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Employee Volunteer Activities in Disaster -Affected Areas

Employee Volunteer Activities in Disaster -Affected Areas

Rakuten’s support for volunteer activities is one part of its Tohoku reconstruction aid initiative, “Unwavering Support for Tohoku.”
Rakuten is supporting employee volunteer activities in Tohoku for two reasons. The first is so employees can view the effects of the disaster with their own eyes, understand the urgency of the situation, and help pass on information. The second is so employees can use their experience volunteering to discover new ways for the Rakuten Group to contribute to society through its main businesses.

The volunteer network is expanding as members from different departments share and discuss their activities with each other. The scope of activities is also expanding as participating members take the lead, carrying out autonomous initiatives with local branch employees.

Past activities

Record of initiatives
Date Location No.of participants Cooperating group Activity summary
December 3-4, 2011 Minamisanriku-cho, Motoyoshi-gun and Tome City, Miyagi Prefecture 8 Revive Japan with IT! Clean-up of housing sites after removal of rubble, special EC seminars
February 25-26, 2012 Togura District, Minamisanriku-cho, Motoyoshi-gun, Miyagi Pref. 10 Revive Japan with IT!, Togura Rebuilding Support Group Assembly of drawers for garage storage of goods, coverage of major stalls and visitors at the Fukkoichi market event, Minamisanriku-cho
May 18-20, 2012 Ishinomaki City, Miyagi Pref. 13 Association Team Ohkan Labor to aid home-based evacuees, moving assistance, mental health support

Current activity report : Visiting the disaster site myself opened my eyes to the reality of the situation(Vol. 3, Ishinomaki City, in May, 2012)

For our third volunteer activity, we took part in a project with Team Ohkan Association, providing support for home-based evacuees.
Home-based evacuees are disaster victims who continue to live in their own homes, many of them damaged, rather than living in temporary housing or other accommodation. Though their homes survived being swept away by the tsunami, their communities have been devastated.
In Ishinomaki City home-based evacuees account for some 12,000 households – around 40,000 people – compared to the 7,500 households living in temporary housing. Compared to those living in temporary housing, home-based evacuees have less access to government services, medical care, and private-sector relief efforts.

Volunteers participated in more than 12 different kinds of activities, from individual interviews with home-based evacuees to livelihood support, managing aid for reconstruction, mental health care, community support, and management of aid organizations.
Participants were enthusiastic about working together with local people. We enjoyed sharing with them in lively discussions while sorting and packing wakame seaweed, and constructed a filter for water from a spring that had dried up due to the earthquakes and typhoons.

Additionally, we were pleased to hear a talk by Mr. Kimura, manager of Aijo Tarako no Minato, a store on Rakuten Ichiba. Mr. Kimura spoke of his own experiences coping with the disaster and its aftermath, as well as the importance of disaster preparedness His comment, “Earthquakes are natural disasters, but damage from a tsunami is manmade. Such damage can be prevented with adequate preparation,” left a strong impression on all of us. We felt keenly, almost painfully, how quick thinking during an earthquake and adequate emergency preparation can mean the difference between life and death. After hearing from Mr. Kimura, all the volunteers discussed about what we could do to prevent such destruction from ever happening again.
Volunteer comments:
“Listening to the harrowing stories of the survivors whom I got to know, and visiting the disaster site myself really opened my eyes to the reality of the situation. This disaster is not someone else’s problem, it concerns all of us.
“My recognition and attitude toward the disaster have been renewed by this experience. I have made up my mind to recruit friends and acquaintances who have not had the opportunity to volunteer.”
“After this activity is over I want to continue supporting Tohoku.”
“I feel that a lot more could be done to help if we collected data about those we are helping, set priorities, and worked more efficiently”
“I was impressed by the passion and physical strength of Team Ohkan Association's members continuing their aid activities in the local community. I feel that they need more operational and organizational support if they are to sustain their actions into the future.”
◆Related links
*Revive Japan with IT!
A private organization consisting of members from IT companies all over Japan and local companies within the Sendai area. They provide timely support to the disaster areas by conducting continuing research activities and responding to the needs of people living disaster areas. They also take part in creating opportunities for local governments to meet directly with disaster victims. Focusing on problems with temporary housing in Miyagi prefecture, local government buildings, and providing internet access support, they aim to support the revival of Tohoku through accurate research and internet-based solutions.
*Team Ohkan Association
Team Ohkan began its activities organizing soup-runs in the southern part of Sendai city in the aftermath of the Great East Japan Earthquake. They are now focusing their activities on providing aid to home-based evacuees in Ishinomaki city. They conduct research through one-on-one interviews with victims and provide immediate support (such as delivering goods, making repairs, and providing transportation) and continuing support (such as health maintenance, mental health care and child-support).

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