said that if they had accommodation offers from folks overseas, they might present that as an option to the evacuees they handle, but they also asked if travel and accommodation expenses would be paid for in full. So, keep in mind that some people may not have the means to pay for an overseas plane ticket, or may need to use that money for other purposes.

Also, please realize that many Japanese people may not want to leave Japan — their home — to live with strangers in a foreign country, where they may have little ability to communicate (not that they wouldn't appreciate the kind offers). It may sound like a great opportunity under normal circumstances, but those in disaster areas may find that kind of experience causes them even more stress. This could be true of anyone from any country under similar circumstances (though it depends on the individual), so offering housing from within Japan is a favorable option.

So, if you live outside of Japan, one of the best ways you can help right now is to give monetarily — though you may want to contact prefectures individually (maybe in a few weeks) to explain what your group is about and offer it as an option. I might also suggest connecting with groups such as Couchsurfing, Sparkrelief and Accommodate Japan (though be aware that more requests may be made of those currently living in Japan versus those abroad).

If you're still trying to locate someone in Japan, try Google Person Finder, Facebook or Red Cross Family Links . If you know their cell phone number, you can try checking the cell phone carrier's disaster message boards: Softbank, Docomo and AU/KDDI. If you don't know the carrier, the boards should still recognize the number belonging to another carrier and take you to the correct page to search from.

Finally, everyone who has written in with condolences and offers of support and assistance deserves a very heartfelt "thank you." No doubt everyone in Japan, especially those directly impacted by the terrible events since March 11, appreciates the great generosity shown by our friends from around the world.

Ashley Thompson writes survival tips and unique how-to's about living in Japan at www.survivingnjapan.com. Send all your questions to lifelines@japantimes.co.jp


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