Disaster relief isn’t all about the immediate aftermath. It can take years to rebuild an area after an earthquake, hurricane or other natural catastrophe, and it takes many organizations with different strengths to address the overwhelming need.
Although local charity Brother’s Brother Foundation has acted as a first responder to past crisis, its strategy for providing aid to a Japan is different.
On March 11, a 9.0 magnitude earthquake off the northern coast of the main island spawned a tsunami and nuclear crisis at the Daiichi Nuclear Plant in Fukushima. The Japanese government is still measuring the damage, but more than 25,000 people have died or are missing, and another quarter of a million are homeless.
BBF Executive Director Luke Hingson said that so far, the Central Northside charity has collected more than $150,000 for Japan.
The charity has partnered with the Japan-America Society of Pennsylvania to identify three areas of focus on which to use the money raised. JASP works to foster relationships and understanding between Japan and the United States.
Although Hingson does not yet know what the money will be used for, he knows what it won’t be used for. It will not go toward immediate relief necessities like medicine or building supplies.
“It’s difficult to have an immediate plan from 12,000 miles away if the reports of damage change,” Hingson said.
Instead, once the country’s immediate needs have been taken care of by first responders like the Japanese government, Japanese nonprofits and foreign relief-providers like the Red Cross, BBF will see what still needs to be done.
BBF will stand back and let a special task force of JASP board members with connections in Japan decide where aid money can best be spent.
Donna Lee Siple, executive director of JASP, said they had originally hoped to identify three main areas they wanted to help by the end of April or beginning of May. That timeline may be pushed back because the situation in Japan is still unfolding and damage is still being measured.
As of this week, authorities estimate the Japanese economy has suffered more than $300 billion worth of damage. Continued struggles to avert a nuclear crisis at the Daiichi plant add to the uncertainty.
All those factors will determine how, when and where Japan needs to rebuild, Hingson said, which in turn affects how much and where BBF will help.
“Things are just so desperate,” Siple said. “There’s a lot of things to consider.”
The two organizations worked together in 1995 to respond to the earthquake in Kobe, and will follow the same process, Siple said. For example, they were able to help an orphanage purchase supplies that it needed to continue serving its children.
“I think this has affected the psyche of Japan as 9/11 affected the United States,” Siple said, adding that the outpouring of help from the Pittsburgh region has been overwhelming.
“The Japanese nationals that I know that we have here are very moved and grateful.”