TOMODACHI Alumni Supporting Nepal
On April 25, 2015 Nepal suffered a 7.8M earthquake in the east district of Lamjung, killing close to 9,000 people, injuring thousands more. When the news hit international media, TOMODACHI alumni immediately went into action, from high school students to young professional leaders in the field.
In India, Soru Hiratsuka was finishing his freshman undergraduate year studying abroad. “I just learned about the disaster in Nepal,” he wrote TOMODACHI Initiative the day after the earthquake, “and although the news we receive in India is not clear, I want to see if there is anything I or the TOMODACHI alumni can do.” Having received support from people all over the world in the aftermath of the March 2011 earthquake, alumni in Tohoku felt an urgency to act and help in any way.
In contrast to the slow trickle of Japanese volunteers in the aftermath of 3.11, alumni sent online messages to each other and reached out to adults who might help connect them directly to Nepal’s relief work. Through TOMODACHI Initiative’s Strategic Partner, Softbank Corporation, alumni heard directly from a 16 year old girl, Sumi, whose uncle died under the crush of buildings, but whose body protected and saved another co-worker. They listened to the local needs and identified replenishing school supplies as something they could immediately support. TOMODACHI Initiative connected one of the alumnus already leading a fundraising drive among his classmates to the emergency relief organization, IsraAID. The result: fundraising in Sendai, Miyagi.
A week after Hiratsuka returned to Japan from India, he left for Nepal to help build emergency shelter homes for a week with Japan IsraAID Support Program (JISP), the same organization that connected alumni to Sumi.
Young professional alumni working for emergency relief organizations were deployed into the disaster area immediately after the earthquake. Among them were participants from the Humanitarian Response Workshop supported by JP Morgan. Robin Lewis, International Coordinator of Peace Boat Disaster Relief Volunteer Center, led an effort to assess immediate local needs, provide emergency food distribution to 100 households across 3 villages without assistance since the earthquake, and distribute mattresses and roofing materials. There, he also met Mai Ogawa, another Humanitarian Response Workshop alumna working for Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA), and a few others also providing emergency relief.
“I never thought I would visit Nepal under these circumstances,” explained Lewis, who dreamed of visiting the country all his life. “The situation was desperate when we arrived. Many people were traumatized and it seemed like there wasn’t enough resources and help at hand.” Stay tuned for more stories of our alumni in action.
Through the TOMODACHI Alumni Leadership Program funded by The Prudential Foundation, alumni from across Japan and the United States meet and learn about each other and are offered exclusive opportunities to enhance their professional and personal development. To learn more about alumni activities or share your activities, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org