Update on actions 2011.5.18

[“Tohoku disaster relief”]

Many thanks to everyone for donating and sorting supplies on May 7 & 9. That particular shipment of goods left on May 12 and reached Ishinomaki safely on May 13.

Many thanks also for the generous support of the Cash For Work program (CFW). Launched on April 11, CFW has been evolving steadily. The project started in Ishinomaki but has since been extended to include Kessennuma, both of which were devastated by the tsunami. Working with the Yamagata based NGO, IVY, Second Hand is funding the project in Ishinomaki. We donated a little over 2 million yen at the beginning of May. This is enough to employ 20 people for 1 month. Here’s a brief outline of the program content.

Before starting, workers are provided with work clothes, including protective gear, and professional instruction on safety and work content from a construction company.

Mukai Construction Company providing instruction

CFW employees work in teams of four to make houses habitable. First they remove the floorboards and shovel mud and debris out from beneath the house.

The ground under the floor is then washed and disinfected, the floorboards are replaced and the house cleaned. The teams in Ishinomaki finished about 20 houses in the first 2 weeks. At the beginning of May there were 11 Cash for Work staff in Ishinomaki and they were working on two houses at a time but if this is increased to 20 staff they can work on four houses at once.

It is grueling work but as one worker said, “I had grandparents, too, so I know the elderly can’t possibly do this on their own. The people at every house we clean are always so grateful. I feel we are doing something very worthwhile.”

The CFW project has also hired 6 local people as coordinators, 3 in each town. They interview prospective workers, procure work tools and equipment, find clients and match them with teams of workers. They are able to communicate very well with the clients and the workers and find the work very rewarding because they, too, have experienced this disaster.

Workers are paid in cash at the end of each day. Initially, they received 3,000 yen per day for 4 hours of work (750 yen/hour) but the workday was extended to 5 hours and the hourly wage raised to 800 yen to better meet their needs. Due to potentially toxic substances in the debris, the number of hours in Ishinomaki is currently limited to protect the workers’ health. There has been a very positive response to this program and it is clear that local people desparately need temporary work for cash income. So please keep the support coming while the need lasts . Thank you!!

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Collecting Supplies May 7 & 9

We will be collecting the following supplies from May 7 (Sat.) in Marugame and May 9 (Mon.) in Takamatsu. Volunteers are very much needed to help sort and pack the goods on those days! Please contact the Second Hand Office for details (087-861-9928).

List of Supplies:
Futon (only new)
Pillows (only new)
Kitchen goods (pots, pans, etc. Only new.)
Plastic storage drawers
Carptenters’ tools

Place: 2F of Marugame Marunaka Power City (on Hamakaido)
Date and Times: Between 10:00 and 19:00 May 7 (Sat.)
Place: Second Hand Takamatsu Store, 1-1-18 Kanko-dori. (It’s a few buildings to the east of the Tamachi arcade on Kanko-dori.)
Date and Times: 10:00-15:00 on May 9 (Mon.)
Contact: 087-861-9928

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Update on Actions 2011.4.24

Supplies for the 9th shipment of goods were safely delivered to Ishinomaki residents living in shelters and at home. The shelter coordinators contacted us and specifically requested that we convey the residents’ gratitude and ask for continued support. So, many thanks to all of you for your help! Recovery will be a long-term process and we welcome any further assistance you are able to offer. (Also many thanks to those of you who came and stuffed envelops with our newsletter featuring a report on the disaster!)

The Cash For Work Project* is off to a good start. The project provides jobs to local disaster victims, helping them to stay and rebuild their communities and supporting a smoother economic recovery. Twelve people have already been hired in the initial phase. They are being paid 3,000 yen/day (750 yen/hour) to make homes inundated with dirt and debris livable again. Teams of workers are matched with local residents who are unable to clean their homes on their own. The project is being advertised through Hello Work and through the shelters. The response has been positive and the lessons learned will be applied as the project is expanded to hire more people and gradually extended to a broader area.

*Cash For Work is an internationally recognized method of recovery and was effectively used after such major disasters as the Sumatra earthquake and tsunami 2004 and the Haiti earthquake. The project is being coordinated by the Tohoku Region Earthquake Relief NGO Center and Second Hand is handling fundraising.

To support this project, please send donations to the following:

Our Paypal account: jimukyoku2hand@yahoo.co.jp (This is best if you are donating from overseas.)


Our bank account: (This is best if you are donating from within Japan.)

