Friday, March 18, 2011

Unless you've been living under the rock that itself is living under a larger rock on the moon, chances are you've probably heard about the earthquake and nuclear crisis in Japan. Reading the news for the last few days has been heart rending. Never have I felt more strongly about helping out or more helpless to actually doing so. 

I doubt that many people still come here, but for those who do, and who wish to help, here's how you can (as taken from another website):

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Mercy Relief: The organisation is accepting donations to procure relief supplies. It has deployed a two-man preliminary disaster response team to Japan to ascertain ground needs and procure relief supplies.

The MR team will help distribute supplies with UN agencies. It will also collaborate with local non-governmental organisations to support their relief efforts. With an initial tranche of USD $20,000 provided by SAP Asia Pacific Japan, the team will help address the pressing needs for food, water and quilts.

For cheque donations, please make the cheque payable to Mercy Relief Limited and send it to the Mercy Relief office at Blk 160 Lorong 1 Toa Payoh #01-1568 Singapore 310160. On the back of the cheque, indicate ‘Japan Quake and Tsunami Relief’’.

Cash donations can also be made at the Mercy Relief office. Office hours are Monday-Friday, 9am - 7pm.

For ATM transfers/internet banking, Mercy Relief’s DBS Current Account is 054-900493-6

Credit card donations can be made via eNets at www.mercyrelief.org

Singapore Red Cross: The organisation has started a hotline (6334-9152 / 6334-9153 / 6334-9154) to help those in Singapore get in touch with relatives in Japan. The SRC will take down details of the missing person and forward the information on to its sister national society, the Japanese Red Cross Society and the International Committee of Red Cross. It is also working with the Japanese Association to raise funds.

For cheque donations, please make the cheque payable to Singapore Red Cross and mail to the SRC office at Red Cross House, 15 Penang Lane Singapore 238486. On the back of the cheque, indicate ‘Japan disaster 2011′.
Cash donations can also be made at the SRC office during office hours.

The public can also SMS “Red Cross” to 75772. Each message will cost $50. The SRC is also working with banks like DBS, OCBC and UOB, to allow donations through ATMs and the Internet.

World Vision Singapore: A World Vision assessment team has arrived in the quake zone to assess the needs of the survivors and prepare supplies and programmes for the homeless. The team brought baby supplies, warm clothing, food and daily necessities for distribution.

World Vision also plans to establish child-friendly spaces so children affected by the disasters can resume normal childhood activities and experience structure and security.

For cheque donations, please make the cheque payable to World Vision International and mail to the World Vision office at 750B Chai Chee Road, #03-02, Technopark @ Chai Chee, Singapore 469002. On the back of the cheque, indicate ‘Japan disaster’.

Cash donations can also be made at the World Vision office. Office hours are Monday-Friday, 9am – 5pm. You can donate online at http://www.worldvision.org.sg/japandisaster/

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If you don't have a credit card or know that you probably won't have time to do any of the above but want to donate nevertheless, just pass me the cash if or when you see me and I'll help you. Don't worry, I pinky promise not to use it to buy a gold plated toilet bowl. 

(Update: My laodi just told me he intends to donate the edusave and good improvement award money he earned last year. A grand total of 400 dollars. Here I am making CENSORED-BY-TLL dollars a month and the amount I intended to donate came nowhere close to that. Kudos to you Laodi, you put me to shame. Proud of you.)

Here's hoping then that those suffering from this calamity still find happiness and goodness and joy, no matter what form they might take or how small they might be.

Also, as an after note, I saw a note on facebook by someone named Jun Shiomitsu. He translated some of the posts about the disaster. Some of them were quite moving so I'm sharing them here:

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Japan Quake as Seen from Twitter (Translated by me so quality questionable)
by Jun Shiomitsu on Sunday, March 13, 2011 at 8:13am

At Tokyo Disneyland:
Tokyo Disneyland was handing out its shops’ food and drinks for free to the stranded people nearby. I saw a bunch of snobby looking highschool girls walking away with large portions of it and initially though “What the …” But I later I found out they were taking them to the families with little children at emergency evacuation areas. Very perceptive of them, and a very kind thing to do indeed.

