Joining in with Japan
By David Tereshchuk*
April 16, 2012—Taking stock in Japan just over a year since last March’s disastrous combination of earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear crisis, local communities and their United Methodist partners from overseas are learning what lessons to apply as the recovery effort moves onward.
Executives of the United Methodist Committee on Relief, (UMCOR) Melissa Crutchfield, chief of International Disaster Response, and James Rollins, director of Marketing and Communications, recently visited Japan, to assess progress over the last thirteen months. They wanted some firsthand observation to help in deciding what further partnerships could be developed, and what new projects could be set up with existing partners.
Through the generosity of United Methodists and other donors, UMCOR’s collaborations have enabled some remarkable improvements to the damaged fabric of Japanese lives.
One partnership, with the Asian Rural Institute (ARI) at Tochigi, first formed with United Methodist help four decades ago, looks set to deepen even further. UMCOR already has helped ARI rebuild some of its earthquake-battered buildings (including student housing and shelters for farm animals) and turn much of its agricultural training program toward ensuring a sustained recovery for the cultivation of crops.
Radiation from the Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Power plant’s meltdown has endangered food-crops – and ARI’s community-based organic farming approach has been applied to remedying the harm.
Gamma-ray spectrometers have been purchased with UMCOR funds and provided to ARI through another of UMCOR’s local partners, the National Christian Council in Japan’s Ecumenical Disaster Response Office (JEDRO). ARI staff members are monitoring radiation levels in soil, water, and in the food they grow, and also provide a radiation-measuring service for local people’s food, soil, and water samples.
Innovative programs are being implemented to cleanse the soil organically for the long-term future. For example, the Institute has ramped up its work to normalize irradiated soil by extending its established four-crop rotation to an eight-crop rotation system.
UMCOR also supports the vital international dimension to ARI’s work. Students originate in many different countries around the world. This year, for instance, Nerlande Baptichon has come from Haiti, another nation hard hit by a devastating earthquake.
Says Marketing and Communications Director Rollins, “Japan has not only accepted help from overseas, but has shown itself eager to give back to the rest of the world as well.”
Baptichon, and other students like her, will be able, says Crutchfield, to “return to her own country and apply to her community the practical skills and techniques she has learned in Japan for encouraging recovery from disaster.”
A gift to International Disaster Response, UMCOR Advance #982450
, will support communities who like the Japanese are building sustainable recovery after disasters.
*David Tereshchuk is a journalist and media analyst and a regular contributor to UMCOR.org.
A gift to International Disaster Response, UMCOR Advance #982450, will support communities who like the Japanese are building sustainable recovery after disasters.
The new class at Japan’s Asian Rural Institute. Among the international students is Nerlande Baptichon (third from left) who is from Haiti – another country battered by a disastrous earthquake.
Transformation is the keynote of Japan’s recovery from last year’s triple disaster.