Bank: Japan Post Bank

Branch: Head Office

Bank Address: 3-2, Kasumigaseki 1-chome, Chiyoda-Ku, Tokyo 100-8798, Japan


Account: 01620-6-60029

Name: SECOND HAND, Japan

Address: 1-1-18 Kanko-dori Takamatsu-Shi Kagawa-ken 760-0055, Japan

(Be sure to specify in the comment column “For the Tohoko Earthquake Relief Fund”.)

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Report on Donations to Date 2011.4.15


Many thanks to everyone for donating to the Tohoku disaster relief efforts. All donations to Second Hand that are earmarked for the disaster relief fund are used solely for disaster relief.

Total donations received to date (April 15) amount to over 2 million yen. So far, we have made the following purchases for the disaster area with these funds:

1. 8,840 yen: futon covers for bedding distributed to Ishinomaki shelters and homes (April 1)

2. 116,620 yen: kitchen equipment for the Ishinomaki High School shelter including 2 gas burners, 10 rice cookers, knives, pots and cutting boards. (All of these items can also be passed on to needy families when the shelter eventually closes.)

We expected to spend a substantial amount of funds on shipping costs but thanks to the cooperation of businesses and individuals who have supplied trucks, drivers and fuel, so far no shipping costs have been incurred. We deeply appreciate this support.

The Next Step

While continuing to provide supplies as needed, Second Hand plans to use donated funds to support the Cash For Work Project. (See the “Cash For Work Project” post.)

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Cash For Work Project

Tohoku Earthquake Relief Fund Cash For Work Project

Second Hand has been collecting and delivering essential supplies for disaster victims in the cities of Natori and Ishinomaki in Miyagi prefecture. We have delivered more than 30 tons so far to shelters and homes. Each time we go, we listen to the needs of the local people.

Many residents have no cash at hand to buy necessities and, for various reasons, much of the money donated to major charitable organizations has not yet been distributed locally. Jobs are needed to provide cash income. In addition, many people want to return home now that lifelines are being restored but they need help to clear their houses of mud and debris.

In response to this situation, a Cash For Work project is being launched through the Tohoku Region Earthquake Relief NGO Center*. Local people seeking work will be paid in cash by the day to help people clear their homes and make them livable.

Please Help Support This Project!

Please send donations to the following (Be sure to specify in the comment column “For the Tohoko Earthquake Relief Fund”.)
Our Paypal account: jimukyoku2hand@yahoo.co.jp (This is best if you are donating from overseas.)
Our bank account: (This is best if you are donating from within Japan.)
Bank: Japan Post Bank
Branch: Head Office
Bank Address: 3-2, Kasumigaseki 1-chome, Chiyoda-Ku, Tokyo 100-8798, Japan
Account: 01620-6-60029
Name: SECOND HAND, Japan
Address: 1-1-18 Kanko-dori Takamatsu-Shi Kagawa-ken 760-0055, Japan

Cash for Work
Cash for Work encourages smooth economic recovery in disaster regions by providing jobs on rebuilding projects to local disaster victims. This method has been used effectively for recovery after major disasters such as the Sumatra earthquake and tsunami of 2004.

*Tohoku Region Earthquake Relief NGO Center
The Center, which was established on March 14, is a network of 30 NGOs, companies and local governments serving 3 cities and 2 towns on the northern coast of Miyagi prefecture. The Center responds to the daily needs of these communities by delivering supplies, sending volunteers to shelters and medical centers, coordinating activities, providing information, etc.

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Report on actions to date 2011.4.12

To Our Supporters

Here is a brief outline of what we have been doing to date, starting with the most recent activity first. Many thanks to all our supporters for donating money, supplies and manpower, and for volunteering to sort, pack and ship the supplies. Without you, none of this would be possible!!

9th Shipment (Transport by Hayashida Distribution Service)

April 12: Sent a 6-ton load of supplies including cardboard partitions supplied by Keizu Shipping Co. to provide privacy in the shelters, as well as abacus, and futon to Ishinomaki. Included in this shipment were blankets, disposable diapers and other items collected by Takamatsu city. Also sent udon (noodles) and soy sauce donated by a local company to Iwate prefecture.

April 10: Held a public meeting to report on activities to date, conditions and needs in the disaster area, and on the response to the aid provided to date. Attended by 34 people including representatives of the Takamatsu municipal government and the press.

8th Shipment

April 9: Contacted by a Takamatsu resident who offered to transport supplies in their car. This person was going to Miyagi to search for missing relatives. Supplies sent included notebooks, writing materials, etc. for the abacus classroom as well as soap and other daily necessities.

