Japan: One Year Later

Officers of The Salvation Army, Japan Territory gather together for opening ceremony at Minamisanriku's new shopping center.

The following was contributed by Jennifer Byrd, National Public Relations Director at The Salvation Army, National Headquarters.

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Through my experience with The Salvation Army, I’ve witnessed first-hand how much goes into emergency recovery responses, and that the response is not just contained to the first few days or weeks, or indeed, until the media moves onto another story.

Recovery efforts continue well into the weeks, months, and sometimes years ahead – until families are back on their feet, shops are reopened, school bells ring, or until a new normal is established. I understand the American people will want to know what is happening and how they can help those who are in need of a warm meal or shelter from the storms. The Salvation Army operates in more than 120 countries, and puts to great use the resources that are made available by generous donors.

When the Great East Japan Earthquake and resulting tsunami struck Japan one year ago, it gave me an opportunity to work with Salvation Army personnel overseas, and learn about the great work they do and experience their servant hearts. And they have been hard at work ever since March 11, 2011, when the Great East Japan Earthquake, with a magnitude 9.0, hit Japan.

The earthquake is the fifth strongest on record since 1900 and was followed ten minutes later by a powerful tsunami that caused widespread destruction and nearly 16,000 deaths. But that wave of devastation was soon followed by a wave of humanity through The Salvation Army.

Immediately following the tsunami, Salvation Army officers, staff and volunteers in Japan began to provide warm meals, hydration, shelter, household items and emotional and spiritual counsel to survivors. Because The Salvation Army has had a presence in Japan since 1895, the organization had a variety of resources to pull from to meet the immediate needs of survivors, which included 59 community centers, two hospitals and 20 social services institutions such as children’s homes, homes for the elderly and rehabilitation centers.

One year later, The Salvation Army continues to provide critical relief in Japan. To date, The Salvation Army has raised more than $9.6 million from U.S. donors. $4.7 million has been committed to recovery projects in fishing towns where infrastructures, local businesses, livelihoods and the economy were lost. The Salvation Army in Japan continues to provide services in coastal towns north of the earthquake that were hit hard by the resulting tsunami. Communities in which The Salvation Army provides services include Ofunato, Onagawa, Kesennuma and Minamisanriku.

Notably, during the past 12 months, The Salvation Army has provided specific services to the people of these communities. The Army addresses the needs so specifically, that among the items given to rebuild were 550 life vests, rubber gloves and boots for the fishermen – critical items for these fishing towns to become whole again.

Other items include:

· 13,000 Meals

· 29,000 Bottles of Water

· 3,250 First Aid Kits

· 5,000 Blankets

· 4,500 Bedding materials

· 11,350 Home Heaters

· 1,000 Flashlights

· 1,700 Fans

· 300 Bicycles

· 30 Fishing Boats

The Salvation Army asks for continued prayers for these communities as families and individuals rebuild their lives.

For more information on The Salvation Army’s work in Japan, click here.

Salvation Army officers of the Japan Territory gather for opening ceremony in Minamisanriku.

As one of many Salvation Army recovery projects, Ofunato's shopping center is a new hub of trade and commerce after the disaster wiped out this town's commercial district.

Newly constructed shops at the Minamisanriku Temporary Shopping Center. The next phase is completing the landscape and festival stage for visitors.

Located in Onagawa, the construction of the final shopping center will be completed by April.