Wednesday 17 April 2013

A request for goods for Tohoku tsunami survivors...

I have posted about Joni before, she lives up in Tohoku and collects things for the people on the coast and those who live in the temporary housing in her village. Last year we made the Little Houses to send to her to distribute. 

She isn't working for a charity, she does it out of the goodness of her heart and because she has been doing it for the last two years, the locals now trust her and so she is now able to request specific items because she now knows what is needed.

If you have anything to send her, please read through the post first and label everything as requested. This is a long post and there are no pretty pictures but hearing what Joni has to say is interesting.
Now over to Joni...

I have been getting some questions recently about why we are doing this and so thought I would write a quick note.

Our family is not part of any organization, and this is just something we felt led to do to help. We have 4 children aged 5-12 and they have been our helpers from day one. It has really helped for the people who were not comfortable accepting help, were o.k. if it was a child giving it to them!

We are Christians, and are are just helping as a family. My husband is Japanese and I think I shocked him in the beginning as I just started helping and didn't wait for someone to ask us to help, I just started. They needed water, o.k. we have water. No containers to transport it, ok, I have pots and pans and buckets! I just try and put myself in their shoes, and know that I would sure appreciate help! We have just try to help the people in this area in any way that we can. We started helping right after the tsunami and have continued this whole time, and because of that, we are known and welcome, and have been able to bypass some of the red tape and rules that have come up since then. We are helping friends which is allowed!

It started right after the tsunami and earthquake, as soon as we could get enough gasoline, we took trips to the coast with water and food, clothing, toliet paper, diapers, towels and every other thing we could think of that might help them. Of course there were no stores open or anywhere to buy things at that
time, so we took lots of things from our home, and then some people helped and gave us some food to share. (The coast didn't have water, electricity or gas for over 4 1/2 months) Then friends and family from the U.S. sent things to share, and then churches in U.S./Japan/Singapore sent things, and from there it spread to friends of friends of friends. Many have heard about what we do from friends,
so feel free to share with anyone who you think might be interested in helping.
As time has gone on the needs have changed, but one of the needs of every one of the tsunami survivors is the same, they all need to know that someone cares and still remembers them.

Here are some ideas of things that are appreciated for the people on the coast and in the temporary housing. It is not a complete list, and please just shoot me an email with any ideas of things. The people we visit on the coast, total about 60+ people. The people in the temp housing are about 200. This list is mainly for the people on the coast, with a few things for the temporary housing people.

Rice - We have also received bags of rice in the past which I divided and then shared
with people.

Daily use items for the home: such as miso, soy sauce, laundry detergent, household items.

Small appliances (small electric heaters, sandwich/waffle makers, food processors)

Most people seem to have enough clothing now, but there are a few sizes that are still needed. If possible, it would be great if the clothing could be clean, no stains or tears, and in good shape. (no stretched out collars, holes, or balls etc.) New is not necessary, but it should be in nice condition.

***NOTE all sizes are Japanese for a guide a Japanese L is a UK M***

Men's XL and L clothing for students and younger men

Medium and Large for older men (60+ yrs)

Women's L and XL (younger women)

Women's M There are mostly younger women this size (30's ) though there are a few 60-70 year olds with this size.

The younger women would love some dressy items.(L and XL) Suits that would be appropriate for ceremonies etc. are also needed, either with skirt or pants.  Here in this area, that is usually a black or dark color jacket is worn for these occasions, but the dress or skirt under it can have some color.

Girls size 140-160 Girly things seem to go over really well.

Boys size 150-160

Sportswear Men L and XL (track suits, sports shirts,shorts socks)

Sportwear for women M and XL (track suits, sports shirts,shorts socks)

If I could ask a huge favor, to cut down on the time I need to repack everything. It normally takes me 3 full days of just repacking and sorting to get ready for a trip to the coast, and I would love to not have it take quite so long. I have to look at each item, find the size, refold and then put it in the box for that particular home, if clothing could be put in ziplock or clear bags individually, with the size showing, it would sure help me, so I don't have to hold each item up and find the size, refold it etc. If that is impractical, perhaps just putting same sizes in a grocery store or clear bag with the size marked on the outside would help.

School Supplies ( notebooks, pencils/pens, sharp pens, different color pens,

Namae pens (markers) pencil cases)

White socks for JH and HS boys to go with their uniforms (new)

White button down shirts to go under uniforms and white sports shirts/sports socks also for this group. Sizes L-XL

Wind breakers




Wedding and funeral gifts, please feel free to take out of boxes to send

Gift sets

Used kimonos

Sewing material/fabric, scraps, yarn for the sewing club

Blankets/bath towels/sheets

Material for sewing and sewing items (thread, buttons etc)

socks and underclothes (only new please)

It is the wrong time of year for it but blankets are always needed as well as sheets and towelkettes.