7th Shipment (Transport by Hayashida Distribution Service)

April 2: Delivered 6 tons of supplies to Onagawa in Ishimaki, Miyagi prefecture. We concentrated on reaching people who are isolated in their homes or small, improvised shelters. These people do not have easy access to the supplies delivered to the official shelters. We are working with key people in the locality to identify local needs and make sure supplies reach those who need them most. All shipping costs including the truck and driver were covered by Hayashida Distribution Service (Sakaide City, Kagawa: President Shiota).

6th Shipment

March 29-31: Cooked hot meals (total: 600 servings) at shelters in Ishinomaki, Miyagi. Second Hand volunteers supplied a 4-ton truck, a temporary kitchen and ingredients. They also carried and delivered necessary supplies for the local people. One Second Hand staff accompanied the truck to survey local needs.

5th Shipment

March 25/26: A volunteer from Takamatsu traveled to Natori and Ishinomaki and delivered medical supplies for TICO and diapers, sanitary towels, toothbrushes, wet wipes and rice supplied by Second Hand.  

4th Shipment

March 23: Collected, sorted and packed additional supplies needed by the Ishinomaki High School shelter. Shipped 41 boxes the same day.

3rd Shipment

March 22: Made contact with a coordinator in Ishinomaki High School shelter through a reliable source. Gathered supplies in response to specific needs. Sent 30 boxes via a local delivery company. Delivered supplies on March 24 and distributed them to those in need.

2nd Shipment

March 17-21: Began an appeal for goods in the morning and continued to collect supplies over the next 4 days. Packed a 10-ton truck with supplies on March 21. The truck reached the designated shelter in Natori, Miyagi on March 22.

1st Shipment

Worked with TICO, an NGO based in Tokushima, to provide needed supplies to Natori. The 1st shipment was a 4-ton load sent from Tokushima.

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Ishinomaki Report 2011.4.3

Arrived in Ishinomaki, Distributed Supplies, Made Hot Meals

~Delivering to People in Makeshift Shelters and Private Homes~

Our first delivery was to the same place as the previous shipment – a makeshift shelter in a general store that had survived the tsunami in Ishinomaki. We unloaded 6 tons of supplies, including futon, pillows, food, and baby supplies. A line of over 100 people gathered outside the shelter and the goods were distributed with a limit of 5 goods per person. Everything was gone within 30 minutes.

The shop owner is a former member of the Japan Overseas Volunteers Corps. We have asked her to survey the needs in the surrounding area so that we can make a plan for distributing supplies directly to households in distress. Here, too, good partners like this are essential for providing effective aid.

People gathered in front of the general store

~Ishinomaki High School Shelter~

At the high school shelter, I joined members of the Tokushima International Cooperation Organization (TICO), an NGO from Shikoku that we work with in Cambodia. Together, we made curry and rice for people in the shelter. The truck driver joined in the cooking, too!

Making curry.

Poster announcing the curry meal!

I met with the leader of the shelter, Mr. Takahashi. Struggling to keep back his tears, he told me, “Second Hand was the quickest to respond to our requests. It is so clear from the supplies you send that you have really thought about us and about what we need. Your help has provided the energy that keeps us going in our relief efforts… Nothing you sent was useless.” To all of you who have contributed, please know that your caring and compassion for the people in the disaster area has reached their hearts even through the supplies we’ve sent.

Inside the Ishinomaki High School Shelter

Changing room made from cardboard boxes. There’s no privacy in the shelter.

Many missing person notices are posted here.

The Ishinomaki High School Shelter will be reduced in size from April 20. Those who remain face a long struggle ahead and Second Hand intends to continue responding to their changing needs.

A scene a short distance from the shelter.

Many destroyed homes have signs like this saying where the occupants are.


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Ishinomaki Report 2011.4.2

April 2

6th Truckload of Supplies Leaves Takamatsu!

For our 6th shipment, Hayashida Distribution Service, a local Kagawa company, covered all shipping costs and supplied the truck and driver. From the moment the extent of the disaster became clear, the company president, Mr. Shiota, had repeatedly told his employees, “If Second Hand calls to request a truck, be sure to say ‘yes!’” When we offered to at least pay for fuel, Mr. Shiota responded, “Use that money for something else instead!” We were very grateful for this generous act and for the reminder of how fortunate we are to have local companies like this to help us. The money saved on gas will be used for the next stage of assistance.

This trip, Yasuko Nitta, the founder of Second Hand, accompanied the supplies. On April 2, at 6 AM, she helped load the truck and headed off with the driver for Ishinomaki in Miyagi. Here is her report.

