Press Releases

One Year Later in Japan, JDC Focus on Displaced and Children Restores Hope


Michael Geller / JDC Telephone: (212) 885-0838

Jamie Epstein / JDC Telephone: (212) 885-0849

For Immediate Release

One year after the powerful tsunami ravaged Japan, a homeless 70-year-old named Shoko is finding community again and young mother Yuriko is able to get her child to sleep through the night because of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee's (JDC) efforts on the ground. From community cafés that offers psycho-social care, health services, and community workshops for displaced Japanese, to a post-trauma program using a huggable plush dog named "Hibuki" who helps Japanese children overcome post traumatic stress, more than 130,000 people have been directly helped throughout the hardest-hit prefectures. JDC ― through $2.6 million in donations from the Jewish Federation of North America and tens of thousands of individual donors ― together with the Jewish Community of Japan continue their work with local Japanese, U.S. and Israeli NGOs s to restore normalcy to the lives of the most vulnerable.

"In the aftermath of Japan's tragedy, we understood the immediate need to work with populations who might fall through the cracks during a disaster, especially displaced people and children with trauma. By deploying our staff experts and transferable program models, we're once again easing the suffering of the victims and ensuring a viable road to long-term recovery," said JDC CEO Steven Schwager. "By doing this together with the Jewish Community of Japan and local NGOs, we are putting into action the ideal that saving one life saves an entire world."

With tens of thousands of displaced people living in transitional shelters for the next 2-5 years, JDC and JEN, a leading Japanese NGO, have opened and are operating 13 community cafes providing psycho-social care, hand-craft and art therapy, legal aid, counseling, health services, community workshops and conflict-mediation. Based on JDC's Supportive Community model for the elderly pioneered in Israel, and located in temporary residential communities in Ishinomaki City, the cafes aim to alleviate isolation and restore a sense of community to those who have lost everything. JDC community development expert Simon Caplan, among others, has been working continuously with JEN and the cafes to ensure that programming and services will reach 10,000 in the long-term.

For Shoko, who participates in the craft circle at the Omori Danchi transitional shelter, a sense of peace has been restored: "When I saw people knitting in the handicraft program, it reminded me of how much I used to love to knit. I wondered how I could have forgotten that and soon realized how exhausted I had become mentally. It had become difficult for me to be cheerful and laugh in front of other people."

Another flagship program of JDC's work in Japan is the Hibuki Post-Trauma program for children. Working with a plush dog named "Hibuki," the child "hugs out" their stress and talks through their fears. JDC's Dr. Flora Mor and Dr. Shai Hen-Gan have already provided specialist training for 200 educational, and psycho-social professionals to help children and their families. Hibuki has also been adopted as a new program by the Japanese Puppet Therapy Association. Created in Israel during the Second Lebanon War, 50,000 Israeli children to date have been treated using this method, with significant rates of reduction in distress.

"I believe that your contribution helps rehabilitation and reconstruction of the people in need after the grave disaster, and would like to appreciate your continued support for those who need assistance in the affected areas," said Yasunari Morino, of the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in a letter to JDC.

JDC and the Jewish Community of Japan's comprehensive and immediate response to the earthquake/tsunami in the first year has included the provision of critical emergency assistance, such as food, water, medical aid, hygiene products, blankets and tents. JDC has also furnished three schools and provided school supplies to children in the most-devastated prefectures. JDC also supported the establishment of Israel Defense Force (IDF) field hospital in Minamisanriko.

JDC's Partners in Japan are: AAR Japan (Association for Aid & Relief Japan), Afya Foundation, ASIJ (American School in Japan), Chabad, IDF Field Hospital, IRC (International Rescue Committee), Ishinomaki Sekijuji Hospital, JEN, Jewish Community of Japan (JCJ), NICCO (Nippon International Cooperation for Community Development), NIPPON Foundation, TELL (Tokyo English Life Line), and UNICEF.

JDC's long history of working in and with Japan includes: the rebuilding of a school in Kosovo with Japan after the 1999 conflict; working in Kobe until 1941 supporting Jewish refugees fleeing Hitler's Europe; and supporting Jewish refugees in Yokohama between 1918-20, most of whom were fleeing Russia.

JDC coordinates its disaster relief activities with the U.S. Department of State, USAID, Interaction, the Israel Foreign Ministry, MASHAV, Israeli relief agencies, and the United Nations. JDC gained substantial disaster expertise in Haiti in 2010 as well as in Sri Lanka, Chile, Thailand, Turkey, Indonesia, India, New Zealand and Maldives following the Indian Ocean Tsunami of 2004.

About JDC

The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) is the world’s leading Jewish humanitarian assistance organization. JDC works in more than 70 countries and in Israel to alleviate hunger and hardship, rescue Jews in danger, create lasting connections to Jewish life, and provide immediate relief and long-term development support for victims of natural and man-made disasters.

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