At a congested downtown intersection
Cars were moving at the rate of maybe one every green light, but everyone was letting each other go first with a warm look and a smile. At a complicated intersection, the traffic was at a complete standstill for 5 minutes, but I listened for 10 minutes and didn’t hear a single beep or honk except for an occasional one thanking someone for giving way. It was a terrifying day, but scenes like this warmed me and made me love my country even more.

During the earthquake

We’ve all been trained to immediately open the doors and establish an escape route when there is an earthquake. In the middle of the quake while the building was shaking crazily and things falling everywhere, a man made his way to the entrance and held it open. Honestly, the chandelier could have crashed down any minute … that was a brave man!

Reminded of the goodness of the Japanese people
This earthquake has reminded me of that Japanese goodness that had recently become harder and harder to see. Today I see no crime or looting: I am reminded once again of the good Japanese spirit of helping one another, of propriety, and of gentleness. I had recently begun to regard my modern countrymen as cold people … but this earthquake has revived and given back to all of us the spirit of “kizuna” (bond, trust, sharing, the human connection). I am very touched. I am brought to tears.

Card board boxes, Thank you!
It was cold and I was getting very weary waiting forever for the train to come. Some homeless people saw me, gave me some of their own cardboard boxes and saying “you’ll be warmer if you sit on these!” I have always walked by homeless people pretending I didn’t see them, and yet here they were offering me warmth. Such warm people.

What foreigners are saying about Japanese people
At a supermarket where everything was scattered everywhere over the floors, shoppers were helping pick them up and putting them back neatly on the shelves before quietly moving into line to wait to pay for them. On the totally jam-packed first train after the quake, an elderly man gave up his seat for a pregnant woman. Foreigners have told me they are amazed witnessing sights like these. I do believe they actually saw what they said they saw. Japan is truly amazing.

Touch of art
I saw artists and painters trying to keep things upbeat by painting or drawing beautiful or encouraging drawings for the evacuees around them. I was touched at how everyone was doing their very best to help.

The bakery lady

There was a small bread shop on the street I take to go to school. It has long been out of business. But last night, I saw the old lady of the shop giving people her handmade bread for free. It was a heart-warming sight. She, like everyone else, was doing what she could to help people in a time of need. Tokyo isn’t that bad afterall!

Japan is a wonderful nation!
Both the government and the people, everyone is helping one another today. There are truck drivers helping evacuees move. I even heard that the “yakuza” (gangsters, organized crime groups) are helping to direct traffic in the Tohoku region! There have been many recent developments that have made me lose my sense of pride in my country, but not anymore. Japan is an amazing place! I’m just simply touched. Go Japan!

At the supermarket
I just came back safely from the supermarket! Man, I was so touched at how everyone there was mindful of others, buying only as much as they needed and leaving the rest for the people behind them.

“All of us”
I spoke with an old taxi driver and some elderly staff at the train stations. All of them had been working non-stop and had not been able to go home for a long time. They were visibly very tired, but never once did they show any sign of impatience; they were gentle and very caring. They told me “… because all of us are in this together.” I was touched at what the notion of “all of us” meant to these elderly people. It is a value I will treasure and carry on to my generation.

A strong voice

Yesterday, I was impressed and touched by the actions of my neighbor’s 13-year-old-boy. He was home alone when the earthquake hit. But instead of hiding, as soon as the earthquake quieted down, he jumped on his bicycle and road around the block repeatedly shouting at the top of his voice, “Is everyone alright? Is everyone okay?” At the time, there were only women and children and the elderly in the homes. I cannot describe how comforting it was just to hear a strong voice asking if I was okay. Thank you!