~A Series of Coincidences and Little Miracles~

To avoid traffic jams, we traveled via the Japan Sea route. We were just entering the prefecture of Toyama on the Japan Sea side when I received a phone call from a Second Hand volunteer living near Tokyo. He said he had ordered miso and soy sauce from Toyama for the disaster area and was having it sent to Second Hand in Takamatsu. A quick detour brought us to the shop and we reached it just as the owner finished filling out the delivery form – a little miracle that saved time and money. When he learned we were taking this order to the disaster area, the owner, a true gentleman, said, “I can’t possibly accept the full price for these goods.” He only charged 40% of the regular price and gave us many other things to take with us as well. One small miracle leads to another – something we experience often at Second Hand.

Packing miso and other supplies into the truck at Toyama

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Ishinomaki Report 2011.3.31

One other purpose of our trip was to cook hot food for the disaster victims. Volunteers from Kagawa set up a temporary kitchen at the Ishinomaki High School Shelter and cooked up a local Kagawa dish, bukkomi udon (noodles in hot broth with nutritious toppings). Everyone seemed very happy and relieved to receive a hot and hearty meal and many people thanked us for coming so far to help.

There are about 350 people at this shelter. In response to requests from the shelter, Second Hand had already sent 2 truckloads of goods (71 boxes). Thanks to the many different groups providing goods, including Second Hand, this shelter now has an adequate supply.

Preparing the food with the local people

Handing out the noodles to the crowd attracted by the delicious smell.

Delivering plastic tanks and cleaning equipment needed for recovery efforts.

In the town of Ishinomaki. The main roads have been opened by the Self Defense Forces but many smaller roads are still obstructed. Disaster volunteer centers are being set up by the Social Welfare Councils in each prefecture and these centers are now accepting volunteers. People will be needed to help with reconstruction efforts such as cleaning the mud and debris out of the streets and houses.


<Thoughts from Our Visit to the Disaster Area>

On our way up, we unexpectedly encountered a “caravan” of cars transporting policemen from Kagawa. As we drew closer to the disaster area, we saw ever more emergency vehicles with number plates from all over Japan including Shikoku. Somehow seeing them gave me courage and alleviated the tension that had been building up inside me as we approached. I was buoyed by a great sense of connection with the Japanese people – something I have felt many times since we began collecting funds and goods for the disaster area. The donors who bring in goods, the volunteers who come to help, everyone everywhere in Japan sees this disaster as their own and they are arising to act.

In the disaster area, I was also struck by the crucial role played by leaders and coordinators. Many were not necessarily in leadership roles before but they have arisen to respond to a need in their community. They are being required to objectively assess the situation, foster unity and cooperation within the group and channel people’s actions and energy constructively. Those at Ishinomaki High School where we delivered our goods have done an amazing job. Everything is very organized. The refugees only take the bare minimum of what they need from the donations delivered so that the rest can be distributed to other areas. A child space has been set up in one corner of the shelter to care for the children and fuel, electricity and other resources are being carefully conserved. The people’s faces in this shelter seemed surprisingly cheerful. In contrast, the leaders and coordinators at another shelter I visited were still in the process of developing their skills and I saw a noticeable difference. The shelter was more disorganized and the people looked more depressed.

Volunteers are beginning to flow in from all over Japan. Social welfare councils in each area are matching teams of volunteers to different areas and sending them out to help. These teams also need to have leadership and coordinating skills because once in the field they will have to gather information, assess constantly changing conditions, solve any problems that arise and identify key people in the community.

This experience reminded me of something Yasuko Nitta, the founder of Second Hand, frequently told me. “Coordinating skills,” she said, “are essential for the daily operation of organizations involved in international cooperation.” She has always maintained that NGOs represent an invaluable training ground for young people to acquire essential leadership and coordinating skills. This is one reason Second Hand started up its own student organization.

We are a small NGO but it is this that gives us the flexibility to respond quickly to small-scale needs in the affected areas. We will continue to transform the compassionate generosity of our supporters into concrete, direct and reliable assistance. Thank you for all your help to date and please keep the support coming.


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Ishinomaki Report 2011.3.30

Several people have taken refuge in a small store. We took about 2.5 tons worth of goodssuch as futon, daily necessities and food to this shelter at the request of the store’s owner. When I checked the status today (April 1), they told me that already 90% of the goods were gone as people within the community were coming to get what they needed.

Many people are still desperately struggling just to survive. Many have lost everything in the tsunami. The things they need for daily life are not available without traveling long distances and they either have no car or no gasoline to get there. Even when there are goods available in stores, they are too expensive for many people to buy. As people are still obviously in need of basic necessities, Second Hand has sent another 6-ton truck shipment today (April 2) to Ishinomaki. Hayashida Distribution Service, a company in Sakaide, is providing the truck and driver and covering all shipping costs.

Local people with Second Hand and TICO members in front of the truck


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