In past trips, many people sending things have contacted me with ideas of things that they have available and then we are able to work out if the items are needed or not before they are sent. That has been great. That works really well.

Some ideas that have come from people in the past:
New long-sleeved t-shirts left over from marathon at a company
New sweatshirts that were donated from a company
Educational toys for children
Fresh produce (this just has to be timed so that we will be making a trip soon after it arrives)
Decorating items (frames, pictures, vases, etc)
Assessories and necklaces for women

New idea I recently had:

The people in the temp housing and on the coast, have not wanted their pictures to be shared, but have allowed me to take their pictures on occassion. I have taken some photos of some of them and of the area as we travel the roads to get there...(depending on the roads about 1 to 1 1/2 hrs to get there, took much longer right after the tsunami )

I was thinking recently that they all lost all of their photos, and perhaps they would appreciate having some of the photos that I have taken of them and their homes and this area from the past 2 years. I am not sure how this will all work, but I think it would have to be having them printed somewhere, but it would have to be a different book for each home. I have yet to look into the cost of that either yet, but perhaps someone with a bit of experience in these things can help me figure it out.

Another thing thing that helps me is to have a note in each box with what was included, with your name and email address on it. I try to let people know when something arrives, but often it takes so long to find an email address, that I end up not being able to do it. When I have 10 open boxes in front of me, and am pulling out of all of them, it is hard to remember what was in each box. The note inside with a list really helps, so I can put it beside my computer and then remember!

If sending something that needs to be divided up, ziplock or other bags would be appreciated. Also large bags like you get when you buy something at a dept store, are always needed to take things to the coast.

Everyone who has sent things in the past has been wonderful and I just want to shout out a huge thank-you to all of you. Please don't think that because you don't have a huge amount of things to send that it is not o.k. (It is fine and appreciated) Some have sent just a few items, and others several boxes. Some
have shared money to go towards purchasing things like rice. Every little bit goes to help these people, who many now have the needed items to survive, but not much beyond that. The little things above the survival mode, are huge to them.

My dh was unemployed for the first year after the tsunami,and he thought that there wasn't anything we could do to help. He thought we can't help them for we don't have any money ourselves. True, we didn't and still don't have much for though dh is working it is a very low paying job. He has come around to see that doing what we can is so much more important than worrying about us not being able to do huge things. So, no, we can't buy a new house for them, we can make a 92 yr old obachan smile, and give her some rice and give a hug to a hurting man who lost his wife and is missing her. Giving a warm coat to someone who doesn't have one, and letting them play a little with our children has been good for them. Noone comes to the little village anymore, and they are feeling very alone! The story of the Good Samaritan in the Bible is our example of what we are trying to do.

To give you an example, one man who wears XL size, I was able to give him a track suit a year or so ago, that a friend sent , every single time I go, he is wearing that same track suit!!! I know he is so thankful to have it, but I also know that perhaps having a few more things to choose from would be so nice to have.

There are several who I worry a bit more about, those that have health problems, and those that have been unable to fix their homes, and are still living in homes that have the water marks of how high the tsunami water came inside their homes, and who have not replaced the tatami and closet doors etc, and so we try and give them a few extra things.

These people on the coast do not request things, and are very appreciative for the help! We are the only people who have taken things for them for they have not received any aid at all. (the aid was reserved for those in the evacuation centers and those in the temporary housing)

We have watched and learned from them how they react to certain things, and we try and share with them things that we think they will really like and use.

Most of the people now have sufficient things to live now, but feel very forgotten.Everywhere else seems to have moved on, whereas for them they are still living right in the middle of it all with reminders all around of what they have lost. So we are trying to provide for some of their physical needs, but the time taken to go house to house and talk to them is tremendously important too. Each home is different and some are struggling more financially than others. When we take them things, it makes them smile and they know that they are important and are remembered!!! To know that people they do not know, still care enough to send things is HUGE!!!

We try and bring a little happiness, and to show them that we haven't forgotten them,and share with them that there are people all over Japan and around the world that still care. The things we take to share with them bring smiles and a little joy to their lives.

Thanks so much for any help you may be able to provide to help us continue to serve these people! We could not do it without all the generous people willing to help.

Here is my address, phone and email address
Joni Owada
Shimo Arisu, Aza Nakakami 334-4
Sumita-cho, Kesen Gun, Iwate-Ken

sistermomy "at" hotmail "dot" com
please put ****** donations in the subject line


  1. Would it be ok to put a link on my blog about this, and i will see what I can do myself.


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