The beauty of helping one another
I went out last night to help some friends who were volunteering as security personnel between Machida City and Sagami Ohno City. I saw total strangers, both young and old, helping each other along everywhere I turned and was heartened with an overwhelming feeling of encouragement. I was so touched I hid behind the toilets and cried.

I just have a bike
I’m so touched! My colleague at my part time job, wanting to help even just one extra person, wrote a sign saying “I just have a bike, but if you don’t mind hop on!”, rode out on his motorbike, picked up a stranded construction worker and took him all the way to Tokorozawa! Respect! I have never felt so strongly that I want to do something helpful for others.

Rest here!

Last night, I decided, rather than stay at the office, I should try walking home. So I slowly made my way west on Koshu freeway on foot. It was around 9PM when I saw an office building that had a sign that said “Please use our office’s bathrooms! Please rest here!” The employees of the office were loudly shouting out the same to all the people trying to walk home. I was so touch I felt like crying. Well, I guess I was too tense yesterday to cry, but now the tension is wearing off and am very much in tears.

On the way to the emergency evacuation area
My oldest daughter was making her way to Yokohama’s emergency evacuation area. Total strangers were helping each other out and showing each other the way to the emergency evacuation area. She told me she was moved at how strangers, who can seem so cold at times, showed her kindness and care. I was reminded at the Japanese peoples’ inherent ability to immediately unite in the face of adversity. Today, I have discovered a newfound faith in my nation and my people.

A big, kind voice
I’ve been walking for many hours now. I’m touched at how everywhere I turn, there are shops open with people shouting “Please use our bathroom!” or “Please rest here!” There were also office buildings where people with access to information were voluntarily shouting out helpful tips, like “**** line is now operational!” Seeing things like this after walking for hours and hours made me feel like weeping with gratitude. Seriously, there is still hope for this country!

On the platform

The Oedo Subway Line for Hikarigaoka is very congested. On the platform and at the gate there are just crowds and crowds of people waiting for the train. But in all the confusion, every last person is neatly lined up waiting his or her turn while managing to keep a passage of space open for staff and people going the other way. Everyone is listening to the instructions from the staff and everyone acts accordingly. And amazingly … there isn’t even a rope or anything in sight to keep people in queue or open space for staff to pass, they just do! I am so impressed at this almost unnatural orderliness! I have nothing but praise for these people!

Station staff
I said to a Tokyometro station staff who was on all-night duty, “I’m sure it has been a tough night for you. Thank you.” He responded with a smile, “On a night like this, gladly!” I was touched.

Coffee
My husband finally got home very late last night after walking for 4 hours. He told me he felt like giving up at around Akabane, when an elderly man who was going around handing out free coffee saw him, gave him a steaming cup and said, “You must be tired and cold. Here, have some coffee!” My husband told me that it was because of this elderly man that he found the will and strength to continue walking. I’ve already heard this story from him five times tonight, so no doubt he was really, really touched! Thank you to my husband’s anonymous helper!

Not enough money!

At the store where I work, a huge group of young men suddenly came in to buy booze. One of them suddenly said, “Oops, I only have enough money to buy booze, I can’t donate! Forget the booze, maybe next time!” and instead put ALL his money into the disaster relief donation box. One by one, every single one of the army of youths threw all their money into the box after him. What a heart-warming sight that was!

Goth youth

A goth youth with white hair and body piercings walked into my store and shoved several hundred dollars (several tens of thousands of yen) into the disaster relief fund donation box. As he walked out, I and people around me heard him saying to his buddies, “I mean, we can buy those games anytime!” At that, we all opened our wallets and put our money into the donation box. Really, you cannot judge people by their appearances.

Same boat!

Last night, Aobadai station was jammed with stranded people unable to get home. But there were private cars with drivers shouting “If you’re going in the direction of ****, please hop on!” I was able to hitch a ride on one of them. When I thanked the driver, he replied “No worries! We’re all on the same boat. We have to stick together!”

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