where to donate

updated october 2013. this information was written during the short term relief phases, but i believe it is still relevant. the organizations listed here are still active, and still involved in the disaster area.

another way to support this region is to buy products that are made by local people, such as those listed in the ‘selling’ section at the top of the links and resources page.

the tohoku region was famous before the tsunami as a scenic vacation destination, and visiting, staying in a local hotel, enjoying local food is also an important way to support the region’s recovery.

please please consider donating to other organizations instead of the red cross.

when you donate to a smaller grassroots organization, or one working at the grassroots level directly, your money goes to support the people who need it. smaller non-profit organizations can respond much quicker, they can use your money to buy things that disaster victims need right now, and provide these items directly. grassroots organizations have stronger connections to the communities they work in, they can be involved from the beginning emergency phase through recovery, and by knowing the folks who live there, they are more responsive to their needs.

the red cross is a huge international organization, with accordingly huge administrative budgets, and a lumbering bureaucracy. i believe that they intend to do good, and probably they do.  but i don’t believe that they are the ones who need your money the most. every time there is a terrible disaster anywhere in the world, there are many appeals to donate to the red cross–through t.v. stations, websites, texts, etc. and the red cross receives more donations (many many times over) that all other organizations combined. this is unfortunate, but understandable. people want to make sure that they are giving to a well-known organization, and everyone knows the red cross. but after all this money is collected, it takes a long long time for it to be dispersed where it is needed, and often much of it never reaches people that individual donors wanted to help with their donations. it might be used for administrative costs, executive salaries, or just sent to the red cross bank account.

i want to note that the japan red cross is a little different than the u.s. red cross, and at least they keep the donations for victims separate from the donations for administrative costs.  if you give to the japan red cross, it’s more likely that your money will eventually make it’s way to a disaster victim.

3 weeks after the tsunami, the japan red cross has collected more than $1 billion dollars. $1,000,000,000.  if you don’t give them your $10, or your $100, it doesn’t make much of a difference. they already have $1 billion. your $10 is relatively unimportant. but there are lots of other organizations who could really use your $10, right now.

but it’s easy, so people give their $10 to the red cross, and feel good about it. which would be fine, except that it means that the smaller organizations, the ones you maybe haven’t heard of, the ones that are quietly, quickly, loading up a truck with food and blankets and driving it to where people are cold and hungry RIGHT NOW, they don’t get your $10. but if they did, they could stretch it further, use it help disaster victims directly, quickly, and take less out for overhead and operating costs.

there is a related issue: restricting funds for a particular disaster. from the standpoint of a non-profit organization, it is most useful for them if you donate unrestricted funds (which means that organization can choose how to spend the money).  so what i would suggest is that you find an organization whose work you admire, that you believe in, and you support them.  the ones listed below are all working directly with the people who were affected by the earthquake and tsunami. please help. if you’ve already given money to the red cross, consider donating again–but this time to a smaller, grassroots or japanese/local organization.

here are a few suggestions.

it’s not just mudhttp://itsnotjustmud.com/

INJM is working directly on the ground, in ishinomaki.

oga for aid: http://www.ogaforaid.org/en/

another grassroots group, supporting minami sanriku.

peace boat:

Peace Boat is a Japan-based international non-governmental and non-profit organization that works to promote peace, human rights, equal and sustainable development and respect for the environment.


peace boat is doing direct assistance in the disaster area.  they accept both japanese-speaking and non-japanese-speaking volunteers, currently for 1 week volunteer trips, after a training in tokyo. they are providing food and other necessary items to the disaster victims, one of the fastest organizations on the ground.


peace boat is also posting updates from the disaster area, and on facebook.

peace winds

Peace Winds Japan (PWJ) is an NGO (Non-Governmental Organization), dedicated to the support of people in distress, threatened by conflict, poverty, or other turmoil. With its headquarters in Japan, PWJ has been active in various parts of the world. usually focusing on developing countries, peace winds is now also working directly in the disaster area in japan. they are also partnering with mercy corps, the u.s. nonprofit group.



JEN is a tokyo-based non-profit organization that usually supports the victims of disasters in other countries. from their mission statement:

“We put our utmost efforts into restoring a self-supporting livelihood both economically and mentally to those people who have been stricken with hardship due to conflicts and disasters.”

JEN is running soup kitchens and helping with mud removal from people’s homes. they are also accepting volunteers.


second harvest

second harvest, a tokyo based food bank may be one of the best; now providing food directly to disaster victims.

Second Harvest Japan (2HJ) collects food that would otherwise go to waste from food manufacturers, farmers, and individuals, and distributes them to people in need such as children in orphanages, battered women and their children in shelters, and the homeless in Japan.  2HJ is the nation’s first food bank.


doctors without borders/medicines sans frontiers (MSF):

docotors without borders are a established organizations that also has deployed rapidly to the disaster area and is doing important work providing health care care.


global giving:

global giving seems like a good place to donate; the money that they raise internationally is redirected to a number of organizations working locally:

architecture for humanity:

for the focus of long term recovery, architecture for humanity will continue to be involved in rebuilding efforts for years to come, even after the news cameras are no longer watching. right now, humanitarian needs are important, but long term recovery also needs our support!

and with architecture for humanity, there was an excellent  partner project run by students rebuild, which is now complete.  all you have to do is fold origami paper cranes, and send them to seattle, and the bezos foundation will make a donation that supports architecture for humanity. this is a wonderful project for kids, school groups, or any other group, really! they’ve already reached their target and maximum donation amount, which is great!

here’s the information about the paper crane project:

the blog japan volunteers, also has excellent information about donating in japan and from outside japan, as well as volunteering.


2 thoughts on “where to donate

  1. Good blog. Loads of useful info.
    Last year I printed some shirts for my family in the US to collect donations. This year, I want to buy wooden toys from the Tohoku area. Specifically, KOKESHI dolls . Do you happen to have any contacts that can help me purchase about 30 dolls?

    Posted by Frank | February 1, 2012, 6:19 pm
    • hi frank, thanks for your comment.
      i’m sorry, and i’ve asked around, but i don’t know of any sources for kokeishi dolls that support recovery. they are famous in yamagata prefecture, which is not where most of the relief efforts are focused. sorry i can’t find more information for you.

      Posted by liz | February 4, 2012, 11:13 pm

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


on twitter

%d bloggers like this: